Marriage Education is touching the lives of couples, families and children across the country. “I Am ME” profiles individuals and couples teaching relationship and marriage education classes in their local communities. We call this series “I Am ME,” both because “ME” is an acronym for “Marriage Education” and in honor of a poem by the same name written by the late Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the field of marriage and relationship education. Satir’s “I am Me” remains one of the most powerful declarations on self-esteem ever written.
Jim and Nancy Landrum were married for 24 years before Jim passed away in 2005. When Nancy and Jim married in 1981 they were both widowed and had five children between them. Jim was a Minister of Music for Southern Baptist Churches, while Nancy worked to complete her Master’s Degree. Jim and Nancy began teaching Marriage Education classes together in 1994. Currently, Nancy continues to teach Marriage Education classes through the California Healthy Marriage Coalition.
1. What led you to want to teach relationship and marriage education?
Jim and I were unprepared for the unique stresses of stepfamily relationships. We experienced our first stepfamily related issue the day we returned from our honeymoon. At first we kissed and made up, but that issue continued to plague us. Our communication skills, such as they were, deteriorated with the increased stress of an unresolved issue that is common to many stepfamilies. It took us five years of intense searching to piece together the communication, problem solving and conflict management skills we needed in addition to making some adjustments in our parenting arrangement so that our marriage could be saved. A few years later we put what we’d learned into our own program and taught it to hundreds of couples in California. We later wrote a book by the same title, “How to Stay Married & Love It! Solving the Puzzle of a SoulMate Marriage.” Last year I was introduced to PAIRS Essentials, I love the general relationship concepts as well as specific skills it teaches.
2. How are the challenges facing young couples today different than those you faced?
Jim and I were fortunate to be reared in a climate that “marriage is forever” and divorce was frowned upon. Those strictures helped us hang in there while we found the help we needed. We went on to enjoy 17 more years of profound love before he passed away. Today’s couples are far more apt to divorce before looking for help. The belief seems to be, “If I’m unhappy or the marriage isn’t working for me, it must be because I chose the wrong partner.” It seems to be rarer to find the level of commitment necessary to get through the tough times, learn new skills and enjoy the great relationship that can result. I believe one of our greatest “jobs” as instructors is to propagate the belief that relationship education is for everyone! And is more a matter of skills than chance! Even good relationships can be better!
3. How has being a marriage education instructor impacted your family?
Our children and grandchildren know how passionate Jim and I were, and now I am, about learning useful relationship skills. Our children suffered through the first hard years with us, but each of them has thanked us for sticking it out and learning what we needed to in order to make our marriage succeed. They’ve gone through tough patches in their own marriages and have hung in there because of what they saw us do. Although most of them don’t want to sit under the tutelage of their parent(s) in class, they are more open to Marriage Education in general because of our example. Also, and perhaps most important, the skills I learned in my marriage to Jim I consistently use with my children and grandchildren.
4. What are some favorite hobbies you enjoy sharing with your family?
Family get-togethers, favorite recipes, occasional camping trips.
5. What three qualities would you like your children to most admire about you?
Tenacity, willingness to learn and change, empathy.
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Editor’s Note: If you’d like us to feature a Relationship and Marriage Educator in your community, please e-mail their name, contact information, and a brief statement about why you’d like to see them profiled on the FatherhoodChannel.com to email@example.com.