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.
Susan Orenstein is a licensed psychologist in private practice where she specializes in relationship issues. Susan became a certified PAIRS facilitator in 2009, and decided to incorporate it into her practice right away. She and her husband of 21 years have enjoyed conducting PAIRS workshops in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area). They live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with their two sons, and their dog, Stella, who has her own special way of expressing appreciation.
1. What led you to want to teach relationship and marriage education classes?
As a psychologist, I’ve always been interested in relationships and strengthening couples and families. I’ve been on the lookout for user-friendly concepts and principles, stories, metaphors, examples, etc. and have offered a few couples workshops over the years, but something was missing. Then I discovered PAIRS. I love the structure and concrete steps of the PAIRS tools. Now I have what I need, a structured, sensible technology that’s user-friendly, yet also profound.
On a broader level, I enjoy offering relationship workshops for couples, because I believe in the fundamental importance of healthy relationships and I believe that the essential skills of relationship-building can be learned. Strong relationships with mutual respect, caring and affection are contagious. . . the compassion and love are a model for the next generation and inspire others to find and sustain loving relationships for themselves.
2. How are the challenges facing young couples today different than those you faced?
We’re facing very difficult economic times, and good jobs are more scarce. When I was married in 1989, I truly believed that higher education was the ticket to success, but unfortunately, today it’s not that easy. There are many skilled, educated individuals who are struggling to find work and there are many unskilled workers who can’t make a living wage. These financial pressures and uncertainly place a huge strain on couples today.
3. How has being a marriage education instructor impacted your own marriage and family?
By being a PAIRS instructor, I’ve more closely attended to my own marriage. My husband and I have spent many hours together preparing for our workshops. Beforehand, we talk about our relationship and what issues we would like to demonstrate through the tools. It’s been enlightening to hear more about my husband’s concerns. I also feel empowered to express my own needs and concerns, with specific requests for change. And there’s an added bonus. . . we’ve found several of the PAIRS tools helpful for communicating with our sons (a pre-teen and teen). Just in time!
4. What are some favorite hobbies you enjoy sharing with your family?
We just got our first dog, Stella, last year, so I’ve had lots of fun exploring trails with her and buying her treats. I also love to go to our sons’ basketball games and jump rope competitions. When I have down time, I like to relax and stay up late watching old classic movies with my husband.
5. What three qualities would you like your children or spouse to most admire about you?
My sensitivity to other people’s feelings, my perseverance, and most importantly, my love for them.
Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.
1100 NW Maynard Rd., Suite 140
Cary, NC 27513
(919) 428-2766 ext. 1
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.