“Leadership begins with harmony within ourselves and our closest relationships.”
~ Seth Eisenberg
By Lauren DelGandio
Coast Guard chaplains from around the country are holding their annual meeting in Tampa this week to consider questions about the soul of leadership. PAIRS CEO Seth Eisenberg met with the group this morning to talk about educational approaches that are helping strengthen Coast Guard marriages and families.
“Leadership begins with harmony within ourselves and our closest relationships,” Seth Eisenberg said. “Evidence-based relationship skills training and marriage education is making a difference for Coast Guard families impacted by deployment.”
Seventh District Coast Guard Chaplain Cartus Thornton said seeing the impact of PAIRS classes convinced him of the need to make the program more widely available to Coast Guard families nationwide.
Eisenberg spoke with the group about the impact combat deployment is affecting military marriages.
“Before deployment, 87 percent of military couples surveyed said their marriage was average to excellent. That number dropped to just 36 percent after deployment,” Eisenberg said, referring to feedback from more than 160 couples who participated in PAIRS through the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia.
Skills training focused on helping couples understand emotions, confide, and problem-solve with each other has brought greater resilience to many military and Veterans marriages that could otherwise be in jeopardy.
“After nine hours of training, the percentage of couples who had a positive assessment of their communication skills increased from 14 to 93 percent,” Eisenberg reported.
The program was recognized as a “Best Practice” by the Veterans Administration in 2009.
PAIRS is about helping military and Veteran couples learn to become their own counselors, reduce anxiety, and safely talk with each other about emotions in ways that deepen attachment and family resilience.
“We have a sacred trust to make sure those who have sacrificed so much for our country have the skills to succeed in their mission at home,” Seth Eisenberg said. “The skills and behaviors that are vital to succeeding as Soldiers are very different than what mothers, fathers, husbands and wives need to succeed at home.”
Eisenberg compared new approaches to strengthening marriages and families to Christopher Columbus discovering that the world is round.
“For generations, the smartest people in the world accepted that the world was flat until a poor, unemployed sailor had the courage to see that it wasn’t,” he said. “We don’t have to accept the high rate of family and marital breakdown even though we live in a world in which much of what’s being done to help couples is based on approaches similar to those before Columbus accepted the challenge of a new approach.”
Coast Guard Chaplain Jonathan Smith agreed. He said teaching PAIRS to Coast Guard couples in Maine made a difference. “Couples said they were grateful to see the Coast Guard caring for their families,” Chaplain Smith said.
Strengthening military and Veteran families in a post 9/11 world requires new approaches, Seth Eisenberg said.
“PAIRS success is about creating emotional literacy and giving couples practical, usable skills to deepen connection, attachment, and bonding,” he said.
Chaplain Thornton encouraged the chaplains and their loved ones to find out for themselves by participating in a four-day PAIRS training taking place at Coast Guard Air Station Miami at the end of April.