Seth Eisenberg had a front row seat to the birth of marriage and relationship education. In an “I am ME” feature, he talks about early inspirations, challenges facing couples, and qualities for which he’d most like to be admired.
Marriage Education (ME) is touching the lives of couples, families and children across the country. “I Am ME” profiles people teaching relationship, fatherhood and marriage education classes in their local communities.
“Often, parents divorced or lived together through years of conflict or a sense of silent desperation, which their children witnessed. Despite the best intentions, most men and women don’t have skills for confiding, resolving differences, and understanding emotions in themselves and others that are vital to sustaining love relationships.”
~ Seth Eisenberg
Seth Eisenberg, the youngest son of PAIRS Founder Lori Heyman Gordon, grew up with a front row seat to the birth of marriage and relationship education. He joined PAIRS Foundation in 1995 to help improve business and organizational systems, began teaching classes in 1999, training instructors in 2000, and was elected President/CEO in 2008. Over the past 12 years, Seth spearheaded development of PAIRS’ evidence-based, brief, multi-lingual courses and technologies to make marriage and relationship education widely accessibile to diverse communities worldwide. He has taught classes to thousands of young people, adults and trained more than 1,000 PAIRS instructors who deliver services to tens of thousands. In 2006, Seth’s “PAIRS Relationship Skills for Strong South Florida Families,” proposal was awarded a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. The grant program has allowed thousands of people throughout South Florida to participate in free classes, including many low-income, formerly homeless, recovering addicts, special needs populations, immigrants, and veterans who could not have otherwise benefited, while also conducting extensive, rigorous research activities to better understand and validate the impact of marriage and relationship education.
1. What led you to want to teach marriage enrichment classes?
Although I’d been widely exposed to PAIRS growing up, it wasn’t until my own marriage got in trouble that I reached out to see if the program could help. Our family was living in Israel at the time. We hired local instructors who had been trained by Lori Gordon and, together with 10 other couples (mostly close friends), we went through the entire PAIRS Mastery Course over four months. The class helped my wife and me better understand the behaviors that were causing pain in our relationship and skills to make things better. Although we ultimately separated and divorced, PAIRS played a big role helping us do that amicably and continue to raise our two sons together, who are today 19 and 22 (almost). For many years, the major benefit for me from PAIRS were the skills that helped me stay deeply connected and involved with my sons; two remarkable young men who I’ve also seen benefit from having PAIRS skills to strengthen their relationship with each other, their parents, and the other people they love. I started teaching classes at my son’s elementary school in the late nineties and discovered how much I enjoyed sharing the program with others. I’ve learned and grown enormously from the courage, stories, and struggles shared by course participants. As the third generation in my family to experience divorce, teaching and being present in so many classes has helped me integrate the skills into my own life and new marriage.
2. What are some of the unique challenges facing couples/families today?
It’s difficult to expect someone to do something they never learned. Very few couples getting married today both grew up with examples of parents who were able to provide a positive model for their own marriages. Often, parents divorced or lived together through years of conflict or a sense of silent desperation, which their children witnessed. Despite the best intentions, most men and women don’t have skills for confiding, resolving differences, and understanding emotions in themselves and others that are vital to sustaining love relationships. Thousands of times over, I’ve seen that when couples learn those skills, they are able to experience a much deeper sense of love, pleasure, fulfillment and commitment in their marriages. To me, the major challenge is making evidence-based skills training widely available and accessible for couples at every stage of life and relationship.
3. How has being an instructor affected your life/family?
For me and my two oldest sons, it’s helped us sustain very open communication through the passages of our lives, understand, share and express emotions, work through differences, and build a deeply connected relationship with each other over the past two decades. With my wife (I’m remarried), we are able to talk through anything and everything, embrace life and each other (including our differences) with love, understanding, empathy, and deep acceptance. I have no doubt that so many of the most precious dreams that have come true in my life wouldn’t have been possible without the skills and understandings I learned in PAIRS.
4. What are some favorite hobbies you enjoy as a couple/ family?
I love photography and sharing pictures with each other. We enjoy walks together, biking, taking on projects together, and sharing so many of life’s joys with one another. Facebook and SKYPE are wonderful tools for staying connected with loved ones when they’re away.
5. What qualities would you like your family to most admire about you?
My authenticity, vulnerability, profound faith, sense of humor, commitment to serving others, and courage to stand up against injustice.
Editor’s Note: If you’d like FatherhoodChannel.com to feature a Marriage, Fatherhood or Relationship Educator in your community, email their name, contact information, and a brief statement about why you’d like to see them featured to email@example.com.