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Couples Need More Bonding Time, Therapist Says

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“It’s humbling to be able to see the impact that PAIRS has on relationships by the end of the course. Couples exhibit more joy and confidence in nurturing their relationship and resolving conflict … they realize that challenges they saw as insurmountable can be overcome.”

~ Gary and Deanie Hurst, North Carolina


With more than 25 years experience working with couples, Gary Hurst, LCSW, says “bonding deprivation” is the biggest challenge couples face. “Younger couples have to devote too much time and energy to meet their needs for food, clothes and shelter and demote their relationship needs.  Older couples may have more time to bond, but are often afraid to ‘rock-the-boat’ and settle for the complacency of status quo.”

His wife of 42 years, Deanie, agrees. Together, they teach couples skills to strengthen their relationships to enjoy more happiness, pleasure and love with each other, including a free course introduction and preview this weekend at Southport Trinity UMC in Southport, North Carolina.

What gets in the way of couples strengthening the foundation of their lives?

“Younger couples struggle with shift work, babysitting issues, money and time management,” Deanie Hurst says. “Older couples who are semi-retired or retired busy themselves and don’t see the need for improving their relationship.”

Deanie Hurst, a retired advanced practice nurse with more than 25 years experience in pediatrics, adult mental health, and defense department information technology, recently served as a Subject Matter Expert to the Air Force Surgeon General’s Directorate of Modernization for TBI, PTSD and diabetes research.

Recognizing the contribution skills training makes to many of the couples Gary has worked with in private practice, the couple began teaching PAIRS classes in Wilmington and the Coastal Carolina area several years ago after completing extensive training with PAIRS Founder Lori Heyman Gordon.

“It’s humbling to be able to see the impact that PAIRS has on relationships by the end of the course,” Deanie Hurst says, “Couples exhibit more joy and confidence in nurturing their relationship and resolving conflict.”

Gary adds that it’s fun “to see couples realize that challenges they saw as insurmountable in their relationship can be overcome by using the tools in the PAIRS Toolkit.”

He’s found men to be especially grateful for the experience. “Men often think the course is ‘touchy feely’ on the front end of class.  They are pleasantly surprised to discover that the PAIRS tools are very practical in equipping them to share and listen to a broader range of needs and emotions in their relationship.”

Helping others also contributes to Gary and Deanie’s own marriage. “The teacher often learns more than the student,” Gary says. “When Deanie and I teach we like to say to the class our relationship goes ‘live’ as we demonstrate the PAIRS tools. A class doesn’t go by where I am not reminded of new ways I can show my love to Deanie, or become aware of a new learning to share with her.  PAIRS has taught me what a joy it is to still be ‘getting to know’ my wife.”

Deanie says as a result of their work together, “there is better communication between us and far less conflict in our relationship. I need to practice what we teach and that holds me accountable to those who take the classes. It has helped me stay current in our relationship. When we took the original 120 hour training from [PAIRS Founder] Lori Gordon, the Loss Exercise changed my life and our marriage. I shared one of the regrets that I had was not completing my education. I was a diploma grad nurse (RN) and wanted to complete college. Because of PAIRS I went on to get my BSN, MSN, and became an Advance Practice Nurse in Adult Mental Health. This led to my ideal position as Subject Matter Expert to the Air Force Surgeon General for TBI, PTSD and Diabetes research.”

Gary and Deanie agree that misunderstandings and misperceptions about marriage and relationship education often get in the way of couples participating.

“They [couples] don’t realize that bonding (an emotionally open and physically close relationship) is as basic a biological need as eating, breathing, and sleep.  Consequently couples often deprive themselves of this need and try to fill it with more material things, or distractions like the internet, social media, or just plain ‘busy-ness,'” he says. “There seems to be a stigma associated with taking the class even though PAIRS is not counseling or therapy. It is difficult to communicate that PAIRS is for healthy relationships as well,” Deanie adds.