Most people spend years of their lives learning and training for every aspect of life except the one that is the very foundation: how to nurture and sustain close relationships. That learning comes primarily from the families in which we are raised, our life experiences, and trial/error along with its consequences. Ultimately, that learning shapes how we feel about ourselves, engage and interact with others, and our potential to successfully pursue life’s most meaningful aspirations.
At its core, PAIRS (“Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills”) training, whether delivered as PAIRS Essentials, Warrior to Soul Mate, the SHALOM Workshop, or any of our other popular curriculum titles is about that essence of care; the quality and resilience of close relationships that impact the self-care we receive, and the care we in turn offer loved ones, clients, teammates, and significant others. That’s why we’re referring to our upcoming training for military/veterans and those who provide their critical care as PAIRS Essence of Care Training.
Emotional battlegrounds at home, school and work
Who doesn’t know caregivers and colleagues – lay people and professionals – whose care to others is diminished because of their own sadness, anger, fear and suffering? Those bottled up feelings can turn homes, classrooms and offices into emotional battlegrounds as they leak through sarcasm, ridicule, taunting, bullying, guardedness, isolation, and other behaviors that push people away from each other.
The first victim is typically our potential to pursue big dreams. At home, that may be our families as separation, divorce and fragmentation becomes more likely. At work, that victim is often the mission and vision we were hired to advance. In communities, the result is increased costs for crime prevention, policing, incarceration, emergency room visits, poverty, homelessness, addictions, suicide, and other related – and expensive – tragedies.
Rarely are those home, school, office or neighborhood battlegrounds because of malice or bad intentions. It’s because we’re all human with biologically-based needs. Meeting our human need for connection – what PAIRS refers to as “bonding” – can determine how we feel about ourselves, towards loved ones, and how we treat others whose lives intersect with our own.
When the battleground comes home
In some professions, such as the training soldiers receive to survive life’s very real battlefields, people learn skills that are almost the exact opposite as those needed to build emotional connection with others. That training makes perfect sense for that environment and mission, but what happens when those survival skills are brought to other environments where the mission is not to defend ourselves from enemies, but to create and sustain closeness, connection, intimacy, and feelings of love in relationships with family, friends, and community?
Ninety percent of homeless veterans lost close relationships
In our frontline work with homeless veterans, more than 90 percent of those who apply for emergency housing assistance from our Operation Sacred Trust Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program are single. That’s not because those former soldiers and their peers from every branch of service weren’t previously in close, intimate relationships. Most often, it’s because neither the veteran nor their loved ones had the skills to sustain those relationships through the unique challenges of trauma. After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people and once close relationships impacted by trauma has grown exponentially.
Technology and pharmaceutical solutions to a world of emotional pain
One response to a world in which millions are in emotional pain is people working day and night on technology solutions that replace human care with artificial intelligence powered by impersonal coding, cells and circuits. We see stories and messages daily about breakthrough applications and programming that developers hope will provide relief to millions of people who are sad, lonely, angry, or depressed.
What human can match the ability of a computer to gather information, remember unlimited data, be informed by the latest research and science, and bring all of that together in a nanosecond to help people feel better?
We also see the booming pharmaceutical industry with its chemical approach to helping people feel better. With all the potential benefits, for many there are also lasting consequences.
What technology and pharmaceuticals cannot deliver is the impact of meaningful human connection.
A deliberately humanistic approach
PAIRS relationship skills training is a formula to caring for ourselves and others with empathy and compassion, particularly through life’s most stressful challenges, passages and transitions, that delivers a deliberately humanistic approach.
It’s a formula for discovering what’s possible that’s in our hands to influence.
PAIRS relationship skills empower people to make the most of what is in our hands by addressing the triad of interpersonal relationship competency skills: communication, problem-solving, and emotional connection.
Benefits to emotional and physical health
Graduates have increased opportunities to create mutually-satisfying close relationships that become the foundation of happy, healthy lives despite everything that is not in our hands. Those close relationships impact how people respond to challenges to their mental health, including stress, distress, anxiety, and trauma, physical health including how our body’s immune system functions and how we respond to treatment, and nearly every other aspect of life.
How you can participate and benefit
As a caregiver or service provider, learning PAIRS relationship skills will contribute to your life and the lives of those you serve.
For those who teach PAIRS relationship skills to others, particularly the most vulnerable people impacted by trauma in our communities, such as military/veteran families, the homeless, neighbors affected by crime or the criminal justice system, new immigrants, people recovering from debilitating illnesses, and many others, the rewards will last a lifetime.
a commitment to a “safer, saner, more loving world”
Two years ago, Purpose Built Families Foundation accepted responsibility for advancing PAIRS Foundation’s longstanding vision for “a safer, saner, more loving world.” As we approach what we pray is the beginning of the end of a pandemic that has impacted our entire planet, our leadership is more committed than ever to making these benefits available to anyone who can participate with an openness to learning and good will towards others.
Seth Eisenberg is President/CEO of Purpose Built Families Foundation, a nationally-accredited nonprofit based in Miami, Florida, and co-founder of the Operation Sacred Trust Supportive Services for Veteran Families collaboration for ending veteran homelessness.