JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --
Communication, communication, communication – was the theme of the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit marriage enrichment seminar at the Jacksonville United Service Organizations Sept. 10.
The 15 couples and one single Marine were taught the Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills program.
The six-hour course, led by Command Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Powell, was designed to improve communication in Marines' marriages, said Kelly Cotton, the MEU family readiness officer.
The goal of PAIRS is to strengthen a relationship both partners can live with joyfully by identifying his or her own feelings and needs, and learning to communicate them in such a way that they can be met, according to the website.
For one set of MEU newlyweds, married three months ago, the classes were extremely beneficial.
“At first I didn’t want to go with people I didn’t know, but it has been nice to find that people have the same problems as us,” said Brittany Logsdon. “It has been fun to learn how to communicate better instead of getting mad and saying ‘whatever.’”
Her husband, Lance Cpl. Tyler Logsdon, a MEU administrative clerk, agreed. “It’s a chance to spend the day with my wife and to talk to her about things we don’t normally talk about,” he said.
Attendees of the class ranged from newlyweds to those about to celebrate their silver anniversary.
“No matter how long you’ve been married, you’re still learning about each other,” said Col. Mark Desens, 26th MEU commanding officer. “Every relationship has challenges and rough spots.”
Since their wedding in 1984, seven months after his commissioning, the Desens have endured the Marine Corps lifestyle together. This lifestyle included multiple deployments and training exercises civilian marriages don't normally encounter.
“It’s a challenge to find time,” said Linda Desens, who added that her hope for the day was that each couple would learn a little bit more about each other and for their relationship to grow as they go.
Each of the couples went through several exercises to learn techniques for communicating. These exercises are designed to help people express what makes them feel loved and appreciated, according to the PAIRS curriculum. Among other aspects, they stress quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service and physical touch.
One exercise included cue cards with several topics for spouses to talk about like gratitude, puzzles, complaints, wishes, hopes and dreams.
“I really appreciated the exercise that had us intertwine our knees, look each other in the eyes and talk about all the topics listed on the card,” said Jacky Oehring, wife of Petty Officer 1st Class Norman Oehring, 26th MEU's religious program specialist. “It was great because you end on a good note,” she said.
“Just never give up on your love," stressed Linda Desens. "There is a song that always makes me think of Mark and it goes 'Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.'”