VA Program Fosters Healthy Marriages

Helping Veterans Strengthen their Most Significant Relationships

The Department of Veterans Affairs is trying a new path to caring for and healing the nation’s wounded Veterans. Now, in addition to repairing their damaged bodies and minds, VA is going one step further and helping to repair their crumbling intimate relationships.

The retreats are conducted by VA chaplains, social workers, psychologists, and nurses. They are PAIRS-certified instructors, teaching better communication skills, relationship skills, and emotional literacy skills to couples. PAIRS stands for: Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills.
“Research shows that 70 percent of our combat Veterans are experiencing marital problems,” said VA Chaplain Ron Craddock. “Twenty percent of them decide to divorce before they even return from theatre. This is staggering. The toll on the individual Veteran is staggering. The toll on his family is staggering.”
The VA retreats, called “From Warrior to Soul Mate,” are based on a program created by the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation which, for over a quarter century, has provided educational programs that deliver practical skills to strengthen marriages and families.
The retreats take place in a group setting, with instructors, often over a Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday, or in several class sessions.
The retreats of 30-60 people are conducted with an open invitation for participants to ask questions and offer contributions from their unique life experiences. After introductions, instructors outline ground rules for discussion, and then explore an understanding of how learning and relationships evolve. Soon participants are introduced to practical communication tools and invited to practice those skills with their partners.
The vision to move the “From Warrior to Soul Mate” initiative from a local effort to a VA nationwide program has been an outstanding success. Participants’ evaluations revealed that many Vets and their partners felt that “everyone in the military should be required to attend” such retreats, that the retreats helped with the problems of multiple deployments, PTSD, and other challenges of military service and transition.
“I would like to say thank you for PAIRS couples retreat. It helped my husband and I see that our relationship is still worth fighting for.”
In a lengthy report filled with important statistics, Chaplain Millspaugh reflected, “How can one measure the lives literally saved from suicide, the children not touched by divorce, the costs not incurred by stress borne illnesses or homelessness?”
From Warrior to Soul Mate has been a unique and important program to help so many of America’s Veterans strengthen the health of their families.

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