Don't divorce your spouse until you've tried this marriage workshop

Lisa McLean
February 04, 2020 - 11:44 am
workshop helps couples reconnect
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“This is the first time in 40 years that I’ve felt heard.”

Comments like those are music to Dr. Clyde Angel’s ears. Angel, 65, is a minister who has worked extensively with military veterans and their families in the area of trauma, marriage and spirituality.

That particular comment was from a woman who attended one of Angel’s workshops, Warrior to Soul Mate (W2SM). She was speaking about her relationship with her husband, and their inability to communicate with each other.

The Warrior to Soul Mate is a national program Veterans Administration offers to active-duty and retired military couples impacted by the stress of being in the service.

“The focus is on bonding,” Angel said. “It’s a biological need to bond with other human beings—it’s as important as food and water.”

The program is not an intensive counseling program but is designed to give couples attending the group workshop the communication skills they need to reconnect with their spouse.

“We don’t get into their particular issues,” Angel explained. “We give them the skills, and they begin to use the tools we give them."

Angel, who is also a disabled veteran, said he saw the destructive impact of the Iraq war on veterans and their families. He eventually put together the W2SM program and has seen it flourish in the last seven years since W2SM was officially instituted. He pointed out there are the spiritual and moral injuries as well as the physical ones.

Lorrie Neuberg, licensed marriage and family therapist and program director for the Warrior to Soul Mate program at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, said she sees the immediate effect of the program on the participants

“I remember my very first workshop,” she said. “And the power of it right away.”

She said one of the veterans who took a workshop said that it was the first time he had been able to talk to his spouse about his PTSD and express his emotions.

“They are trained to turn that off,” she said. “And they are able to open up in a safe space.”

Julie Tweed would agree that the workshop has helped her marriage. She’s been married 40 years to her husband, Jerry, who served in Vietnam. He developed PTS and also had some recent serious health crises. Things came to a head in 2014 and the couple sought help from the VA.

“The retreat was a big breakthrough for us,” she said. “The tools were really the most intense. I rediscovered a better way to communicate, and we talk more openly about our feelings.”

Her husband agrees with his wife. “The workshop really helped us”

Tweed said that she and Jerry want to attend another workshop.

Since Neuberg took over as program director at the Indianapolis VA in 2013, she says they’ve served about 1,000 couples. She said she also tries to organize a workshop the weekend before Valentine's Day so that everyone can have a good weekend afterwards.

“I’m a romantic at heart,” she said.

Angel said that the program has become very popular throughout the country, and military leaders see the benefit in offering workshops. The 384th Air Refueling Squadron attached to the 92nd Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington State is the first one to offer a pre-deployment workshop for couples.

Klay South, a former Marine, went through the program with his son’s mother but the relationship ultimately failed. “The program works,” he said. “But both parties have to want it.”

South was awarded two Purple Hearts for his service in the Battle of Fallujah. His injuries were so severe that he didn’t think he could have children. It’s the reason South said he believes in the program as much as he does. He sponsors the local programs in Indianapolis because he wants to help families and their children stay together.

“Anything in life worth having is hard work,” he said.

For Information on how to attend a workshop contact:

Clyde Angel, executive vice president at Purpose Built Families Foundation.

888-724-7748 ext. 843 or 954-337-2981

Email: clyde.angel@pairs.com

To view a video on the program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXoh1dwfX0A&t=4s

 

Reach Lisa McLean : lisa@connectingvets.com

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