Sher Ireland teaches... LOVE 101

The Times Thursday, October 18, 2007 -- Living Here section

Love is what makes the world go 'round, but as Sher Ireland knows, it is also something that takes a whole lot of work. As the owner of A Beautiful Marriage Relationship Education Center in Tigard, Ireland watches, reads and listens to an endless amount of materials that all deal with love in one form or another.

"Every course is kind of a survey course in that I am taking information from a number of courses," she said. "So far when people call they're more used to marriage counseling, and of course this is not counseling, this is education, which is different. What people get from us is more skill based. When they come it is more of a learning environment."

A Beautiful Marriage, 7340 S.W. Hunziker St. in Tigard, is a school with more than 50 different workshops with offerings for singles, couples and parents. The business was started more than two years ago by Ireland, who said she had witnessed enough by watching the marriages of family and friends to convince her she could make a difference in educating people about healthy relationships. Ireland has been a licensed professional counselor and owned her own practice since 1986, and since that time she has shifted her focus into the more specific area of relationships and been blessed by the outcome.

"I have literally absorbed into every pore as much (info) as I can get my hands on because it's just really, really important to me," she said. "It's kind of a niche that I found by accident. "If you're pro people you kind of have to be pro marriage, I think." Though she and the other teachers at the relationship center also lead classes for singles and parents, the majority of the courses are designed for married couples. Ireland said there is a need for the services they offer because of how little people prepare for one of the most important decision of their lives.

"We train more to drive a car than we do for the most important relationships we ever do, which is being a parent and marriage, " she said. "I think that this is unique in that I don't know anybody in the country who is doing it in the same way as we are." And Ireland said what she gets out of it all is priceless.

"I guess I get to combat the problem that I think is rampant in the country. People are living together in record numbers when all the statistics show it's not a great idea. I get to combat the incredible divorce rate. I get to pass on all the things I have had to absorb in my own marriage, and they work," she said.

Ireland's part in the process is to read, watch and compile all the info she comes across into a helpful and easy course. She said she has so many options, from authors such as John Guttmann, Harville Hendrix, Michelle Weiner-Davis, Pat Love and many more, to conferences including the one she attended earlier this year that give her vast amounts of inspiration for close to 30 new courses.

During the time A Beautiful Marriage has been operating, more than 250 students have gone through some form of the program or another. Ireland describes the process as of taking one of the courses as "painless," adding that it all starts with the same foundation course.

"Students enter the program by taking our foundational workshop 'Learning Intelligent Love,' which is held twice a month throughout the school year from September through June. After that, they take as much or as little as they want, but we offer over 50 workshops, so there is something going on virtually every weekend during the school year, " she said.

"All are self-contained workshops, organized by topic. We give people an assessment to take before the first workshop so that we may recommend what they most need to take. They may select workshops that way, or just come because they are interested in the topic." One thing she stresses is that people shouldn't be afraid to give her a call, because the experience will most likely be different than what they are expecting.

"If people give something like this a try they'd find it's a lot of more fun than they think. People have a vision of group therapy," which it is not, she said. "It's very comfortable, nobody is asked to reveal and deep dark secrets, we try to use humor, you're getting my input as well as video. It's very much like a learning situation, much more like people are used to when they go for training at work.

"I think the people who actually practice things find that it works; when they don't do it they come back and say, 'Hey, we need a refresher.' That's the beauty of having something ongoing, I think." For more information on A Beautiful Marriage Relationship Education Center, visit www.abeautifulmarriage.com or call (503) 620-1500.

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