Marriage Mentoring

Tom and Wendy were the typical newly married couple. In their mid-twenties, they had dated for nearly two years before getting engaged. They had the blessing of their parents, attended pre-marriage mentoring, and were on their way to living happily ever after — or so everyone thought.

But marriage for Tom and Wendy, like the majority of newlyweds, wasn’t all they hoped for. Each of them, for different reasons, felt a bit slighted. Unlike the majority of couples, however, Tom and Wendy talked openly about their feelings. The expectations they had of marriage were not getting met, and they were determined to do something about it. So on a cold January day, eight months after their wedding, Tom and Wendy asked for help.

Bundled up against the cold, they came into our office and began to shed their coats. As Wendy sipped hot coffee to thaw out, she said: “We have talked to friends and family about what is going on, but we both decided we needed more objectivity.”

Tom joined in: “Yeah, everybody who knows us just says ?give it time’ or something like that.” Tom went on to say that their marriage was not suffering a major trauma, no major overhaul was needed, only, as he said, “a little realignment.”

We met with Tom and Wendy for nearly an hour, listening to their experiences. We gave them a couple of exercises to help them explore their misconceptions of marriage, and we recommended a few resources. Then we talked about the idea of linking up with a marriage mentor couple.

“What’s that?” they both asked.

We told them how meeting from time to time with a married couple could give them a sounding board and a safe place to explore some of their questions about marriage. Like most newly married couples we talk to, Tom and Wendy were very eager to find such a couple. After a bit of discussion, they suggested a married couple in their church. Neither of them knew the couple very well, but they respected their marriage from afar and thought they would fit the bill.

After a couple of phone calls and a little more exploration, we made the connection for Tom and Wendy. Over the course of several months, they met three times with their mentors, Nate and Sharon.

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Tom and Wendy have been married more than five years now. They are not the perfect couple, but they are madly in love and happier than they ever imagined. Here is a portion of a letter they recently wrote to us:

Dear Les and Leslie,

How can we ever thank you for helping us find a marriage mentor couple? Before coming to you we had never even heard of such an idea. But needless to say, our mentoring relationship with Nate and Sharon ended up being the most important thing we have ever done to build up our marriage. It was so nice to have another couple know what we were going through and remain objective at the same time.

We have since moved to another state, but on our wedding anniversary, Nate and Sharon always give us a call to celebrate our marriage.

Anyway, we are writing to say thank you and to say that you should tell more people about the benefits of marriage mentoring. Someday we hope to give back the gift that Nate and Sharon gave to us by mentoring some newly married couples. We think every couple just starting out should have a mentor.

That’s not a bad idea. Marriage mentoring is one of the most significant helps to building a life-long marriage we know of. We have seen hundreds of couples strengthen their new marriages through mentoring relationships and have known the difference it can make. It really is time we take the time-honored tool of mentoring and apply it to marriage.

From The Marriage Mentor Manual, Copyright © 1995 by Les Parrott and published by Zondervan. Used with permission.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are codirectors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University (SPU), a groundbreaking program dedicated to teaching the basics of good relationships. Les Parrott is a professor of clinical psychology at SPU, and Leslie is a marriage and family therapist at SPU. The Parrotts are authors of the Gold Medallion Award-winning Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, Becoming Soul Mates, Love Is, Relationships, and When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages. They have been featured on Oprah, CBS This Morning, CNN, and The View, and in USA Today and the New York Times. They are also frequent guest speakers and have written for a variety of magazines. They live in Seattle, Washington, with their two sons.