Ideas for Mentor Couples
Caring for Marriage is currently working to help couples mentor other couples. Our strategy is to have a more experienced couple meet with a less experienced couple monthly for one hour over the span of two years. This page is here to give mentor couples some ideas about what subjects to bring up. during those meetings. Hopefully you can talk about good guidlines like no interrupting, no cross talk, and confidentiality. It is important that they trust that what they say will be kept in confidence.
When you meet with a couple to mentor them, the most important part of your job is to listen. Listening to the other couple shows that you care about them and what they are feeling and experiencing, more than you care about your own ideas. More importantly, by listening and reflecting back things that the other couple says you can model good listening skills, helping them have a better picture of what attentiion looks like. Keep listening in the foreground with all the subjects below, so that it will be a conversation, not a lecture or giving advice.
Sometimes you may not know what to say to someone. Rather than feeling that you have to come up with some conversation to fill the silence, work on the assumption that if you don’t know what to say, it is time to listen instead. So while it is good to have an idea to bring up in conversation, never let the topic push aside your top priority of listening. Your presence will help them to give attention to each other in a way that sometimes gets lost in the frenzy of everyday life.
With this in mind, here are a baker’s dozen ideas in addition to the first two which we always include, to have in your pocket when you meet. These focus on the positive aspects of marriage, rather than the problems.
How are you?
How-are-you’s are a great place to start any meeting. Let each person take a turn talking about their past day, week or month, sharing their joys or concerns. As the mentor couple, you can help set the healthy boundaries of no interuptions, and good attention. Model it, and if necessary, gently remind them. Give each person a chance to be heard. It makes a big difference. We always start with these. In some of our meetings this is the only thing we do–each person takes 10 to 15 minutes to talk, and the hour is soon gone. More often each person takes 3-5 minutes and we move on to some of the subjects below.
This is a chance to say good things about your partner. It is good to be the one talking and nice to be the one hearing. These can be short. Be specific, like “I appreciate that my husband drove us home last night while I slept in the car” not vague such as “I am glad he helps me.” We do this every time we meet.
1. Love Stories
Tell the story of how you fell in love. Let each of them talk, and soak up their faces. This is a wonderful way to rekindle good feelings. This is one of my favorite ways to get to know each other. I still remember the details of couples we have been in groups with and it is a lot of fun to hear the two of them tell it together.
2. Sentimental Journey
Invite them each to bring a photo, or other sentimental object to your meeting. (You can bring some, too.) Then let them tell their stories and remember. We have had people bring clothing, music, special foods, gifts they gave each other, jewelry, and things found in nature.
3. The Five Love Languages
Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages is an excellent resource for helping couples understand each other and communicate better. Read the book or check out their website for an online test. Then share your thoughts with the couple you mentor. John has a great downloadable hand out if you want that.
4. Love and Respect
Talk about what each of these words means to you. You can mention that in several surveys 80% of men say they would rather have respect and 80% of women say they would rather have love. Are you in the 80% or the 20%? You can also talk about fear and shame. Brain studies suggest that fear is often more painful for women than for men, while shame tends to be more painful for men than for women. Women can undermine respect with nagging. Men can undermine love with anger. Find out how these qualities show up in their relationship. Talk about a time you felt respected or loved.
You might begin with asking each of them to describe their childhood experience of how their parents handled money. Chat about who pays the bills, does the taxes, and makes decisions. Does this work for you? There are many good books about this, and we can lend you one. Again it is not about right or wrong, but finding ways that work and bring you together.
Prayer is a powerful relationship glue. Studies show that praying for your partner increases couple satisfaction. You can begin or end your mentoring meetings with a prayer if you like. Some couples use the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer, or you can just ask God to bless your partner and to give you the patience and wisdom to be a good spouse. You can also talk about prayer with the couple. Are you bringing God into your relationship? How is it working?
7. Having Fun Together
Do you have a plan for spending time doing things you enjoy? Watching funny shows, reading jokes, tickling, walking outside, making music, hugging, kissing, playing badminton, cooking together, riding bikes and going to the beach are all ways to enjoy time together. Ideas can take one minute or three hours. There is a list on this website under the heading of Start a Group. Make your own list and get cracking.
8. Extended Family
Talk about the strengths and struggles of your larger families. Do holidays bring up stress? Do you have expectations that are not being met? Can you tweak those to be more realistic? Tell stories about how your family of origin handled vacations or hoiidays. How can you take the best of both worlds to create your own family traditions?
Perhaps you are uncomfortable talking about this, but even short conversations can be helpful. Hearing that another couple has difficulties finding time, energy, or balance in sexual needs can be reassuring. We have books if you want to borrow one.
10. Close Calls
It is important to understand that all marriages can be attacked by lust. No one is immune. There are very tangible ways to protect your marriage. Close Calls, and Not Just Friends are reviewed elsewhere on this website and in marriage moats. You can borrow the books as well.
This is an incredible skill, yet we have few if any resources for learning forgiveness. There are ways to get better at this. The book Five Languages of Apology describes how some people feel healing from an offer to make restitution, or taking full responsibility. Others need a promise not to do it again, and others want to be asked “Do you fogive me?” Talk about times you were able to forgive.
12. Goals for Marriage
If you would like to get somewhere in your relationship it can help to articulate it to each other and to yourself. Where would you like your marriage to be in a year? What would it take to get there? In ten years? Write it down. Remember it. Help it come true.
There are physiological strategies for rekindling love. Hold hands. Look in each other’s eyes for a full minute. Smile. Pray. Cuddle. Remember. Say “I love you” as an invitation for the love to return, not an announcement that it is already here.