You and your spouse have decided you’re ready to start mentoring another married couple. It’s an exciting prospect–but it’s also a little intimidating! How can you most effectively use your marriage to influence and help another couple?
As marriage mentors, you and your spouse will walk with your mentee couple through one (or more) of three seasons every married couple experiences. We like to call this the Marriage Mentoring Triad:
- Prepare: your couple’s engagement or newlywed season, where you’ll support them as they work to launch lifelong love
- Repair: a time in your mentee couple’s marriage when they’re attempting to recover from any kind of trauma to their marriage (life changes, conflict, infidelity, etc.)
- Maximize: a time when your couple is working to make their good marriage great
Today, we have some tips for mentoring your couple that will help you effectively navigate the process.
1. Only commit an amount of time that is comfortable for you and your spouse.
Many new mentor couples are, understandably, nervous about the amount of time they’re going to have to commit to a mentee couple. Are you supposed to be on call 24/7? Will this mentoring consume your life? Like most other couples, you’re probably so busy, you have no idea how you’d manage a big time commitment.
Luckily, you don’t have to be on call, and you don’t have to invest a large amount of time in mentoring. How much you make yourselves available is really up to you and your spouse. For example, if you’re mentoring a couple on the Prepare side of the triad, you could commit to three meetings in their first year. This won’t be a big time commitment on your part, but it’ll make a huge difference in the life of your mentee couple.
Some couples will want to commit to more meetings, while others will be happy with meeting once every few months. You and your spouse can decide, on a case-by-case basis, what couples you want to mentor and what kind of time commitment you’re willing to make.
This mentor-mentee relationship can be crafted to fit not only your life, but the life of your mentee couple. There’s no right or wrong way, no specific number of sessions you have to make and no specific number of months you must continue. You can even choose to only commit up-front to a short-term mentorship of six to 12 months, if you wish.
Whatever you and your spouse decide, having strong time boundaries in place will help this relationship enrich your life, rather than putting a strain on your time.
2. You don’t have to be professional counselors or pastors to mentor.
One of the best parts of being a mentor couple? You don’t have to be professionals–just a married couple who has gone through the same life experiences as the couple you’re mentoring. You’ve lived what they’re living, and that’s a gift to them. It also adds credibility to you as you enter this relationship with your mentees.
Because you and your spouse are walking through the ups and downs of marriage just like your mentees, they know you’ll understand their struggles and they’ll feel safe with you. You and your spouse don’t have to have a perfect marriage, read a library of marriage books, or attend special workshops. Just show up, share what you’ve learned (and wish you’d known before!), and what has worked for you in your marriage.
3. Decide ahead of time how you’re going to handle discussions about sex.
Sex is a topic that immediately throws most couples onto eggshells. Everyone has a different comfort threshold when it comes to talking about intimate things, so it’s important for you and your spouse to decide ahead of time how you’re going to handle any discussions about sex or intimacy that may come up with your mentees.
As a couple, talk about your own comfort levels on these topics and decide how much you want to get into this topic. You and your spouse must decide on what you will and will not discuss with or disclose to your mentee couple. You must both be equally ready to disclose certain things, so work as a team to set your boundaries ahead of time.
If you and your spouse don’t feel comfortable discussing sex with your mentees, let them know, but don’t shut them down. Instead, provide them with resources that will help to answer their questions.
4. Let your mentees learn from their mistakes.
When your mentees make damaging decisions with unpleasant, short-term consequences, it’s hard to watch it happen, but you have to let them learn. (Of course, if your couple is heading for a disaster that could affect their lives negatively long-term, step in and do what you can to help them avoid the worst-case scenario.)
The only way we grow and change is by experiencing the consequences of our choices. Feel free to give them your input, but remember that ultimately, it’s up to them to make their own decisions. This is a great time to support your mentee couple in prayer.
And when they start to experience the consequences of their decisions, don’t say, “I told you so.” Instead, show empathy and be present in the midst of their pain. You’ll wish you could prevent your mentees from experiencing pain, but advice is hard to hear, especially when we’re young.
5. If you get in over your heads, it’s okay to step aside.
What if your mentee couple is in a situation that you and your spouse don’t feel equipped to help them with? What if you thought you were getting a couple on the Prepare side of the triad, and ended up with a Repair couple instead?
If you find yourselves in this situation, it’s important to be honest with your mentee couple. You can say something like, “We care so much about you guys, but we recognize we don’t have the resources to help you with this situation. We know a mentor couple who’s going to be more effective for you, and we’d love to introduce you to them.”
Sometimes, we recognize that there’s something so deep that’s going on with a mentee couple that we realize they might need a referral to a counselor who’s equipped to deal with that issue. Being able to recognize when it’s time to step back and get them the help they need is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you focus on getting your mentees the support that will help them overcome whatever they’re going through, then you’ve done your job.
Do you and your spouse mentor other couples? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section!