It’s striking that more guidance is required when taking a whitewater rafting trip than the journey of marriage. That’s where marriage mentoring can make a difference. Here are some comments from couples who have had marriage mentors:
Marriage Mentoring Makes a Difference
• “The mentoring program has been incredibly helpful to us. Our mentors have been through a lot of the things we are going through now. As a result, we benefit from what they have learned.”
• “Because of the guidance we have received from our mentor couple, we feel that we have an advantage. It’s one that will help us have a life-long marriage.”
Have you ever been whitewater rafting? Imagine arriving at the trip site and being informed that this stretch of the river is a Class IV or V ride. That means that you will likely encounter big waves and strong currents. There will be multiple obstacles to maneuver around. Plus, the conditions and obstructions in the water could snag the raft. It could even upend it. You are then asked if you would like to take the trip alone. Or you could choose to have an experienced guide go along with you. What would you choose?
Not having much experience with this type of course, you are relieved to discover that a trained guide is a required part of the experience. It’s someone who has been down this course before. This person knows the best direction to take and the obstacles to avoid is a welcome sight.
But what about guides for marriage?
Some say that marriage is the riskiest venture most people undertake in their lives. It has its own set of obstacles, strong currents, and obstructions. This includes the risk that the relationship might capsize. For example, under current trends, young people marrying for the first time face a 40-50% risk of divorce in their lifetime. However, many begin this journey on their own. Increasingly, churches are developing marriage mentoring programs. They are doing this in an effort to provide younger couples with experienced guides to help them on their marital journey.
Marriage Mentors Can Make a Difference!
What obstacles can marriage mentors help couples navigate around or avoid?
Limited Models and Tools
Unfortunately, many young couples enter marriage without the benefit of good role models. Hence, they have not developed constructive relationship skills. This is needed for communicating, resolving problems, or affirming each other. Marriage mentors with healthy, stable relationships provide positive role models for these young couples.
In the process of pursuing educational and career goals, many young couples are separated from their previous support system. They find it difficult to connect with other couples who support and encourage them in their marriages. Marriage mentors become important stakeholders in the young couple’s relationship. All of us benefit from having people in our lives who care about our marriages.
Challenges of the Early Years of Marriage
In one study, 49% of couples indicated they experienced serious problems in the first year of marriage. Of those who divorce, 40% do so in the first three to four years of marriage. Mentors become important sounding boards for young couples facing the challenges of marriage during these early years before the problems become deeply entrenched.
Most couples enter marriage with high ideals and aspirations for their relationship. At some point, disillusionment will result when reality does not match their ideals. Unfortunately, some then give up on the relationship assuming they made a mistake. Mentors can help couples see that these periods of disillusionment are a common part of maturing relationships rather than a sign of a failed marriage.
Pessimism About Marital Success
Research indicates that young people, are skeptical about the viability of marriage over time. Mentor couples provide hope that the creation of a satisfying, long-term relationship is possible.
Churches are in the best possible position to establish a marriage mentor program. It supports younger couples, and mentor couples find that their marriages are strengthened as well. If you are a young couple interested in a mentor couple or an established couple with a heart to strengthen marriage, why not suggest the development of this vital ministry in your congregation?
Questions for Reflection:
1. What can be learned from these Biblical mentoring relationships?
a) Eli and Samuel (1 Sam 1-3),
b) Elijah and Elisha (I Kings 19),
c) Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 1),
d) Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13-15),
e) Elizabeth and Mary (Luke 1),
f) Paul and Timothy (Acts 16, 1 Tim 4 and 6).
2. Have you ever experienced a mentor relationship —formal or informal? What are the qualities and characteristics of an effective mentor?
3. Think of a time in your marriage when you would have benefited from a mentor couple. In what ways would a mentor couple have been helpful at that time?
4. If you had a mentor couple, what would you most hope to get out of that relationship?
5. If you are a happily married couple, what are some of the strengths you could offer a younger couple?
Dr. Dennis Lowe wrote this article. It was originally featured in the e-newsletter “First Years and Forever.” It was published by the Family Ministries Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Dr. Dennis Lowe is the Director of the Center for the Family at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. He is also an administrator and professor in a graduate program designed to train marriage and family therapists. Married 26 years with two children, Dennis and his wife, Dr. Emily Scott-Lowe, conduct marriage seminars. They also conduct marriage mentor trainings throughout the U.S.
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