When it comes to having a happy and thriving marriage, most of us think it’s pretty straight-forward. You fall in love with each other. You decide you want to spend the rest of your lives together. You vow to love each other in front of your friends, your family, and God. Then you merely enjoy the ride from there, right? We all wish it were this simple.
While love often happens this way in the movies, in the real world it rarely does. The real world includes lots of things that cause us stress like jobs, kids, in-laws, holidays, and more. If you want a great marriage in the real world, there will be lots of things to figure out. How can we resolve conflict in our marriage when it happens? How do we find our new balance with in-laws, especially when there are two different sets of them? We love our kids, but how do my spouse and I still make time for each other now that the kids are demanding so much of our time? How do we handle the stress of everyday life without taking it out on each other?
For us, life had become complicated and demanding. We were both trying to advance in our careers. We were trying to find enough time to work on our home together. We were also making an effort to pay off some financial responsibilities. Further, we could not seem to find enough time for both of our families, hers or mine. And all of this while adding parenting to the mix, which in itself is a full-time endeavor. Our world felt like it was crashing in on us. I was exhausted and feeling like I couldn’t go on much longer, and I know Tami was feeling the same way. We were on some crazy, demanding merry-go-round ride called life and we could not figure out how to make it stop.
With all of the stress, we started arguing more frequently and having the same arguments over and over. The increased arguments made it feel like we were heaping stress (unresolved conflict) on top of stress (kids, bill, jobs, etc.). At some point in all of this, we felt pretty desperate. We were intuitive enough to know that we could not keep this up much longer. We thought about going to our family for help, but most of them had been divorced by this point. We reasoned that they would not be able to help us since they could not seem to help themselves.
Our ray of hope came in the form of an older couple from church who we had spent some time with at church events over the previous several years. They were about 20 years older than us and seemed so relaxed and wise. They would often take our kids somewhere to play and visit with them. This would give us some respite from the constant attention that our kids seemed to need from us. As simple as these gestures were, they were enough to give us some needed breathing room.
This couple would also ask very plainly how we were doing and if we needed anything. We had been feeling so very alone before this, but their sincere inquiries made us feel like we had someone in our corner. And we desperately needed someone in our corner. At one point, we were brave enough to ask them if they could help us with a few “issues.” These were seemingly basic things like how to balance family and work or some suggestions on the best ways to get our kids to bed without an ordeal every night.
We became quite close to this couple and always looked forward to seeing them. And so did our kids. Looking back, what we really had done was to adopt this couple as our marriage mentors.
Although we didn’t know it at the time, this plan turned out to be brilliant! This couple lovingly offered us emotional support and encouragement whenever it was needed. Since they seemed to be thriving after raising a family of their own, it made us feel like we could do it too.
Something else happened in the middle of all of this. While this couple was mentoring us and loving on us, we connected with yet another couple. They too were older than us, this time by almost ten years. What is most important with both couples is not so much that they were older, but that they were years ahead of us in life. This gave these two couples the life experience needed to continually offer us great insight and advice.
When we were considering a move to a different city, these mentor couples gave us some important things to consider. The questions that they had us ask of ourselves about moving were a sobering balance to the excitement we felt toward a newer and larger home. The time came for our kids to start school and we had lots of questions about what would be best for them. Our mentors came to the rescue with time-tested advice about kids and schools and the things that really mattered. Additionally, when our daughters started dating (one of the scariest moments of our lives), we knew exactly who to turn to before we panicked.
A younger friend recently asked if having marriage mentors was really that big of a deal. I took a deep breath, paused for effect, then said, “You have no idea what a big deal it is to have good marriage mentors in your life.”
I am convinced that in God’s plan for family, marriage mentors are a part of that plan. This is one of the reasons why it is so important for families to work things out and stay together so that as kids grow up and get married they can look up to their still married parents as mentors. When those parents aren't still married, that intended cycle of baked-in marriage mentoring is broken.
You may be wondering if there are certain criteria for marriage mentors to meet before you sign them up for the job. This criteria should be very similar to anyone else you allow into your inner circle. For starters, when considering if you should allow someone to speak into your life in this way or not:
- This should be someone who you respect.
- This should be someone who has made a few mistakes and learned well from them.
- This couple should be happily married. Not perfect, but happy.
- If this couple has only been married once, this is ideal and uncomplicated. But if they have been married more than once, you must determine if they have overcome the reason their previous marriage failed.
- This should be a couple who you already cross paths with regularly. This means you already know them and feel comfortable with them.
Mentoring is such a beautiful and intentional thing. Nonetheless, it may feel a bit awkward to approach an older couple and ask, “Would you be our mentors?” This reminds me of how frightened I felt as I asked Tami’s parents if I could marry her. It doesn’t have to be that awkward.
Be intentional to notice those couples around you who offer wisdom and grace to others in their circles. Introduce yourselves and spark up a friendship. Eventually, there will come a time when you will want to let this couple know that you really appreciate the difference they have made in your life by watching their example. Ask them if they would mind answering a few questions from time to time about marriage and life. Then be intentional to spend time with them. You could meet for dinner, go out for coffee regularly, or join a church group together. All of these are great ways to promote a solid relationship with your new mentors. Someday, you might even consider telling them how much they have meant to you over the years–as mentors.
Are marriage mentors really that big of a deal? You bet they are!
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Link to: https://tandemmarriage.com/mentors
By Brad & Tami Miller. Contact us at brad@TandemMarriage.com. Copyright © 2016