Don’t Be a Perfect Marriage Mentor
When you are a marriage mentor, people will assume that you have a perfect relationship. They will assume that you are always using the best communication skills and when there is conflict in your marriage that always reasoned, dispassionate and restrained.
This can be valuable, especially when you have to coach communication and conflict resolution skills with your mentee couples. However, when mentor couples always maintain the illusion that their marriage is “perfect” it can also have unintended consequences for their relationship with their mentee couple.
Build Safety with Humility
There will be times when mentee couples find comfort in being mentored by a strong couple who seems to have it all figured out.
Connected Marriage is not meant to be taught by the perfect, but rather by couples that know the ups and downs, the struggles and victories of marriage. Mentor couples are encouraged to share their own shortcomings and mistakes with their mentees.
When you are humble, you model emotional and honest vulnerability. When you openly discuss how you have stumbled through an argument with your spouse it shows mentees that its ok to go back, after a disagreement, and discuss the process of their conflict.
Your couples can then talk about what they would hope to do better in the future. It helps them to commit to their spouse to continue to work on their communication skill.
Having this talk in front of mentees can be a very powerful experience for them.
Build Trust with Honesty
If a mentor couple seems too perfect, mentees may be reluctant to share because they may feel that they will be judged rather than empathized with.
When you are honest and open with their mentee couples it adds to the perceived safety of the mentor/mentee relationship. When mentee couples feel safe, they are more likely to be engaged in the Connected Marriage process.
Your couples are also more likely to trust you enough to offer fuller disclosure. When this happens it is more likely that you will be able to focus on the specific skills that would be most helpful to your couple. Couples get more out of the Connected Marriage materials.
Tips for Marriage Mentors:
- Create safety – Real work can be done when people feel safe. If defenses are raised, it’s difficult to work through the issues.
- Be humble – One of the most helpful things you can do is to admit your mistakes and failures. Your vulnerability can help to take away the shame and embarrassment from seeking help.
- Be honest – Honesty builds trust. It will help your couples to focus on specific skills that will help them improve.
Being real with couples helps!
I have been a volunteer with Connected Marriage for five years. I started as a mentee, seeking to repair my own marriage. Once my own marriage was on surer footing, I began working with couples myself. I have taught and shaped content, led small groups and also led couple-to-couple sessions. It is because of that experience that I decided to go back to graduate school and pursue my masters in marriage and family therapy.
I am excited to be able to share with other mentors what I have learned from all of my experience: being a mentee, a mentor and a therapist. I hope to be a resource for mentors that feel overwhelmed or unsure of what to do next with their couples. Being a marriage mentor is challenging, but can also be deeply rewarding.