3 Fears of New Marriage Mentors

Fears Can Hold Us Back From Helping Others

I was recently at a Christian event. There were a lot people there that I didn’t know. I ran into Dale. We had never met before and Dale asked what I do. I explained that my non-profit has a program to equip Christian marriage mentors. He was curious about marriage mentoring and we got into a discussion.

Dale understood the need for experienced couples that can come alongside another couple and he was wondering if would be a good fit for him and his wife.

I also sensed that he was a little unsure. He was wondering if he could really be effective. Dale was wondering if he would make a good mentor or not.

I think that this is really common.  I’ve heard this type of question fairly frequently. There are three natural fears that I see and that I think hold people back from helping others.

Fear #1: I Don’t Know How

That’s understandable. It’s always scary to try something that you haven’t done before. What if I get in over my head?

When we don’t know how to do something, it holds us back.

When we first started, we didn’t know how to do it either. It was intimidating.

There are some basic principles and concepts that have been proven to be effective. We are passionate about equipping mentors and showing them how to work with couples. We are always available for questions if you feel that you are in over your head.

Fear #2: I’m Not Qualified

I get this fear. When my wife and I were considering coaching a couple, I was very nervous to try. Isn’t this why they have trained mental health professionals? Don’t you need an advanced degree?

Let me say that I believe in professional marriage therapists. Are there things that really should be handled by a professional? Of course. We regularly refer couples. Many of the couples that we meet with are also in counseling.

The challenge is that most couples won’t ever go to see a professional. In one study of couples that filed for divorce, only 37% saw a professional and most of those only went to a few sessions. They didn’t commit to the process.

Lay mentors can have a HUGE impact on couple’s lives.

Consider this:

  • Real life experience matters – It is incredible helpful to learn from an actual couple how they have worked through issues. You can, at least, empathize. Your experience and your transparency can be an incredible gift for others.
  • Help couples early – The average couple waits six years before they seek help. Marriage education and marriage skills can be a big help. Meeting with a mentor couple can remove the stigma that is attached to meeting with a mental health professional.
  • Marriage education works – It doesn’t take a professional to have a big impact. Distressed couples that finish our program and meet with a mentor regularly see a 20-30% improvement in their relationship quality. Often times, it’s much higher than this, particularly if they continue to apply the skills.

Lay mentors can be very effective.

Fear #3: I Won’t Know What to Say

Many of the new mentors we meet feel that they have to be the expert. They feel that they have to have the answers to the tough questions and situations.

I actually get nervous when I meet someone that wants to dispense advice. Usually, this happens way too quickly without really understanding what’s going on in a relationship. I would rather have mentors that are slow to offer advice and quick to understand.

My wife and I were conducting a training for mentors and we just covered a section on not jumping to advice. We broke up into small groups to practice the techniques. In the small groups we had one couple role play being mentees and another couple act as the mentors. The mentee couple laid out a problem and the mentor couple immediately jumped into advice giving mode to help them mediate a solution.

If you’ve been tempted to do this, don’t worry, I’ve also made this mistake. It’s more effective to understand and ask questions than it is to offer solutions.

So, I like it when potential mentors feel that they don’t know what to say.

In our training, we cover types of questions and how to ask them. We also provide lists of questions to make this easier.

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • Get Equipped – If you aren’t sure how to help other couples, get some training. My passion is to equip and train marriage mentors and we do provide training. If not us, find other training.
  • Don’t Feel That You Can’t Have an Impact – We’ve worked with a number of lay mentors. In some ways, lay people in a church have a greater opportunity than mental health professionals. Most couples won’t ever see a therapist, but they come to church. You CAN have an impact!
  • Don’t Be an Expert – I would rather have an empathetic couple than someone who feels they know what’s right for someone else. Be better at asking questions and understanding than giving advice.