Mentoring Change 4: Pre-Decision, 3 Ways to Help

When couples haven’t decided to change there are some very common behaviors. As a mentor, you are going to see these. I would bet that you’ve experienced some of them!

I’ve taken the 3 D’s from “Changing to Thrive” by James Prochaska and Janice Prochaska. When I first read this book I thought, “Wow, that captures it very well.”

Don’t Know How

There was a time in my marriage when my wife, Michelle, was very unhappy with me. I knew that she was unhappy, but I didn’t know if there was anything I could do.

So, I did nothing. I ignored the problem and I hoped that it would go away.

Looking back, I know that I was very dismissive of her feelings. We know that now, but I didn’t get it then. I don’t think she really understood it. We were both unaware of how our actions where impacting the other one.

We were stuck in pre-decision because we didn’t know what to do about it.

Mentors, you’ll see individuals, and sometimes couples, that know that something is wrong. They are stuck because they don’t know what to do about it.


Have you ever felt discouraged? You aren’t sure what to do?

In Psalm 13, David cries out to God:

“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?

He continues:
But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.”

I think that David is demoralized. He does give us a great example on calling out to God, but sometimes it’s still discouraging.

I once met a woman who was very active in her church. Her husband led a men’s Bible study. She asked me, “Why is my marriage failing?”

I asked, “Have you prayed about it?”

She looked at me like I was nuts. She replied, “That’s all I do.”

She was ready to give up.

This is very common with couples. One partner may have asked for help for so long that they have lost all hope. Maybe they’ve tried something and it hasn’t worked. They feel that their partner will never change. So, they give up.


“You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19

This is easier said than done. Usually, I get defensive when I feel blamed or criticized. I don’t usually see my behavior as that bad. So, I defend.

Defensiveness keeps us stuck in a pre-decision mode. We stay where we are because don’t understand the consequences of our actions.

Defensiveness can take many forms. It may be blatantly stating our case and arguing why we do the things we do.

It can also be a general resistance. Someone doesn’t come right out and say anything, instead, they give lip service. This is the person who might commit to doing an action, but doesn’t follow through. Often in a couple, it’s more of a general resistance.

At times, defending can be a way to protect yourself. If someone is making constant demands or being abusive, even if that’s a perceived abuse, we react by defending ourselves. Safety comes when someone honestly listens to us rather than criticizes us.


  • Don’t Know How – We emphasize that we have practical tools that will help couples to increase their marriage satisfaction. At the end of each of our classes, we always hear someone talk about how they now have tools that will help. In other words, they’ve picked up a little bit of know how.
  • Demoralization – Testimonies of how couples turned their marriages around help. They give people hope. The more testimonies and stories that you can generate, the better.
  • Defensiveness – This is very natural. You can help someone to be less defensive by creating a safe environment. Listen. Understand.

These 3 D’s are very common behaviors that marriage mentors will hear. The process of change is all about helping a person to recognize the pros and cons of change. What are the consequences of staying in defensiveness? What would happen if you listened?

Other posts in this series with more tips:

How to Not Insult Couples: Mentoring Change

The Change Process

How to Recognize Pre VS Post Decision