Most people embarking on marriage have precious little preparation for what will be the most important earthly relationship they will ever have. What you did learn about marriage was often incomplete or distorted. Now you want to learn some better things about marriage, and a marriage mentor couple is a wonderful resource. But what would you ask your marriage mentors?
Most of us understand the value of having a mentor in an important area of life; at your job, in your finances, with your physical fitness, etc. Marriage mentors can greatly help your own mindset and relationship. What you learned about marriage before you knew you were learning it developed templates in your mind that may not be what God intended, and to develop a new mental template of a healthy godly marriage you need to see a few marriages that truly work.
Look around for a married couple or two who have made it. Not couples who look shiny on the outside, but who demonstrate authenticity, joy, and peace, where both husband and wife exude being Fully Alive. You want a couple who is a little farther down the road, though they won’t have everything figured out either.
Then observe them. Talk with them. Realize your mental assumptions, expectations, skills, and understanding about marriage may all need some adjustment, or perhaps an entire overhaul. Here are some things to ask your marriage mentors.
What are some things you’ve done right in your marriage?
You want to know what investments they made in their marriage that paid off. To what do they attribute their marriage success? What were the habits or regular practices they put in place that nourished their marriage? What decisions or mindsets were important?
Tell us about the most beautiful parts of your marriage.
Every marriage goes through challenges, and it will help you make it through your own challenges to know something of the goodness that could be waiting on the other side. Hearing a healthy couple talk about the beautiful things they are now experiencing together can provide you hope.
Tell us about the most challenging things you’ve come through in your marriage.
Again, every marriage experiences challenges. Hearing those stories will also help give you hope. It can remind you that your challenges are not unique and show you what persisting through hard times looks like. It helps dispel the myth that if your marriage has challenges you’re in the wrong marriage.
What do you wish you had known or understood earlier in your marriage?
We all go into marriage with assumptions and expectations, and every married couple has to work through these to come to healthy mutual understanding. Hearing about these from your marriage mentors can shorten the learning curve for you, and that can remove much unnecessary pain.
What are some things that didn’t work well, that you wish you had done differently?
Every marriage is the union of two sinners. Hearing about your marriage mentors’ failures and how they came through them can be one of the most valuable parts of this process. You can lessen your own future regrets by paying attention to these mistakes and taking steps to avoid them yourselves.
What has worked for you in handling conflict or disagreement between you?
Every marriage experiences conflict. Learning healthy ways to deal with this is one of the “core competencies” of a successful relationship. Your marriage mentor couple likely learned much of this the hard way, and you can take advantage of their experience.
How has marriage changed you individually?
No one can be married and not be changed. Your marriage mentors may not have thought much about this before you ask it, but they will likely be happy, even eager, to reflect on this. God uses marriage as a laboratory in which we become more like Him and learn to love well. Find out how that has worked for your marriage mentors.
Here is something we’re wrestling with. How have you addressed that in your relationship?
Being vulnerable with your marriage mentors will make the process much more valuable. Bring up a specific challenge you are wrestling with in your relationship and ask your marriage mentors to reflect on how they addressed that issue. It’s almost a guarantee they did have to address it. Their story and reflection will help you see a path forward.
What have you learned about communication (or intimacy) that has been helpful?
While there are many issues in marriage, the two I hear about most often are communication and intimacy. Make sure you ask your marriage mentors about these two biggies. Every single successful marriage will have had to navigate these issues. Don’t pass up the opportunity to get some wisdom and perspective from those who have “been there.”
What has “Christ at the center of your marriage” looked like for you?
This will always be more than, “go to church.” What does this look like the other 167 hours of the week? How did they get over awkwardness in praying together? What does their prayer life together look like now? How has Christ changed their perspective on their relationship? What has Christ’s grace and forgiveness meant to them? How do they continue to keep Christ at the center?
A helpful marriage mentor relationship is not a one-and-done; it will take nurturing the relationship over time. You as the couple inviting input need to take the initiative to invest in the relationship with your mentor couple(s). This couple is taking time to speak into your lives, and you will want to honor that investment.
Ask your possible mentor couple how often they can meet. Don’t presume on their time. Come prepared to each meeting with at least a question or two to ask (you can start with the list above). Be ready for your mentor couple to challenge your ways of thinking and feeling about many elements of marriage.
And then take their input, go home, and pray about it. Give it time to germinate in your mind. See what can be applicable to your own marriage, and how you can put it into practice.
This kind of intentional growth can help you build beautiful things in your own marriage, and you just might be able to pass on that wisdom to another couple one day.
Your Turn: Have you had a marriage mentor? What would you like to ask them if you did? Leave a comment below.
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