At Focus on the Family, we’re here to assist you by creating this discussion guide to serve as a springboard to help you enter into candid marriage-building conversations with your mentoree couple. This guide explores twelve characteristics that we’ve identified as essential ingredients in creating lasting, thriving unions.
Chances are you have turned to this guide because you’re about to enter a mentoring relationship with another couple. Good for you! As marriage mentors you have a unique opportunity to support and strengthen this couple in their love for and commitment to one another. At Focus on the Family, we’re here to assist you in doing just that. Along those lines, we’ve created this discussion guide to serve as a springboard to help you enter into candid marriage-building conversations with your mentoree couple.
This guide explores twelve characteristics that we’ve identified as essential ingredients in creating lasting, thriving unions. These traits all have their origin in Scripture, so it is not surprising that research demonstrates that a genuinely thriving marriage is the result of practical progress in these key areas of marital life. Lifelong commitment, shared spiritual intimacy, cherishing one another, healthy conflict management and the rest are among the non-negotiables in building and sustaining a vibrant marriage.
How to Use the Guide
We’ve designed this guide as a helpful tool, not a rigid program. It’s intended to kick-start conversations and shine a spotlight on key facets of marriage, but we encourage you to make it work for you and your mentoree couple. You may want to address each question, or pick and choose, or add questions of your own. It’s also important to remain flexible—if your mentoree couple wants to explore a different subject instead, we’d encourage you to set aside the scheduled topic and go with the flow. And all along the way, ask good questions, actively listen, and share from your own experience.
The guide is ideal for use in twelve sessions. We recommend tackling a single topic per meeting, as you’ll want to facilitate relaxed, in-depth conversations. If you know in advance you will be meeting less than twelve times, we’d suggest asking your mentoree couple which topics are of greatest interest to them and then proceeding accordingly.
Again, thank you for making this investment in another marriage. We’re confident your mentoree couple will benefit from your encouragement and insight, and you may be surprised how much it enhances your own marriage in the process. May God bless each of you as you embark on this exciting and important journey together!
1. Lifelong Commitment
Couples who stick together understand that marriage is a sacred and solemn mystery in the eyes of God. As a result, they enter the relationship with the attitude that divorce is not an option. They understand that marriage is a lifelong adventure, filled with triumphs and defeats. Like Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2), they press on toward the goal in both good times and bad.
hared Spiritual Intimacy
Thriving couples have a deep, shared faith. They consciously regard Christ as the foundation of their relationship (Ephesians 2:20) and understand that a genuinely Christ-centered marriage is a marriage in which both partners actively acknowledge the presence and the authority of God, and where Jesus makes an observable difference in daily life.
Communication is the heart and soul of any vibrant relationship. Successful husbands and wives understand this. They prioritize communication and approach it as a process involving openness, empathy, and a deep heart-connection. They are quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). They ask questions and try to enter into one another’s thoughts and feelings.
Healthy Conflict Management
Couples who go the distance recognize that spousal conflict is inevitable. They know that the secret of their success lies in the way they handle this conflict, and they embrace the concept that God uses this bumping and jarring to cause them to grow (Proverbs 27:17). They keep short accounts and never let the sun go down on their anger (Ephesians 4:26).
Spending Enjoyable Time Together
Thriving couples are intentional about spending enjoyable time together (Philippians 1:8). They build their relationship upon a foundation of shared values, interests, and goals. They schedule regular date nights and outings and develop meaningful traditions and family rituals. They also know how to maintain a healthy balance between togetherness and independence.
Successful marriages are made up of two people who intentionally treasure and honor one another. They do this by keeping a conscious account of the things they value about each other. Just as Jesus established the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His redeeming work on the cross (Luke 22:19), they commemorate the blessings of their relationship in a tangible, physical way—with gifts, celebrations, and meaningful mementos of significant occasions. Questions:
Nourishing is a matter of discovering your mate’s “love language” and learning how to speak it. It’s about building each other up in active, practical ways and “encouraging one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). It involves nurturing your spouse’s strengths and supplementing his or her weaknesses. This implies a significant investment of time and energy, but it’s an investment that pays off in a relationship capable of weathering any storm. Questions:
Couples with vibrant relationships find ways to resolve the issue of male and female roles between themselves with Scripture as their guide. They talk openly about their expectations and personal preferences and hammer out a God-honoring plan that preserves fairness and equity in the way it divides household tasks and responsibilities. Their goal is to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and function as a team. Questions:
Mutually Satisfying Physical Intimacy
Thriving couples regularly celebrate their marriage with passionate sexual intimacy. They don’t regard sex as a “chore” or “obligation,” but as a delightful “dance” in which each spouse puts the other’s needs and interests ahead of his or her own (Philippians 2:4). At the same time, they never lose sight of the fact that sex is not the only element of a vibrant marital relationship. They understand that satisfying physical intimacy also includes plenty of affection, tenderness, warmth, and physical touch as well.
Note to mentors: Some couples will feel comfortable sharing freely around this topic, others will not. We suggest checking with your mentoree couple at the outset to determine whether it would be an appropriate subject for discussion. If they would prefer to skip this one, simply move on to the next topic.
Coping With Change, Stress, and Crises
Successful couples don’t consider it strange when external trials and pressures come upon them (1 Peter 4:12). Instead, they prepare for hard times and make provisions for seeking outside help when it’s needed. In all kinds of adversity, they take pains to anchor their marriage to the Solid Rock of faith in Jesus Christ. Questions:
Healthy husbands and wives realize that they need other people and other people need them. They are intentional about connecting regularly with other like-minded couples. They stay engaged with nurturing communities of all kinds and make a special point of maintaining an active involvement in the local church, where they have many opportunities to give and receive spiritual support (Galatians 6:10).
A thriving marriage is made up of two thriving individuals. It can only be as strong as its component parts—namely, husband and wife. It’s a blending, not a cloning, of two distinct personalities. Common sense itself suggests that healthy relationships emerge when healthy people come together in a healthy, positive way. This means that there’s a place for appropriate self-care and self-improvement in any marital relationship (Galatians 6:4, 5).