by Les and Leslie Parrott
Don’t jump to conclusions when mentoring another couple.
Strategy: In their first session with Monty and Carla (married one year), Tim and Britney (married 14 years) jumped right in to explain how destructive avoiding conflict can be. “If you run from your problems, Carla, you’ll never resolve them — you’ll create loose ends that eat away at your marriage,” Tim said. “You’ve got to discuss issues.”
With that, Carla broke into tears and walked away from the meeting. Tim and Britney quickly realized they had fallen into a trap that often trips up rookie marriage mentors: premature problem solving.
The couple began their next meeting with Monty and Carla with an apology for being too quick to dispense advice. That put Carla at ease, so Britney gently asked her a question.
“Can you talk a little about how you learned to approach conflict when you were growing up?”
“That’s a tough question for me,” Carla replied. “Conflict in our home was swept under the rug.”
Carla eventually shared the root of her coping strategy: the abuse she suffered from her father. As a child she learned to escape tension at all costs.
Tim and Britney carefully and patiently listened to Carla talk about her childhood. And so did Monty. Until that night, he never fully understood just how much Carla’s early trauma impacted their relationship.
In the months that followed, Tim and Britney studied how Carla’s childhood abuse might impact her marriage. They also referred her to a Christian counselor. In time, Carla found healing for her psychological wounds, and she also began to see more clearly how she could choose to find resolution with Monty when they had conflict. Tim and Britney learned that’s it’s not always easy to identify an underlying issue impacting a couple. They also learned to listen sensitively without feeling the need to offer quick advice.
Tip of the Month: Premature problem solving is a trap that trips up beginning mentors. Learn to listen sensitively without feeling the need to offer quick advice.
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are the authors of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts and Your Time-Starved Marriage. Learn more at marriagementor site.com.
This article originally appeared in the April, 2010 issue of HomeLife. To subscribe, click here or on the magazine cover.