SASKATOON — According to statistics from the Vanier Institute, marriages in Canada have a 59 per cent success rate. The good news is that couples who undergo marriage preparation and ongoing mentoring have a success rate of 80 to 90 per cent.
That’s where Brent Trickett comes in. Trickett is the national co-ordinator for Family Life Canada’s Marriage Mentoring Initiative.
“A mentor can always help,” he says. “Marriage mentoring pairs you with an older couple who wants to listen to you and invest in your lives. This isn’t crisis counselling, but rather an opportunity to share your story and learn from the life experience of another couple.”
The initiative was launched two years ago by Family Life Canada and has staff people across the country who train seasoned married couples to mentor new and less experienced couples.
Eligible younger couples are those who want more from their marriage, who feel they are stuck or drifting apart. Or perhaps they’re doing well, but want to strengthen their relationship.
These couples will meet with mentor couples once a month for 60 to 90 minutes. Each month they’ll have one of 14 different conversations exploring topics of importance to strong marriages such as gratitude, showing love, money, communication, household partnership, spirituality, emotional and physical intimacy, parenting, and more.
In the month between meetings, the mentored couples will have a project they can do to actively solidify what they’ve learned. “Kind of like homework,” Trickett says, “but fun homework.”
“Mentoring is all about having conversations together. The goal is not to teach. It’s less a study and more about discussing where the couple wants to head in the future, something they decide together.”
The Marriage Mentoring Initiative works through churches and organizations that want to become a marriage mentor centre. Couples looking for mentoring can find the nearest centre by going to MarriageMentoringInitiative.com and plugging in their postal code or city.
“If there isn’t a centre nearby, directions are on the website for a church to get set up to train marriage mentors,” Trickett says.
The marriage mentoring centre is generally located at a church, but the program is not limited to church people. It is open to all couples, both churched and not-churched. The conversational sessions can take place at home, at the coffee shop, or wherever the participants feel most comfortable.
There are several marriage mentoring centres in Saskatoon, each one with trained mentors available. They are part of the Saskatoon Marriage Network, which recently hosted a Weekend of Impact with Dr. Dave and Donalyn Currie, founder and president of Doing Family Right. Local churches of a number of denominations were involved, including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
“We’re just coming off the conference where we had lots of opportunity to learn about marriage,” Trickett says. “However, information by itself rarely changes a person. It’s relationships and habits built that do. In a mentoring relationship, mentors help couples make decisions about where they want to go in the future, then help them do it.”
Training mentor couples is a big part of the Marriage Mentoring Initiative. Trickett says mentor couples are people who have good and stable marriages. They also have a heart for others, a desire to listen, a willingness to share their life and their story, and 90 minutes a month for a conversation with another couple.
“They don’t have to be perfect, just willing to share their story. What’s interesting is that mentor couples are often the ones who grow the most as they talk about the pertinent issues and topics with the couple their mentoring.
Marriage mentoring isn’t a Bible study, he adds; the questions are non-threatening. “The most important take-away is that we don’t want any married couple to feel like they’re alone.
“It is also not crisis counselling. The marriage mentoring program is not for marriage where adultery, addictions or abuse exist. If these are issues, proper counselling is needed.”
On the other hand, he says, a marriage need not be in trouble to benefit from mentoring. Any marriage can become better.
“Most people today still want to get married, and still plan on having a great marriage, but they don’t always know how to make that happen. That’s why we need people to come alongside us.
“Great marriages have a better chance of producing great families. Great marriages create stability which is good for children, and generally results in longer life for the couple.”
The Marriage Mentoring Initiative regularly holds mentor training events for couples who would like to become mentors. For information on the next training session, visit www.saskatoonmarriagenetwork.ca or contact Trickett at email@example.com.
The cost for the mentoring program? Sixty to 90 minutes of time out of each month for one year — a bargain no matter how you look at it.
This article previously appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.