In attempting to find a mentor couple, maybe you can picture two extremes for your pre-marriage mentoring. 

Scene 1: The four of you perch stiffly on a hard sofa across from a couple who loves to preach in the form of conversation. You and your fiance return to the car just glad to have checked something else off the pre-wedding list. 

Scene 2: Your hands curl around steaming mugs, your animated conversation punctuated by laughter. Years down the road, you phone your mentors after your first big newlywed argument, and again when your baby is teething. 

We’ve all had relationships where we had high hopes to learn from someone (and sure, weddings and marriage brim with more expectations than usual). Sometimes, the relationship fizzles for lack of interest on one side or both. But sometimes you receive far more than you personally invest. Truth is, you may not find your dream mentor couple, though you’ll reap benefits even from far less than “the best.” 

How to find a mentor couple: 6 steps 

We’ve got a few tips to increase your odds of a couple who connects and, even more, who prepares you for a robust, intimate marriage. 

1. Huddle up.

It’s worth a preliminary convo with your fiance to evaluate what you’re both hoping to get out of a mentorship (presuming your fiance’s on board. If not, are there compromises to help your fiance feel more comfortable? Worst case scenario, you can meet one-on-one with your own premarital mentor.). 

When it’s time to say “I do” in a few months, what would you hope to have gained from your mentorship? Maybe you’ve witnessed a few kinks in your relationship (“I hate who we become when we fight!”), gathered a few pressing questions (“What if one of us doesn’t want kids, and the other does?” “Should we be sharing bank accounts?”), or just crave some overall pointers. Maybe one of you hasn’t seen a lot of great marriages up close, or you want to make sure the patterns of a previous relationship aren’t on replay.

And maybe just talking about what you’d like and who you’d consider to be examples will clarify your own relationship’s values and goals. 

2. What we practice, we become.

My husband and I have spent a number of years on overseas missions. We’ve found that when a family first arrives overseas, those showing them the ropes unintentionally set the mental standard for what that family’s lifestyle will look like. Will I have a washer or hire someone to help wash our clothes by hand? Will I attend a local church or an international one? Will I dig deep into relationships with expats or prioritize relationships with locals?

Mentoring is a bit like this. Call me Captain Obvious, but depending on the intensity of your mentoring relationship, the couple who mentors you quietly influences the norms of your new marriage (though perhaps not as much as your families of origin).   

  • What couple would you like the mature, seasoned, future version of your marriage to look like? 
  • Who’s a couple you both respect? Why? 
  • There’s great wisdom in complexity—and along with humility and love, wisdom remains a top-shelf quality in mentors. Who offers nuanced, thoughtful, biblical advice, rather than sweeping, black-and-white statements?

Seek two people with a long track record of thriving, close-knit relationships with both Jesus and each other. Consider both a non-negotiable. 

But this doesn’t necessarily mean a couple with a vast scope of ministry, because big ministry doesn’t necessarily equal deep spiritual growth. Or who’s been married a long time, because longevity may not mean closeness or thriving. Or who hasn’t appeared to have difficulty, considering survivors of long seasons of pain may have vital tools for enduring, covenant love. 

Bonus: You’ll have a leg up if your prospective mentor couple has a history of thinking deeply about marriage. Maybe that’s by participating in a marriage ministry, or frequently discussing the tenets of healthy relationships, or (for lack of better clues) host that chunk of well-thumbed Christian marriage books on their shelf.

3. Look for the mentor “click.”

Mentoring relationships work best when all four of you experience some sort of connection—like you did when you found your fiance. You know, that intangible “chemistry” that kickstarts the next phase of your relationship. 

Still at a loss? In case you slept through 2020—mentorship can happen via Zoom too. Broaden your search to people who might not live around the corner.

4. Find a mentor couple who listens.

Most people aren’t only looking for answers, tools, and ideas. You could read a book, right? Or a blog post, a commentary. Sermons or podcasts are a click away. 

But think about someone listening to your unique concerns. Receiving your story. Empathizing with your sticky points. Asking well-considered questions that prompt you to think and respond in new ways. Helping you and your fiance discern what’s best for your relationship’s DNA.

That’s priceless. 

Remember Proverbs 20:5: “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” You likely want not just a teacher, but someone you can process life with. Someone to skillfully draw out the deep waters within your hearts, so you leave having understood your relationship and yourselves better.

(Maybe your prospective mentors will be interested to hear about FamilyLife’s free online course, Compassionate Mentoring: How to Listen and Love Like Jesus.)

Build a Christian marriage with the Preparing for Marriage study guide.

5. Find a mentor couple who’s honest. 

As a writer, I look back to high school, when “Mean Greene” presided over junior year English. She’d scrawl “Blah” over my papers’ bland (OK, lame) titles or even edit me in front of the class. 

But she was also the one who uncovered that an author lay within me. 

Since that year (not telling which one), I’ve learned to covet an editor’s red pen. It’s the body of Christ invited into my work, causing me to understand more of God’s heart and mind—and no doubt preserving me from scathing Amazon reviews. (I’d far rather be notified of my dumb ideas before publishing.) 

The Bible strongly associates correction with love (Hebrews 12:5-11, Revelation 3:19).

Proverbs in particular has a lot to say about this: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid … Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning … Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (verses 12:1, 9:9, 15:32).

As serious as engagement is, this is your moment before you hitch your life’s wagon to someone else, head over heels as you are about them. Ask this couple outright to help you pry your eyes wide open.

Does God seem to be affirming this lifelong partnership between you? Does your relationship essentially say, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3, NIV)? 

Sure, a flawless fiance is a fictional fiance. But asking the right questions now could prevent gallons of tears later. Seek the couple who will shoot you straight. 

6. Find a mentor couple who’s safe.

Your relationship will only be as beneficial as it is trustworthy. To put it another way: Your mentoring relationship is only as effective as you’re each willing to be authentic. Whether it’s your sexual history (or present), the trauma in your background, or your views on gender roles, in gluing your lives together, they will play into your marriage. 

So in hoping to find a mentor couple, examine a couple’s emotional safety, especially if one of you brings in heightened pain or shame. 

Not sure what that looks like? Check out How Can I Be a Safe Place for Someone Who’s Hurting or Vulnerable?

A few other tips

  • Watching how this couple interacts in real life could be just as beneficial as chatting intentionally over coffee. Consider serving in a church ministry in which they serve, spending an afternoon having fun together, or investing other quality time allowing you to witness them in the wild.
  • How can you give back to this couple? Could you offer a few nights of free babysitting, cook the two of them dinner, or offer to fix their broken printer? 
  • Consider keeping a running list on your phone of questions you’d like to ask your mentors. The Preparing for Marriage book offers great places to start, but take charge of your own premarital mentoring. What weaknesses are you seeing in your own relationship, your own heart? 

Mentoring can be a see-it-touch-it-hear-it way to see how Jesus might encourage and respond to your own relationship. Sure, it takes some courage. But it’s worth it to find a mentor couple willing to invest in your relationship. 

Your marriage—and the generations after it—might just be better for a lifetime.


Copyright © 2024 Janel Breitenstein. All rights reserved.

Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and frequent contributor for FamilyLife, including Passport2Identity®, Art of Parenting®, and regular articles. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International. Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write on Your Kids’ Hearts (Harvest House), empowers parents to creatively engage kids in vibrant spirituality. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.