FamilyLife Today® Podcast

It’s Easier Than You Think!

with Les and Leslie Parrott | January 16, 2007
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Today on the broadcast, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, authors of of more than 10 books, including the best-selling Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, talk about the qualifications and responsibilities of a marriage mentor.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, authors of of more than 10 books, including the best-selling Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, talk about the qualifications and responsibilities of a marriage mentor.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Today on the broadcast, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, authors of of more than 10 books, including the best-selling Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, talk about the qualifications and responsibilities of a marriage mentor.

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It’s Easier Than You Think!

With Les and Leslie Parrott
January 16, 2007
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Bob: If you've ever thought about trying to reach out to help other couples who are struggling in their marriage and thought, "We don't qualify because we've had too many issues in our own marriage."  Dr. Les Parrott says that's perfect.

Les: You might have a story of infidelity or infertility or bankruptcy or whatever it might be, and you're on the other side of it, you held it together, you are in a prime position to minister to another couple that is going through that right now.  And just being with another couple that has been through what you are going through is a major gift, because it's not what they say or do, it's knowing, "Look, they made it.  We can do this, too.  That's going to help us persevere."

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 16th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll talk today about how you can comfort other couples with the same comfort God used in your marriage.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  We're talking this week about meddlers, getting involved with other -- isn't this is what this is about -- meddlers?

Dennis: Meddlers?

Bob: Oh, it's mentors.

Dennis: It's mentors. 

Bob: I was reading this wrong.  I thought it said "meddlers," getting a whole -- a million marriage meddlers involved in …

Dennis: Actually, I think a lot of folks think that's what this is, Bob. 

Bob: Mentoring is meddling?

Dennis: Meddling today -- FamilyLife Meddling Today.  We have a couple of guests with us, Les and Leslie Parrott join us again on FamilyLife Today.  Welcome back, guys.

Les: Yes, professional meddlers.


Dennis: They actually train people, Bob …

Bob: To be meddlers?

Dennis: To be meddlers.


Les: This is not going the way I want it to at all.

Dennis: Les and Leslie are speakers, writers, they are the co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University, and we both traded barbs about the weather in Little Rock and Seattle, so we won't go there again today.  But they have developed a kit for laymen and women to begin to develop the whole concept of marriage mentoring, which is, I think, a pioneering ministry that must happen for the next generation.

 I want us to go to square one and to talk about what it means to be a husband who is a mentor, and what it means for a wife to be a mentor, because that really is a part of how you gear this training that you've put together.  Let's start with the husband, Les.  What's essential that a husband know and do to be a marriage mentor?

Les: Well, one of the things that we did in this kit was to kind of outline a program that a church could use to launch -- we talk about the marriage mentoring triad, and that has to do with the three kind of points at which you can enter a couple's life on the preparing side, which we talked about last time, you know, for those early marriages.  And we sometimes say that, you know, as newlyweds choose your ruts carefully because you're going to be in them for a long time, right?

 Mentors can help you carve new grooves into that relationship, and a new husband that can lean into the life of a seasoned husband and learn from him -- oh, my goodness, you have all kinds of opportunities to develop what we call sometimes, "honeymoon habits" -- things that you will do early on in your relationship as a husband to your wife that will stay with you down through the decades.  But if you don't understand that at the front end, it's very difficult to learn that lesson and then go back and try to recover from it.

 And so, as a husband working with another husband, you have -- as a marriage mentor -- you have all kinds of opportunities to kind of instill those kinds of new grooves that will last a lifetime.

Dennis: Give us an illustration of what those grooves might look like.

Les: Well, I think it has a lot to do with that person's personality and what has worked for you.  For example, I grew up in a home, I never had an example of a dad, and my mom and dad still loving each other, a great loving family, but Dad never opened up the car door for Mom.  You know, he just -- why would we do that?  That's a waste of time.  That's why we've got power locks.  Why would I walk around and do that.

 Leslie's dad always did that, you know?

Leslie: Not just for my mom but for me as well.

Les: Yeah, exactly, and so I remember the first couple of dates we went on, and I was halfway to the restaurant and looked around, where's Leslie?  She's still sitting in the car, you know?

 So it was a mentor that came into my life and said, you know, "What is it that you're communicating through that?  I know you haven't seen why you need to do that.  It doesn't make any logical sense to you, but what is it saying to your wife?" 

 Well, a mentor, a seasoned husband, kind of got me to empathize with the situation with my wife that I don't think I would have done, at least not for a number of years later.  And, in the same way, I've done that for other younger husbands.  That's just one little example.

 In this kit that we developed to help you get trained as a marriage mentor, one of the skills that we teach is how to work as a team, because it's so important that this other couple see you doing this work together, and it's like learning to dance, you know, how do we do this without stepping on each other's toes?

Leslie: I mean, simple things like, you know, you hear a topic come up, and you know your spouse really could go deeper with that, and so you toss the ball to them.  You know, I know that, Les, you have an experience that would really connect to this, and you just pave the way and open that door up for one another.

 And I've got to tell you, couples that take on mentoring have what we call this "boomerang effect."  It's so good for their marriage to be mentors that it's like the best thing they've ever done and, you know, that wasn't our goal when we established mentoring, but it seems to be one of the hugest payoffs.

Les: Well, it's something that we have couples in our program that will come back and say, "Give us another couple.  This has been so good for our marriage."

Leslie: Right.

Bob: Do you ever find yourselves in a mentoring setting where, after it's over, you go home, and one of you says, "I wasn't ready to share that story."

Leslie: We may be more open than everybody is comfortable, but there are moments as a mentor where you don't know where to go and, I'll tell you what, they might ask you a question, and you're thinking, "I don't know what direction to go with that," and so that's one of the things we do with mentors is coach them.

 You know, what do you do with a question you don't know what to say in response?  And things like, "Hey, that's a really good question, I'll have to think about that," you know?

Bob: I have no idea.

Leslie: Yeah, I mean, seriously, you don't have to be the answer, you know, and one of the rules about transparency is you don't share from unfinished stuff.  You can be honest but, hey, we're still working this one out, but you don't unpack the pain and put it on their shoulders.

Les: One of the other skills in this whole training program is learning how to tell your stories together, and that's one of the things we guide against -- don't talk about at story that's still in process.

Bob: And probably best if you don't tell her story, and she doesn't tell your story, do you think?  I mean, there might be a husband and go, "You had that.  In fact, let me tell you what Mary Ann did here.  She was, oh, man" -- you probably ought to let her tell that story, do you think?

Dennis: No doubt about it.  Dr. Paul Rankin, a number of years ago, did research at Ohio State University, and he said that 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal.  That means that only 7 percent is the words that we speak.  We're looking for validation.  I think this is a culture that is tired of phony; that is tired of the inauthentic, and they're looking for people to step forward who will be real and who haven't done it perfectly but who will impact another person's life in a profound way.

Les: That's a great point, because that's what happens as you mentor is a couple.  You can tap into that other person, and you go home, and you say, "Hey, did you notice how she looked at him when he was talking about that one thing?  She must really love him, because I don't know how" -- you know, it's that kind of learning that takes place that you don't put on a yellow pad of paper and say, "Let's teach this tonight."  No, it just comes through because of who you are.

Leslie: It does, and I'll tell you, the funny thing is you begin to notice that you're picking up on things and modeling little things that are even just sort of beside the point because it's modeled that connection for you.

Les: You know, I mentioned the marriage mentoring triad.  Let me mention the other two points, because it's not only preparing, but it's repairing, and in our last program we talked about, you know, you might have a story of infidelity or infertility or bankruptcy or whatever it might be -- you are in a prime position to minister to another couple that is going through that right now.  And you're on the other side of it, you've held it together, and you have an amazing tool in that story to help this couple.

Dennis: The problem, though, Les, is the shame that accompanies some of these lessons, and I'm in agreement with you -- couples who have experienced infidelity and who are, I don't know, three to five years beyond -- I wouldn't want a couple mentoring who are within the first couple …

Les: No, you've got to have that one really tied up.

Dennis: You really do, but there are tremendous lessons of how a marriage relationship that has experienced the greatest -- one of the greatest tragedies that it could ever experience in that betrayal can use that forgiveness, the hope, the recovery, the perseverance, because this is not a culture of perseverance.  This is a culture of people tossing the towel in.

Leslie: Right.

Les: And just being with another couple that has been through what you are going through is a major gift, because it's not what they necessarily say or do, it's knowing, "Look they made it.  We can do this, too.  That's going to help us persevere."

Bob: Let me tell you about some friends of mine, because I remember being right in the middle of this with this couple.  The husband was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.  It was keeping him from being able to go into work, and it was really having an impact on their family and on their relationship. 

 The wife was -- and we didn't know it at the time -- but the wife was becoming deeper and deeper in substance abuse.  She was drinking, and she was drinking more regularly.  She was trying to medicate the pain that she was going through with all of this, right?

 Well, we were watching this marriage in stress and in strain and ultimately one day the husband packs up, and he says, "I can't deal with this," and he left.  And he used to like to go watch trains.  He would just sit for hours at a trainyard and watch the trains go through. 

 Well, he took off, and his wife didn't hear from him for weeks and, in fact, that marriage ultimately went to a divorce, and when the divorce occurred, the wife got more involved in substance abuse, the husband was gone.  But after a couple of years of him being gone, he said, "This isn't right."  He came back.  He said, "I want to repair the damage that's been done."

 He helped her get help for her substance abuse.  They got their marriage turned around.  They were remarried, and here is the rest of the story -- they came to me a year later, and they were involved in their church reaching out to other couples, and they said, "You know what's great?  Couples come to us and say, 'Our marriage is a mess,' and they tell us their story, and we just laugh.  We just go, 'You haven't seen a messed-up marriage yet.  Let us tell you our story.'"

 And when they tell their story and saying, "Here is how we came back and repaired the damage, they said it gives great hope to couples who think, "We're in a mess."  My friends say, "We've been deeper than you, and we found a way to make it work."

Les: What an inspiration that is.

Leslie: It is.

Les: You know, the same is true on blended families.  I can't tell you how many couples that we have seen be encouraged by another mentoring couple because they're in the midst of trying to blend that family and thinking, "It's not going to work.  This just isn't going to work for us," and they pull it through because of another couple.

Leslie: Yeah, in that unique relationship from another couple that can laugh about the tensions and the awkwardness at home and say, "Hey, listen, you're looking at three more years of this, and then things are going to normalize," and they hold onto that hope.  It really is enough to sustain them.

Les: So on the marriage mentoring triad, you have preparing those early stages, repairing those people in distress …

Dennis: … and before you move to the third one, I have one more question for you on the distressed couple, because a number of our listeners right now -- in fact, I would imagine every listener, whether single or married, knows of a couple -- maybe a very close friend or a family member who is in distress.  What's the key thing to know or to do before you step in and apply these principles of marriage mentoring?  Do you have a beginning point that you'd recommend?

Les: If this couple is thinking it's time for us to mentor another couple?

Dennis: Yes, yes.

Les: Absolutely, that's what this whole program is about -- these 10 skills that we can take you through in this DVD curriculum will prepare you to be effective as marriage mentors.  It's also going to kind of help you look into the mirror and say, "Are you really ready for this or not?"  And that's, I think, a huge step for some couples.

Leslie: And I'll tell you what the truth is, you don't have to formalize it in order to do this.  If you see a hurting couple, and you think, "We could be a resource," you could equip yourself to be a mentor and begin to invite them, live into their lives.  You don't even have to say, "Hey, we're ready to be your mentor couple," because we see the need.  You just do it.  You live it.

Les: You begin to invite them over to your home and begin to socialize and let them look into your life.

Dennis: Okay, go to your third …

Les: So the third aspect of the marriage mentoring triad is maximizing or taking a couple from good to great.  There's a lot of couples in our churches right now that are settling for a marriage that is okay.  They're doing all right, and they're just kind of riding along.  Can you imagine -- I often pose this question to a couple -- what would your marriage look like if it were just 10 percent better?  In the next 12 months if you could do one thing that would make it 10 percent better, what would that be?

 You begin to work on a couple that's doing okay but just kind of, you know, feeling the pressure of time and not always having the kind of conversations they'd like, and so forth, but doing okay, and take them to the next level.  There's a lot of marriage mentors out there that can do that for folks.

Bob: You know, I remember interviewing Bill McCartney, the former Colorado University football coach who became the founder of Promise Keepers.  He was at a Promise Keepers event, and I think it was Howard Hendricks who was speaking at that event, and Dr. Hendricks asked the question of the guys, he said, "On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate your marriage?"  And then he said, "On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you think your wife would rate your marriage?"

 And Bill McCartney was on the platform, and he did the exercise.  And he said, "I think I'd give it an 8," and he said, "I think my wife would give it less than that."  I think he said a 5 or a 6.  And, all of a sudden, he said, I just felt convicted.  He said we shouldn't say, "Okay, that's okay."  You know, an 8 and a 6 is -- those are okay numbers, we can live with that.  He said, "I don't want to be an 8 husband.  I don't want to be a 6 husband.  I want to be everything that God wants me to be to my wife," and he redoubled his efforts.  He told us, he said, "I'm going back to figure out how can I be a 10 day in and day out?"

 Well, imagine if we all had that kind of energy and inertia for our marriages -- that transformative impact on our families, on our culture.  It would be revolutionary.

Dennis: We don't get married to become average.

Les: Right.

Leslie: That's the truth.

Dennis: We really don't.  We get married for intimacy and to know and be known and to have a relationship that is a cut above.  What are some other topics or conversations this mentoring couple will have with the younger couple as they help them move from good to great?

Les: We talk about the different kind of content areas -- communication, conflict resolution, money management, sexuality, marriage mentors -- I don't want to talk about that -- but there are some things that you can talk about that are very appropriate with another couple in these areas.  And so we set guidelines for them in programs to do that, but it's more about your relationship and the skills you bring into it that you model than it is the topics that you cover, I think, when it comes to effective mentoring.

Leslie: It's also -- here is another couple that can say, "Hey, let's ask you guys some questions and get your vision for your marriage out on the table, and then we'd like to be your partners and help you guys achieve that," you know?  And especially in the early married couples -- man, is that an amazing thing.  If you can do that -- meet with them early on and then at their anniversary point pull those goals out -- how's it coming, you know, and celebrate with them some of the vision that's coming really true for their marriage.  Boy, that's an amazing thing.

Bob: I like that approach, because I'm thinking oftentimes, getting together with other couples, we might say, "Okay, where are the rough spots in your marriage?"  And other couples might go, "You know, we're doing okay."  Well, end of session, let's watch a movie.

 But if you stop and say, "Let's not just talk about where you've got problems, but let's talk about what could be.  Let's talk about vision and goals and dreams."  And now, all of a sudden, you've opened up a whole new area.

Leslie: It's really true, because nothing energizes a person or a marriage like that -- experience a dream.  You just come alive into that.  You know, it's possible.  And it might even be just visions of what legacy we want to leave as a couple.  I mean, that, in and of itself, could give a couple years of energy.

Les: One of our couples that has mentored us in years gone by has taught us to review our top 10 each year.  We go through, and we do this over -- it's become a tradition.

Leslie: Our Top 10 Experiences of the Year.

Les: Yes, and we do this over Chinese food every year, near the New Year, and we will go back and look at our journals, and so forth and realize, "Boy, you know, that time that we had walking around Green Lake, when we had that conversation about our little boy, Jackson, that stands out as a highlight for me.  I really captured a vision for what I want that young boy to be when he grows up."

 It's those kinds of little things that you never plan that you think, "I'd like to have more experiences like that."  You review your top 10, and then you begin to chart your course for the coming year.  That's the kind of thing we're talking about when it comes to maximizing a marriage -- taking it from good to great.

 So that marriage-mentoring triad -- there's people that are listening to us right now that go, you know, "My heart leans into the preparing side."  There's another couple out there that's saying, "I lean into that we have a story to tell, and I want to work with distressed couples."  Everybody feels that tug one way or the other in this, and that's what we get revved up about.  As you know, our vision is to see a safety net support this next generation of couples, and we feel like wake up the sleeping giant of marriage mentors, you plug them into these three tracks of preparing, repairing, and maximizing, and, boy, we're going to see something radical happen with the divorce rate in our country and the level of satisfaction in couples all over the place.

Dennis: You know, there was a recent article in USA Today that said that over 25 percent of all Americans have no one they can confide in.

Leslie: Wow.

Dennis: No close relationship with another person to be able to share their struggles, their joys, their successes, their failures, and I think this is a ready-made ministry for this culture.  We're high-tech, low-touch, we don't know how to do relationships, we're not trained, and what better place to institute that training than in a pair of couples getting together over a year, two years, and beginning to build into one another's lives, actually. 

 This is not just a monologue of an older couple saying something to a younger couple.  As you've said, there is a boomerang effect that the older couple will benefit from this, but I want to challenge our listeners.  I want you to really think and pray about how you might be a part of the solution.  We have to address this culture of divorce and, in my opinion, it's going to take a million-man army, a million-couple army, a million-mentor army.  It's going to take a lot of pieces of the puzzle put together to be able to approach a generation of broken people who desperately need Jesus Christ and His blueprints for building a healthy marriage.

Bob: You know, I think of all the examples we have in the Scriptures, I think of the woman at the well who came and met Jesus, and the first thing she did was she went back, and she said to the folks in town, "Come and meet this man who has changed my life."

 I think of the disciples, who was it, I think it was Philip said, "Come and meet the man who may be the Messiah."  You know, that's what we're talking about here.  We're talking about one couple coming to another couple and saying, "We don't have all the answers as a couple, but we've found someone, we've found something, we found a few things that are making a difference in our marriage.  Let us share those with you and maybe together iron can sharpen a little iron, and we can both keep our marriages pointed in the right direction.

 And for any couple who is interested, who has a heart for this, the two of you have put together a helpful resource kit -- the complete resource kit for marriage mentoring.  It includes a hardback book, a training manual for husbands and for wives, a DVD with training sessions on it, and "51 Creative Ideas for Marriage Mentors" -- things you can do to get together with other couples and enjoy the time and share life with them.  That's really what we're talking about here.

 The resource kit is available in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can go to our website,, for more information.  In fact, we are hoping that many of you will consider taking this mentoring challenge.  We want to send you a free gift.  If you'll order this kit, we'll send along our Simply Romantic Nights collection -- romantic date ideas for you and your spouse, a dozen for him and a dozen for her.  It's a year's worth of special romantic things you can do, and we'll send it out at no cost when you order the Parrott's complete resource kit for marriage mentoring.

 Information is on our website at  Click the red button that says "Go" in the middle of the screen on the home page, and that will take you right to the area of the site where you can get more information about these resources.  Or call us -- 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will get you the information you need so you can request these resources.

 You know, anyone who has ever contacted us to request a resource from us knows that those resources are available for sale.  If you've been to one of our Weekend to Remember conferences, you know there's a registration fee for that.  What you may not know is that the revenue from those registration fees or from the sale of those resources don't cover the costs associated with our ministry.  In fact, they make up less than 40 percent of the revenue that we receive here at FamilyLife.  The vast majority of the revenue we receive comes from folks who are listeners to FamilyLife Today, folks just like you who help support the ministry by making a donation, either from time to time or on a regular basis.

 During the month of January, we wanted to encourage those of you who could make a donation to FamilyLife Today to think about doing that and, if you're able, we would love to send you, as a thank you gift, a book by our friends, Bill and Carolyn Wellons, a book called "Getting Away to Get It Together."  It's a guidebook for couples who would like to take a marriage getaway, a little personal retreat where you can relax, unwind, enjoy some time with one another and do some creative thinking and maybe a little planning for your marriage and your family.

 This helpful guidebook is our gift to you.  If you are able to make a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month, you can do that online at, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation.  If you're donating online, you'll come to a keycode box, and you need to type the word "away" in that box, so that we know to send you a copy of this guidebook.

 Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY just mention that you'd like the book on getting away as a couple, and we'll know what you're talking about and be happy to send it out to you.  Again, it's our way of saying thanks for your ongoing financial support of this ministry.  We appreciate your involvement with us.

 Well, tomorrow we want to talk about some of the challenges women face in the culture today, trying to live as godly women in a culture that does not encourage or promote that.  Martha Peace is going to join us tomorrow, and we hope you can join us back as well.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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