Resources from Marriage Savers: Columns
Couple Mentoring: How To Save Nine of Ten Troubled Marriages
October 20, 2001/ Column #1051
Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.
More than 1.1 million marriages fail each year in America. For the one
million children involved, the experience is absolutely shattering, whose
effects often last well into adulthood.
The reason most marriages fail is selfishness. The reason the best marriages
thrive is selflessness. The central issue facing American families is this: How
can selfish couples be inspired to become selfless?
Arguably, that is the job of organized religion. Or it should be. Jesus
summed up the basic message of Christianity in five words, ''Love your neighbor
as yourself.'' What neighbor is closer than a spouse? As St. Paul put it,
husbands should ''love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife
loves himself'' (Eph 5:28). Sadly, few clergy preach this sermon.
No wonder Barna Polls reveal the divorce rate of active Christians is about
the same as the unchurched. In fact, Barna reports the divorce rate is even
higher among Baptists and non-denominational Christians than unbelievers!
The problem is not so much a lack of sermons as it is a failure by pastors to
realize that there are couples in their pews who've learned to move from
selfishness to selflessness. Those couples have not been identified and trained
to tell their inspiring stories of recovery to those whose marriages are
One church that did so is First Assembly of God of Rockford, Ill. Dan Qualls,
Associate Pastor, asked this question, that any pastor could ask, ''Are there
any couples whose marriages were once on the rocks, but are now in a state of
healing? If so meet with me after the service.''
Fifteen couples met with him, 14 of whom became Mentor Couples. Over five
years they worked with about 150 couples headed toward divorce, losing ''only a
handful to divorce, not more than 10,'' says Mary Cotner, who leads the Marriage
Ministry with her husband, Bob.
Her marriage nearly failed because Bob was an alcoholic. When he drank, he
became abusive. She threatened to leave with four kids unless he changed. He
made the right choice, with the help of his faith. He recalls, ''I believed that
Jesus could deliver me from that evil, and He did.''
When they meet with couples for whom alcohol is an issue, he can say with
authority, ''I have learned to ''trust the Lord with my whole heart and lean not
to my own understanding.(Pr. 3:5) In the past, I allowed myself to deceive
myself and I was successfully destroying my marriage. I was violating Mary.
However, Jesus delivered me.'' He not had a drink in decades.
Such a couple is a treasure to Pastor Qualls: ''They provide tremendous
relief for the pastoral staff,'' he says. ''They are like a pit bull dog, who
will stick with a couple through thick and thin. I can hear them in an office
near mine meeting with a couple for two-three hours. They pour their heart and
soul out, an enormous time investment.
''Couples relate better to the Marriage Saver Couple than to a pastor or a
professional counselor. There is a greater level of honesty and rapport. They
can share their story which gives hope. These couples have been in trouble
themselves. They have learned to trust the grace of God, and have an unswerving
commitment, and genuinely love these people.''
Another key ingredient was that ''we had a woman's point of view and a man's
point of view,'' says Lisa, whose marriage was saved by meeting with Raymond and
Robin Talon. Her issue was that Tommy went out drinking with his buddies, and
then would lie or cover up his escapades. When she discovered the truth, her
trust in him eroded.
Raymond told Tommy, ''Your marriage is more important than having a beer with
friends. If you get sick, who will be in the room with you, your wife or the guy
you drink beer with?'' By contrast, Robin advised Lisa, ''You can not change
him. You can only change yourself. Let the Lord change him.'' In fact, as she
stopped showing distrust, Tommy sharply cut back his evenings with the guys,
while retaining the right to do so once in a while.
First Assembly is one of dozens of churches in which in which back-from-the
brink couples are trained to share their stories of recovery with couples in
crisis. They save nine out of ten troubled marriages! Other churches will be
trained to do so Nov. 30- Dec. 1. To learn more see
Changed lives, change lives.