Making Time to Make Things RightMay 7th, 2009 | By Jeff Williams | Category: Family Coaching Center
Making Time to Make Things Right
“It’ll work it you work it.” The first time I heard this was from an experienced addictions counselor who trained me to help youth. Together we created a “Sober Living” group to teach them concepts and skills to get and keep their sobriety from drugs and alcohol. Wanda always closed our meetings with the same encouraging reminder, “Keep coming back. It’ll work if you work it.” Work what? Work the program.
The effectiveness of 12 step programs is undisputed. Alcoholics Anonymous and other Anonymous groups (e.g., Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc.) have helped millions to recover from life threatening addictions. The twelve step approach to recovery is the most well-known and most effective treatment for addiction. But there’s a catch. It only works if the person with addiction works the program. This means that they have to show up to meetings and to “Work the steps”. This takes time, energy and discipline, but the payoff is a chance at abundant life vs. certain death. Persons with addiction say that if they don’t have their sobriety that they don’t have anything.
At the time of this writing, two couples are pending as referrals to receive Marriage Coaching. In both instances, the husbands, fearful of losing their marriages, made time to call to learn about our approach and if we were available to see them. We agreed, but neither has called back to schedule an appointment. Why? They can’t find the time. Their marriages are almost dead, admittedly on the brink of divorce, and they can’t figure out how to make time to benefit from a highly effective approach. Of course that’s probably part of the problem. Healthy, pleasurable and sustainable intimacy (emotional openness and physical closeness) takes time and energy.
What if you were told that you had three months to live unless you received highly effective treatment that could cure you? Would you make time to be cured? Of course! This analogy fits marriage. Many couples are living a recipe for disaster. They don’t create schedules to invest in their marriage. Instead, many other people and activities get their best, and they give leftovers to each other if they give at all. Many good things get their time and energy; work, school, little league (two or three of them per child), hobbies, and yes, I’m going to say it, Church activities. We’ve heard all of these and more as the reasons that couples don’t have time to learn and use essential concepts and skills to grow, protect and heal their marriages.
“Do you want to be well?” we ask couples. “Yes”, they reply. “Will you invest your treasure and time to learn essential concepts and to practice essential skills to communicate, to resolve conflict, to discuss desires, and to prevent misunderstandings?”
A couple’s responses to these questions are predictive for their marriage. If they say, “Yes, we’ll do whatever it takes” Jill and I feel very hopeful for them. But if they say, “We want it, but we’re not sure how to make the time”, we’re less optimistic. Even so, we give such couples the benefit of the doubt, and coach them to find and commit to necessary time for sessions and to practice skills at home.
I hear a version of the following every week. “Hello, Mr. Williams? I was referred by _______. They said you and your wife coach couples that are having problems. Could you tell us about how you do things and if you could see us?” After they hear a brief description of how Marriage Coaching works, about 90% of couples say that they would like to try it. Then begins the challenge as they talk through all the things they are involved in, activities they can’t (won’t) miss or reschedule, etc., etc. Sometimes they’re receptive to some coaching to figure out how to find the time, and we’re able to schedule a series of appointments. Sometimes they let it drop there. The fact is that while they said they wanted help they weren’t willing to pay the price.
Making time for sessions isn’t where the challenge ends though. If a couple begins a course of Marriage Coaching they also MUST make time to cultivate a loving relationship with Jesus and to practice communication and conflict skills at home. They need the heart and hope that only He can give them, and they need to do repetitions of skills and exercises designed to elicit and convey their honest thoughts, feelings and desires with each other. Again, the program works if they work it, but it takes time to work it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that exponential benefits are eventually realized by those that invest time and effort in relationship with Jesus, sessions, practice and reflections.
Every coaching approach requires time and effort to be effective. The bad news is that a season of coaching for any objective requires a significant investment of time and mental and emotional effort. It’s not enough to show up to appointments as a passive participant. Those that get the most from coaching actually budget time to think and to talk with loved ones (e.g., spouse, family, and friends) about their reflections on input, powerful questions and insight from their sessions.
Which statement do you think is more accurate? “We didn’t have time” or “We didn’t make time.” Which statement indicates more willingness to take responsibility? The latter, right? Saying that you don’t have time for something simply isn’t as accurate as saying, “I haven’t made time for that because I have decided to commit my time to ______,______, and______.”
Are you finding this helpful? I’m addressing the whole “making time” issue because willingness to take responsibility includes proactive time management that allocates ample opportunity to maximize the catalytic effect of coaching. Effective coaching occurs only when the coachee(s) take responsibility for their lives. Making time for coaching appointments AND to work on goals is a way they demonstrate responsibility.
One of the first goals we help couples to set is time to nurture or heal their marriage. Inevitably one or both partners find it necessary to sacrifice something for their marriage. Usually both decide to let go of some commitment to another person or activity in order to make this happen. We have seen women terminate mentoring relationships with youth and men say no to church responsibilities (e.g., sabbatical from the Church board). These are inarguably good things, but just not the “best” in comparison to their marriage. It’s hard to let go of good things, but sometimes the best things don’t get our best time and energy unless we say a firm no.
My friend and fellow coach, Tim Schofield* is a international trainer for Franklin-Covey®, an organization that teaches value-based time management philosophy, principles and practices. Early in our friendship I became frustrated when Tim said no to some of my requests to do activities together, but soon I understood why. “Jeff, there’s a deeper ‘yes’ burning inside of me. If I say yes to you I will be saying no to my wife), and frankly, you don’t compare. My marriage is more important to me than our friendship, and I’m determined to be intentional with my time so that I can have a world-class marriage. When I have to choose I’m going to choose her.” If only more couples thought like Tim and Kira, and kept their commitments with as much vigilance it would go a long way toward preventing problems in marriage, and healing them when they arose. By the way, the flip side of Tim’s incredible commitment to his priorities is that he is fully present when he commits time to me.
We’ve concluded that when a couple’s “want to” is big enough that they will find a “how to”. When couples collaborate to find creative ways to make time for Marriage Coaching and to work on their marriage on a regular basis at home, they are on the road to saving and restoring pleasure in their relationship, and being able to proactively protect it in the future.
One of the most important and powerful coaching questions I’ve ever been asked was from Joseph Umidi, Founding President of LifeForming Leadership Coaching.** After he’d presented Christian Leadership Coaching to me the first time in 2001 I was enthralled, “This is something I really want to do”, I said. In response Joseph asked, “What might you have to let go of that is currently in your hands in order to embrace this?” I said little at the time, but did a lot of reflection on it later that eventually led Jill and I to decisions sacrifice and to reorder priorities in a way that has made it possible for us to embrace the ministry of Marriage Coaching. New and better endeavors are rarely added to existing commitments. They often require sacrifice and letting go.
We’ve known couples that said no to career advancement opportunities in order to protect their marriage. “The amount of travel I would have to do would be hard on our marriage and our family.” When we hear about such decisions where marriage or family is prioritized above career we are very optimistic for a great outcome.
When confronted with the possible loss of his marriage, my cycling buddy Gene*** let go of his beloved hobby of cycling in order to attempt to embrace his marriage. The time he’d previously spent on a bike was now spent at home talking with his wife. I grieved the loss of a sporting buddy, but today his marriage is restored, and he has time to ride again.
The coaching approach to relationship strengthening and healing is not a magic pill. It takes work through consistent effort over time. The good news is that the results are proportional to a couple’s investment of time and effort. It works if they’ll work it.
*Tim Schofield can be reached at email@example.com, or 937.885.5729
**Lifeforming Leadership Coaching, www.lifeformingcoach.org.
***Gene Saunders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 937.206.8307