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Effective Marriage Coaching: Facing the Brutal Facts by Jeff Williams

Nov 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Family Coaching Center

beachcouplesIt’s the moment of truth that makes every married couple quiver.  It happens when they’re asked the question that reveals what they really think, how they really feel, and why they’ve asked you to coach them, “How would you rate your marriage on a scale of 1-10?”

“You go first”, one partner inevitably says to the other. It’s usually the man who doesn’t want to underestimate and thereby offend the woman he’ll go home with after the session.  Sometimes a bit of persuasion is necessary.  “We’re confident that this process can help you to get to a better place, but we’re going to need a baseline to understand where you are now.  Anything higher than a 0 means that there is something good happening in your marriage, but anything less than 10 means there is room for improvement.  So, let’s get to it.  Write down your number and get ready to explain what is happening that is good and what isn’t happening yet that you would like.” The emphasis on what is good and the invitation to envision the good to come seems to reassure the couple enough that they become willing to share.

A gentleman I met recently divorced after being married twenty years.  “I never thought it could happen to us”, he said.  “But somehow we lost focus on us along the way.  We got wrapped up on work and kids activities and slowly lost us.  Now, I constantly ask guys to evaluate their marriage on a scale of 1-10.  If they say 7 or less, I tell them that they’d better do something about it.” Hmmm.

How would you rate your marriage?  How do the couples you’re serving rate theirs?  What is happening that enables them to say 1 or higher?  What is not yet happening that keeps them from saying 10?

In our experience guys consistently overestimate the quality of their marriage.  It’s a splash of cold water when their wives give a rating lower than theirs.  “I thought we had a good marriage”, he’s apt to protest.  “We do, honey.  It’s just that I think it could be better”, she reassures.  My divorced friend urges us married guys to take such warnings seriously.  “It’s taken a few years”, he says, “But I see now that if I’d taken her seriously about the things I could have done differently that we might still be married.”

After a couple agrees to explain the rationale for their ratings it is critical to move the session forward in a way that inspires hope and sustains motivation.  “The great thing about coaching is that it is all about accomplishing goals.  Now, let’s take another look at your answers and talk about three things.” It is then that we ask the following questions.

  1. What’s already happening in your marriage that is good? Remember, if you answered 1 or higher you are saying that something good is happening. Let’s identify what it is and build on that.
  2. What would you like to start happening or happen more in your marriage? This is an opportunity to add to the good that is already happening.
  3. What would you like to stop happening or happen less? Let’s identify some of the drainers that steal joy and pleasure from your marriage.

Finally, we ask the couple to envision their ideal future.  “When your marriage is like you want it to be, what will be happening and how will you be feeling?”

The Marriage Coach’s optimism that there must be some good things happening in the marriage and the future orientation are like spoons full of sugar that help the medicine go down.  The medicine is the brutal truth about how the partners view the marriage; what is and isn’t happening.  The sugar is the optimism and hope that they can grow and change toward an ideal future.

In coaching we begin with the end in mind, but we also begin with an honest appraisal of what is and isn’t happening in the relationship.  That’s the only way to help a couple journey from where they are to where they’d like to be.

Jeff Williams writes and speaks about Marriage Coaching.  He and his wife, Jill train couples to coach marriages in a series of tele-classes that are accessible for any couple with a phone and internet connection.  Write to, or call 301-515-1218 for more information.

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