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How Marriage Coaching Couples Can Deal with Discouragement By Richard and Sharon Wildman

May 28th, 2010 | By | Category: Family Coaching Center Guest Posts

“What will it take for this couple to do what is needed to help their marriage!?  How much pain do they have to be in to do the work of reconciliation?!”

Those are the questions we sometimes ask ourselves over and over again. One challenge of being marriage coaches who work with struggling couples is that it is easy to become discouraged when people in pain make only small changes – or none at all. Many couples come to us begging for help to make the pain go away, to give them tools for communication and conflict resolution, and to offer them hope. They say that they want all of this at ‘10’ on a 1-10 scale. But, when it comes down to doing the hard, hard work of reconciliation many times that ‘10’ becomes a ‘6’ then a ‘4’ and even sometimes a ‘2’. What do we do to not be discouraged and hopeless ourselves when this happens?

Sowing Seeds

We remind ourselves over and over that we are sowing seeds by what we share and what we model. Remember Jesus’ parable about the sower and only one of the four soils he seeded produced good fruit (Matthew 13:1-9)? We try to think that each couple we pour into may be the soil that produces good fruit. The couple who reconciles or moves that ‘2’ to a ‘7’ has just had victory over the Enemy who seeks to destroy their marriage and family. And that victory has just made an eternal difference in their children’s and grandchildren’s lives. When we realize the multiplied effect of just one marriage saved, it helps us to remain motivated to give our best to every couple we serve.

Telling (and remembering) Our Own Testimony

We almost always share our own testimony of Jesus’ reconciliation of our marriage with anyone that we serve. We believe what Scripture says, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11).” Sometimes just sharing from our hearts about the struggles and the separation we experienced gives the couple hope and a little motivation to try again, because they’ve heard how we were in extreme pain at one time and were able to reconcile.

We are very real and honest with them about the mountains and valleys we had when we were working on reconciling our marriage. We are blunt about the arduousness of the journey they are embarking on, but tell them that it is more than worth it. We share with them that God is the One who did it because we wanted to obey Him more than we wanted our own selfish ways. We each gave Him a chance to change us and then to change our marriage.

We remember that even though some couples in crisis may seem hopeless to us at times – we’ve been in that same place – there were some who viewed and treated us as if we were the good soil that would produce good fruit one day, and we are willing to be those people for them now.

We Plant Seeds . . . God Makes Them Grow

We tell ourselves what the Apostle Paul said: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). We know that God is the only Healer of relationships. We remind the couples we work with that they have to look to Him for their healing, not us. That puts the outcome of the whole coaching relationship right where it needs to be – rolled onto the back of the Savior.

We challenge the couples we serve to make sure their relationship with God stays solid if it already is, or that they take serious steps to get back on track with Him. We’ve found that most of the time there is a lack of prayer and study of the Word of God involved when couples get to a crisis point. Or just a lack of belief that He is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do – that He really is capable of healing their marriage. We remind them that God will work in their marriage, but only if they invite Him in.

We ask them, “If God wanted to do a miracle in your marriage, would you be willing to receive it?”[1].  It’s startling to see the looks on their faces when we ask that question. It gives them the opportunity to look at their own attitudes about where their relationship is and then face the possibility that God may want to do something about it (as well as whether or not they would be willing to receive His help). We trust God to be working in their hearts and minds. We continually give our anxieties about our couples over to Him and pray for pliable hearts. Ultimately, this helps couples take responsibility for their own relationship and keeps us from becoming inappropriately weighed down with responsibility that belongs to them and God, not us.

Helping Whomever is Willing[2]

In another vein, we are encouraged and thankful when both parties show up, because when a couple is in deep pain just showing up can be a major milestone. If only one person shows up, we are also thankful for that, because God can work with one willing heart to change the relationship for good.

Remembering That Growth and Change Takes Time

We remember that as we went through our own marital separation, there were days we were in a lot of pain, rejected advice, had bad attitudes, and sometimes took a long time to whole-heartedly try new things. When we did try new ways, it still took lots of practice with some missteps to make enough progress for the other to see a difference in us. We have to tell ourselves that our couples may go through the same things. Many couples try one new thing one time and expect to see a big change in attitude or behavior from their spouse, and when they don’t get it, just want to give up. It’s hard, as coaches and mentors, to keep them encouraged to try again, and again, and again, but it’s so worth it when they do.

Add Happy Couples to Your Coaching Diet

Another thing that has been helpful has been to mentor some premarital couples while working with crisis couples. It is nice to observe these young couples who, although they have their ups and downs, have hope for the future and desire to learn about their relationship and to lay a good foundation for their marriage. Watching them inspires us to continue to work to take our own marriage to the next level. It also gives us hope that at one time the struggling couples we work with were young, hopeful couples themselves, and that if we can help them tap into those good memories and why they got married in the first place, there can be hope for their future.

Taking Solace in Serving Well

There are couples we coach who do all the exercises, learn new ways of communicating, are so hopeful, then go home and “forget” everything they’ve learned – not wanting to take the time or do the hard work to continue their reconciliation. They default back to the way it was because “it takes too much energy” to get through the “newness” of doing things a different way – just like a new physical exercise you have to get used to before it becomes second nature.

We have learned that each couple has to make the decision to do the work or not, to allow God to change them, or not. We know in our hearts that we have handed them skills, hope, our testimony, resources, and pointed them back to the One who heals, but the decision is ultimately theirs – as it should be. We trust that God will continue to work in their lives – with, or without us.

Peace About Simply Being Seed-Planters

Ultimately, what couples do with the opportunity to do differently is up to them. Sometimes, just like the seed, their learning lies dormant for a season before taking root and bearing fruit. When that happens, we’re very glad that we gave our best. If it doesn’t, at least we did our best, as unto Jesus, Who we are ultimately serving anyway.


Richard and Sharon Wildman provide life and marriage coaching to individuals and couples, consultation to businesses for hiring and team-building, and teach relationship education seminars. They are certified in several relationship curricula and assessments and are trained life coaches. (Christian PAIRS, life coaching through Life Forming Leadership Coaching, PREPARE/ENRICH, Leading From Your Strengths assessments, The Flag Page and several other resources.)

You can contact them at, 937.462.8148.

[1] This and other effective marriage coaching questions can be found in Coaching Questions by Tony Stoltzfus,, and Level 1 Marriage Coach Training, (We are Levels 1 and 2 Marriage Coach Trainers.)

[2] We are more apt as a marriage reconciliation coaching couple to see one or the other, and not always both. We have to take the breakthrough wherever it appears. Because separated couples are sometimes nearing the death of their marriage, we will coach them individually if only one is willing.

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