Taking a coaching approach in marriage  
Speaking of the most difficult situations, marriage is often one of the biggest challenges for many Christ followers. We expect our spouse to be on our side and backing us up, but no other human being can do that perfectly. Even good marriages will have hard times, and those times will demand a patience and an other-centeredness that can be hard to muster. 

Written By CCT Team

Robert E Logan and Gary Reinecke Christian Coaching Tools Co-Founders.

Soft skills that can help your marriage

Coaching skills emphasize things like seeing various sides of a situation, listening until you understand well enough to summarize accurately from the other person’s point of view, searching for multiple possible solutions, and expressing genuine empathy and interest in the other person. Although you never want to fall into the trap of trying to serve strictly as a coach or counselor in your own marriage, the soft skills involved in these roles can be incredibly helpful in any close human relationship.

What is your spouse looking for?

coaching skills for marriage

You know that most of the time when you’re talking with your spouse, you’re not looking for a solution; you’re looking to be understood. And you know that when you’re looking to be understood, having someone provide a solution and tell you what to do doesn’t go over so well. It’s safe to assume that—unless the other person has explicitly asked for help problem-solving—they aren’t looking for suggestions and solutions either.

The best route is to move toward empathetic listening. Ask to hear more, unpack what you’re hearing them say, ask follow up questions. After fully unpacking all the other person has to say, you may want to ask, “So how can I be helpful to you?” This question is a good test of whether a person is looking for a solution or for empathetic listening. In marriage, as in all other areas of life, strive to live with patience and with humility, assuming you do not know all the answers and do not have all the solutions.  

Consider some of the directives from Proverbs: 

  • Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— (1:5) 
  • A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. (19:11) 
  • To answer before listening—that is folly and shame. (18:13) 
  • Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (13:10)

Living with patience and humility, and being willing to listen and receive advice and feedback yields great dividends, especially in marriage. Even after many years, never give up trying to learn more about your spouse and see how the world looks through their eyes. 

Discovery Listening for Marriage

Both of us have many years’ experience of trying and learning how to be better listeners and question-askers in our marriages. Here’s a story from Gary’s experience about how he and his wife Gina have applied coaching in their marriage: 

The exercise

A few years into our marriage Gina and I participated in a married couples communication workshop led by Dr. Dallas Demmitt.  He introduced us to Discovery Listening.  Foundational to Discovery Listening is to help the “speaker” process their thoughts out loud.  There are two important skills at play.  First is to ask, “Is there more?”  Second, the ability to summarize what you hear your partner sharing.  The purpose of summary is for the speaker to hear their thoughts as the “listener” summarizes.  Through this exercise, the “speaker” oftentimes will discover new insights simply through reflecting on the summary offered by the “listener.”  However, the take-away for me was the importance of summarizing without inserting or contaminating the summary with your interpretation.  This is much easier to say than do!  Let me explain.

The lesson

During the workshop we were asked to sit back-to-back with our spouse.  One spouse was identified as the “speaker” and the other, the “listener.”  As Dallas observed the couple, he would click a clicker every time the spouse who was the “listener” contaminated the summary.  Sounded easy enough.  My wife had stated on numerous occasions my superior listening skills. It was our turn.  We sat back-to-back.  Gina did an excellent job working hard to summarize and ask me if there was more, I wanted, or needed to share.  After 5 minutes we switched roles.

This time I was the “listener” and Gina, the “speaker.”  After Gina stated a concern, she had I remembering “anchoring” myself to the best of my ability before summarizing what I heard her say.  Before I finished my first attempt – I heard the “click” of Dallas’ clicker.  I guess I had done something wrong.  Regrouped, I attempted to summarize a bit more.  “Click!”  Frustrated again!  “Click!”  “Click!”  “Click!”  You get the picture.    By the end of the exercise, I was in double-digits.

Gina and I survived the workshop.  The learning for us was that we needed to be aware when the other required the undivided attention of the other.  Since then, we have on many occasions engaged in intentional conversations, requiring focus, and Discovery Listening.  

We use a simple cue like – “When can we have a focused conversation about this issue?”  Come up with your own que and give it a shot.  

Guidelines for a focused conversation with your spouse:

  1. Agree when to meet
  2. Set a time limit
  3. Do everything necessary to remove distractions
  4. Restated the ground rules 
    1. summarize 
    2. ask, “Is there more?”  
    3. no advice-giving
  5. If you are the listener commit to be curious and non-judgmental

Cover Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash

Coaching to Develop Problem Solving Skills

Your clients come to you because they are stuck and need help moving forward. Often, because you are experienced and have the benefit of objectivity, you can pinpoint the problem and have a good idea where the solution lies. It’s tempting just to provide that help, knowing that clients will find it helpful. 

22 Questions to Ask the Mid-Sized Church

On the surface, finances might be healthy, facilities appear sufficient and staff are content. Underneath the veneer however there may be a high level of dissatisfaction – and reason for concern! What strategies do you use when coaching pastors of mid-sized churches? 

6 Strategies for Landing New Clients

You are poised and ready to help people and you are getting a lot of interest in coaching. Now you need to turn those potential clients into contracted clients.

Coaching the Small Church Pastor

There are wonderful things about working with small congregations, but just as with any church, there are potential pit-falls to be aware of from the perspective of a coach.

6 Ways You Can Upgrade Your Coaching Questions

You don’t just want to get your clients talking, you want the conversation to get deep, meaningful, and actionable. Upgrade your coaching questions from good to powerful.

5 Challenges Every House Church Faces

House Churches are becoming more common. Are you ready to coach their leadership toward effective ministry?

When church planters need coaching the most

No one likes feeling stuck. Coaching church planters when they are at critical sticking points helps them move forward with clarity and confidence. 

How to reboot your church board

If you feel like your board is tying your hands from moving forward effectively in ministry—or if your board members feel like you are tying their hands—there’s need for a reboot.

The best investment you can make in your church

It’s not a building or hiring additional staff members. And it’s not coming up with a new program. The best investment you can make in your church is to help develop the innate leadership skills in the people who are already there.

Slow Your Roll and Establish Disciple Making DNA

One of the pitfalls of launching small groups after the corporate gathering is established is that the DNA of disciple making can become secondary rather than primary.  This is a common problem when coaching church planters who, in their compulsion to “go public”, have found themselves relaunching two years later.  You as the church planter coach have influence in this decision.