With the support of mentors, Witness to Love continues the indispensable role of providing early intervention and support during both the engagement and the marriage.  For most situations, early action by a couple experiencing the challenges of sharing a life together creates the best possible outcome.  It is for this reason that the Witness to Love program insists on the value of incorporating the nourishing bond of trust between the engaged and their own chosen mentors.  Mentors can serve as a basic source of sound reasoning and guidance and can help to support the use of professional counseling when necessary.  Mentors can help encourage additional forms of mentoring to help navigate through the challenges of conflict and poor communication as well as other issues such as mental health and substance abuse.

Our experience has shown that roughly one in ten engaged couples may benefit from some type of premarital counseling.  A more focused effort on specific problems including assertive communication (versus passive, passive-aggressive, or aggressive communication styles), significant struggles with vulnerable self-disclosure and authenticity, or challenges with effective problem solving may need more focused, professional treatment than clergy or marriage prep personnel have the time or training to adequately address. On the Prepare-Enrich these would be “Conflicted Couple Types” or couples with low levels of conflict resolution. Based on the insights gained through reviewing the required premarital inventory (e.g. Prepare-Enrich or FOCCUS) clergy and supporting marriage prep personnel often identify couples who have varying degrees of issues that should be resolved or discussed prior to marriage. Family of origin issues as well as personal and relational wounds can run deep, making the ongoing effort of mutual self-gift in marriage exceedingly difficult. Oftentimes these issues are covered in a few counseling sessions which provide an usually insufficient short term solution. What is really needed by these couples is an experience of long term support to ensure that these issues do not escalate and that they seek help as needed.

Specifically, a Witness to Love counselor is able to coach a mentor couple to be a secure anchor for the engaged couple. Our experience with over 500 couples has shown that the “chosen” mentor’s life experiences coupled with positive counseling techniques provide the best foundation for engaged couples who need premarital counseling.  This mentor couple is chosen by the engaged couple as someone whose marriage they admire and that they are both comfortable discussing any problems that arise. An additional value develops as mentors learn to identify not only behavioral issues, but the cognitive elements that lead to this behavior.  In turn the counselor continues to serve as a guide and coach for these mentors (and by extension the engaged and hopefully newly married) to be a secure anchor and maximize the benefit of the counseling sessions. Our goal would be to prevent occasions where couples only go through the motions of the required counseling sessions.

On the other hand, when the marriage preparation process includes a mentor to assist with getting through these challenges, a course of action can be developed providing both immediate positive reinforcement as well as basic strategies for long term conditioning.

This could possibly incorporate the mentors into the counseling process. Once key issues are identified and clarified in session, mentors can provide some of the necessary emotional and practical support to deepen self- and spousal-awareness subsequent to counseling. In therapy, the couple may uncover additional issues that need to be addressed or that indicate a need for further counseling. If, for example, there are three meetings with a counselor suggested by the couple’s church then we would advise the first meeting take place between only the counselor and engaged couple. Then during the second and third meeting the engaged couple would bring their mentor couple who will be coached in being a secure attachment and resource to the engaged couple over time.

Couples will encounter a number of obstacles living out their marriage vocation, a lifelong commitment until “death do us part.” The marital therapist commonly confronts issues of couple conflict like Gottman’s “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, contempt), which clouds the view spouses can have of each other. Similar to an eye care specialist who assesses and treats conditions that compromise vision, the mental health professional assesses and treats individual and couples’ issues that compromise a person’s authentic vision of self and their partner, leading to greater insecurity in the relationship. Every day, both counselors and parish communities see relationships struggling and failing.  Both groups can find themselves wondering if marriage can truly be a lifelong committed relationship with one other person. Even though there seems to be a great amount of evidence to the contrary, we believe that a marriage for life is possible and that this provides a great service to building up healthy faith communities as well as society in general!

Our goal is to have parishes recognize not only the value offered to the engaged and newly married by the experiences of the “chosen” mentors, but in addition the indispensable resource provided by partnering with a mental health professional to develop “affective or emotional maturity” techniques as a foundation for long-lasting relationships.  In the long run, the proper balance and interplay between mentors and counselors will directly impact not only the engaged and newly married but the parish community as a whole.

To be connected to a counselor who understands the benefits of Witness to Love in working with couples please contact us.

Praise for Witness to Love

We loved being Witness to Love marriage preparation mentors. When we were married, we were only required to attend a one day session. We wish that all couples were given this opportunity. We became closer to the couple than we had even hoped for. They opened up to us so much. The mentoring process was such a blessing because we took the time to revisit important decisions and events that had happened during our twelve years of marriage.

— Jill & John, Witness to Love mentor couple

Witness to Love “reintegrates” the mentor couple as well, not only into the parish, but also into their own marriage. It gives them a set of “fresh” eyes towards their own relationship with each other and with God.

— Deacon David Dawson, Pastoral Associate

A program that is true to its name, Witness to Love is that on many levels because it builds Church at every level. It is a blessing to our Parish, our community and our Church. Let Witness to Love share love in your Parish. You won’t regret it.

— Don & Sharon, Witness to Love mentor couple

The more I do in ministry, including marriage prep, the more I am convinced that in today’s culture real evangelization happens person to person. (…)The Witness to Love mentor couples always express their gratitude for being part of the process. They always comment that it was “very good for their own marriage.” As a pastor, Witness To Love is a no-brainer for this very reason. We get the chance to evangelize, form, and catechize two couples for the price of one! Give Witness To Love a try and you will not regret it.

— Fr. Andrew Merrick, Pastor

I believe we definitely grew as a couple, not only closer to each other, but closer to God and the church.

— Jeremy & Lindsay, Witnesses to Love engaged couple participants

It is with enthusiasm that I recommend Witness to Love’s programs and resources to you. The fruits fostered by this ministry bring about deeper parish connection and authentic accompaniment for engaged and newly married couples.

— Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans

The process was amazing. We didn’t think we had a perfect marriage, but the fact that someone thought the way we lived, prayed, and loved was an inspiration was truly an eye opener for US for what we really had.

— Caprice & Dane, Witness to Love mentor couple

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