How many human relationships is a man called to be “one” with another person? If you guessed two – you are correct. The only human relationship where the word “one” describes God’s vision for people is related to the church, and the other is marriage. Anything this exclusive, interdependent, and intimate is bound to be a target for spiritual warfare. This vision for oneness is one of many reasons we need to spend more time discussing marriage with men. Mentoring a man in an area as personal as marriage can be challenging. Still, there are some fundamental principles to guide you.
Ask the Right Question to Start
The habit of many conversations regarding marriage is to ask, “How is your marriage doing?”. This question is limiting because only some men will answer honestly, usually when their marriage is already in crisis. You don’t want to help marriages in crisis exclusively – that’s like waiting for the house to burn down before you fix something in your home.
A better question might be: “How much does your marriage reflect God’s vision for marriage?”. This is a better question because every couple has their definition of what they want marriage to be. But not every description of a successful marriage lines up with the definition given by the Creator of marriage. This question will also reveal whether the man knows God’s vision for marriage.
The Bible says much about spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy between a husband and wife. It also gives us a picture of the purpose of marriage in making stronger families and a better world. Most importantly, the Bible provides a vision of marriage that reflects the very character and image of God himself.
Asking the right question to start your conversation will lead to the following principle.
Know who you are mentoring
As you uncover the strengths and challenges of a man’s marriage, it is essential to understand as much of this man’s story as possible. Ask many questions to get to know him and the nature of his relationship with his wife. Here are some questions that could help:
- Tell me about how you met your wife. What made you fall in love with her and decide she is the one?
- Have you always had this struggle in your relationship? If something changed, when and why did it change?
- If you looked at things from your wife’s perspective, what is the best and most frustrating part of being married to you?
The other important part of knowing who you are mentoring is understanding their personality. Some men are more reflective and need you to be their gentle encourager. Other men are the other extreme and are more bottom-line in their personality – they will require you to speak directly and candidly.
Focus on mentoring the man, not the marriage
When I sit down with a man to talk about his marriage, he almost always wants me to help him fix his marriage, which I understand. The problem is that his wife is not in the room, but he is. You cannot promise a man that you can fix his marriage. What you can do is mentor and encourage a man to become the husband God designed him to be.
In reality, this vision of becoming the man God designed him to be is even more important than fixing what is wrong in his marriage. Our highest purpose in life is to be an image bearer of God – someone who reflects to the world around us what God is like. When a man lives with this as his highest purpose, it will give him the focus he needs in every season and circumstance. This purpose will give him a definition of success that matters for eternity and not only at the moment.
Spend a lot of time looking at the Bible and God’s specific vision for husbands (there is way more in the Bible than “love your wife like Christ loves the church”). It will be essential to help the man understand he has no control over how his wife responds to the marriage challenges. He can only control his commitment to being a godly husband.
Mentoring combines biblical truth and what God has taught you over the years. Make sure you connect your own story and lessons learned.
Keep coming back to the conversation
Every marriage goes through seasons. This is why you should keep returning to the conversation of “How much does your marriage reflect God’s vision for marriage?”. Avoid the mistake that because you walked with a man through the most challenging season of his marriage, his marriage is now healthy.
This type of conversation may be foreign to you, so I want to leave you with a challenge. Over the next month, get together with three other men (preferably one-on-one conversations). Tell them you care about them and believe you can support each other as men. Then dive into questions like the one we discussed and see where God leads the conversation.