Heart, Hope and Skills for a healthy couple relationship


In our training as Marriage Coaches, Marian & I learnt about the importance of the three ingredients of heart, hope and skills for healthy couple relationships. We’ve found it important to keep working in all three areas to grow in our own relationship. And in our work as ‘Marriage Coaches’, we encourage and help couples to nurture each of these ingredients in their personal lives and as they approach the relationship.  At times it can become necessary to work with one partner by themselves.

Heart without hope is short-lived goodwill. Either one partner, or both, has a teachable and humble heart, but lack hope in God or each other. So much water is under the bridge of their relationship that they can’t imagine it ever being different in the future.

Heart without skills is humble ignorance. A good analogy is an athlete who has a strong, competitive heart, and willingness to learn, but loses in competition because his raw talent and desire hasn’t been shaped for expression through sport-specific skills.

Hope without heart or skills is an unachievable dream. This combination is comparable to fantasy. The couple imagines what their marriage can be, but lacks the heart to persist in learning, and therefore lacks the skill to make any of their efforts successful.

Skill without heart is manipulation. All the knowledge in the world is useless unless applied with love.  Our partners know when our heart is behind the use of a skill such as active listening, and when we are just doing the skill without sincerity and humility.

Skill without hope is useless knowledge. Some couples want to learn skills, but refuse to allow for a miracle from God.  It is difficult to be motivated to try new approaches if you refuse hope in the first place.

Which ingredient do you need to strengthen in your relationship as a couple: heart, hope or skill?

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The Bible uses various images to describe the church, to help us understand its many facets. When I came across this meme a few years back, it stayed with me, because it helped me better understand the church as a type of ‘spiritual gym’ which I am a part of, because it’s a space where I can receive God and other people’s help, to keep working on my many dysfunctions and become healthier over time. It also helps overcome false images of the church – like the understanding that it is an exclusive club for those who claim to be perfect or morally superior than others.

Growing in a Relationship of Mercy as couples

Through experiencing my wife’s love when I fail /least deserve it, has made me more grateful for our relationship, because it has taken away the fear of being punished /rejected for my failures. I also feel closer to her as a result. And it has helped me to become more merciful myself.

Witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection

The theme of ‘witnesses’ – people who’ve experienced something – speaks to something that is really distinctive to the Christian faith. Christianity is not a philosophy – though it can incorporate philosophy; it’s not primarily a mysticism – though it can incorporate mysticism; it’s not a religion that comes welling up out of natural experience – though it can accommodate that. Christianity is about something that happened; and there were witnesses of it. Without that, Christianity falls apart.