Nonprofit offers marriage coaching as alternative to divorce
VANCOUVER — Divorce has become an increasingly normal part of society, with over 25,000 Washington state marriages ending in divorce just two years ago, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vancouver based nonprofit, Marriage Team, endeavors to see that number drop to zero.
“We had a passion for marriage, and as we moved more from the mentoring role to the coaching, we found that we getting a lot more success,” said Alan Ray, founder and executive director of Marriage Team. “Success bred confidence, bred excitement, and it has been that that has kept the organization going.”
Ray founded Marriage Team in 2007 with his wife, Autumn, of nearly 50 years. After five years of working with couples in their church, the Rays decided to apply their teaching and coaching tools to start a nonprofit.
Since then, the team has grown in number and coached more than 1,700 couples.
The foundational goal of Marriage Team is to pair couples with failing marriages with coach couples who have been trained in the team’s process. The coaches use a carefully honed curriculum, tested over decades, to ask insightful questions and guide the couple forward.
Through weekly meetings, the couples go through the curriculum, exercises and build community and trust with their coaches.
“This just helps you to have better ‘‘plays’’ so you can achieve the goal you have to have a healthy marriage,” said Vancouver resident, Phillip Ball; comparing him and his wife’s experience with Marriage Team to a playbook in sports.
Phillip and his wife Anna, went through Marriage Team’s program last year. They have four children together and said they wanted better communication when it came to healthy parenting.
“I learned to present something with an ‘I feel … ‘ statement,” Anna said. “It’s not, ‘You didn’t do this,’ it’s all about how I’m feeling.”
Their different personalities and styles of parenting clashed and lead to conflict and less unity. Learning to compromise and use the best of both their strengths was an asset, they said.
“Breaking down the awfulizing so I’m not having those internal dialogues,” Phillip said. “It’s part of any good conflict-resolution; assuming the best intentions of others. Making sure I apply that to us, to my kids. ”
Marriage Team plans to expand their reach by beginning operations in five new regions, with a goal of 30 coach couples in each. Each coach couple will be able to coach 1 to 3 couples each year.
The team expects to bring over 1,600 couples through the program by 2022.
“We have a ministry that’s been very effective, and is a proven tool, proven process, proven itself,” said Martin Miller, the development and marketing director for Marriage Team. “One of the greatest gifts you can be given in life is a spouse that loves you and that you love.”
Miller, who has himself been married for 30 years this year, is currently preparing for a large training the team will launch in Tucson, Arizona next month.
The goal of the team moving forward is to branch into new regions and markets by explaining the advantages of coaching over other forms of marriage help. Their greatest evidence comes from their own statistics.
According to Marriage Team, 89 percent of couples who have moved through the program, and were initially considering divorce, do not get divorced upon completion of their coaching.
If a couple is seeking the help of Marriage Team, they can call or go on the website to fill out basic information and get connected with the program. The cost for 9 to 12 three-hour sessions is $399, with pre-marital costing less.
Marriage Team doesn’t guarantee results, but say they do guarantee value for couples. If a couple feels they did not get the proper value, they will be refunded everything except the cost of inventory and materials, Ray said.
“We continue to train more couples, we continue to get more testimonies, and it’s just very rewarding to see the difference it makes,” Ray said. “Not only in the couples lives that are coached, but also the coaches.”