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Successful Marriages Start With Relationship Mentors
There are many facets to having a successful marriage, but one important key is to look around you and mimic those who have a strong marriage.

When you aspire to greatness, follow the experience of others who have done it before you.

A good friend once told me that people enter your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime.”
None of us would be where we are today in terms of our happiness or success if it weren’t for role models and their examples who’ve guided us and shown us the way. We can’t learn everything through firsthand experience; it takes too long and the pain and sacrifice to learn every lesson would be too great. A wise person learns from other people’s experiences. We call those people "mentors."

For the most part, mentors are people who’ve achieved a bit of success in their own lives. They’ve usually had to overcome certain obstacles or hardships, and it’s because of those hardships—and the fact that they overcame them—that they have something to share and that we want to listen. We’re inspired when we see someone who’s overcome the same hardships we struggle with; they give us hope because we tell ourselves, "If they did it, so can I."

I often hear people talking about their financial, business or academic mentors, but I rarely hear them mention their relationship mentors. I don’t believe that any one mentor can encompass all the talents and wisdom in the areas we need to learn about; we need different mentors for different lessons and we definitely can benefit from relationship mentors both in life and in strengthening our own marriages.

Who Are Your Relationship Mentors?
If you haven’t already identified your relationship mentors or if you’d like to add to your list, here’s a home-play assignment to make it easy. Make a list of the family members, friends and acquaintances whose marriages or romantic relationships inspire you. The people you list will become your mentors to help you develop your own romantic relationship. Hang out with them. Study them. Watch them closely with an inquisitive and curious mind. Mirror their emotions and actions, even if it feels unnatural and silly to do so. Ask them questions about what you observe and experience while you’re with them.

You already know plenty about you, so for now put you aside as the main topic of conversation and ask your mentors about themselves and their relationships. After all, what’s everyone’s favorite subject? Themselves! People love to talk about their feelings, beliefs, opinions and insights. As you learn how to ask great questions, you’ll receive great answers and therefore great insights.

My Relationship Mentors
I am fortunate in the fact that my parents have been happily married for over 65 years. When I spend time with them, I see that they’re just as romantic with each other now as they’ve been for as long as I can remember. Ten times a day I catch them hugging, kissing and saying to each other, "I love you so much!"

My father’s getting up there in age and some health issues have slowed him down a bit, yet he still won’t let my mother lift a finger. He wants to wait on her hand and foot. Whenever she wants or needs something, my father jumps up and tells her, "Jeanne, I’ll get it. I’ll get it!" When he does that, my mother giggles as if she were a 16-year-old schoolgirl all over again. She just blossoms when he treats her that way.

My parents laugh about the fact that their bodies are falling apart, and they think it’s funny that they forget everything. Yes, they’re my relationship mentors. I think to myself, If they can maintain a long-term, happy marriage for more than 65 years, then there’s hope for me and my marriage too!

Season, Reason and Lifetime Mentors
A good friend once told me that people enter your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime. A "season relationship" happens when you meet someone new, have a wonderful time together for a short period and then you either forget about the person or are left with a fond memory (and a smile on your face) for years to come. A "reason relationship" occurs when someone enters your life for a period of time and is there to teach you something, through either a good or a not-so-good experience. These relationships can be a catalyst for growth, happiness, pain, tragedy, helpfulness or some other life lesson. "Lifetime relationships" are the ones you have with your family and your spouse. They last a lifetime, plain and simple.

As I look back over all the relationships I’ve had with mentors in my life, each could be placed into one of those categories. Mentoring can occur over a long period of time or in a chance encounter. Think of how you feel when a charming stranger pays you a compliment or smiles and sincerely wishes you a wonderful day. Whether they come from a brief, chance meeting or a lifetime relationship, the lessons you learn from your mentors can be amazing gifts and brilliant examples to follow for the rest of your life. If you want a happy marriage, take time to find and study relationship mentors.

Winn Claybaugh is the author of Be Nice (Or Else!) and "one of the best motivational speakers in the country," according to CNN’s Larry King. A business owner for over 25 years with over 8,000 people in his organization, Winn is the co-owner of hair care giant Paul Mitchell’s school division. Winn has helped thousands of businesses build their brands and create successful working cultures. His clients include Southwest Airlines, the Irvine Company, Vidal Sassoon, Entertainment Tonight, Mattel, For Rent magazine, Structure/Limited/Express, and others. Winn is a frequent guest on national radio and a regular contributor to online publications. Visit www.BeNiceOrElse.com to sign up for his free monthly newsletter.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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