The Third Option is an on-going group program to build better marriages. It is designed for all married couples and can be used both as marriage enrichment or crisis intervention. For hurting couples, who see only two options (painful endurance or divorce) the third option means reconciliation. For ordinary couples, the program teaches them the skills they need to have happier, healthier marriages.
When couples are struggling they will say they have "tried everything" but what they usually mean is they have tried the same two extreme options over and over, never finding what works. (Example: they have stuffed their anger, or they have attacked with it. Neither will give them the marriages they want.) The THIRD OPTION is the middle healthy ground.
The Third Option combines skill-building workshops with sharing from mentor couples and a support group component. The atmosphere is warm and caring.
Is this counseling?
No. The Third Option is not counseling. It is an educational and support group where we learn
and encourage each other along the way. However, we recommend participants seek counseling when
appropriate. It is possible to do both.
How does the Third Option differ from counseling? Many couples cannot afford counseling.
Many have lost HOPE and therefore are not willing to invest in counseling but regain HOPE
through the group.
Many are resistive to counseling because of stigma, a bad experience, etc. but will come to an "educational"
group and if they stay, will often decide to try counseling. The Third Option can be both a
stepping-stone to counseling and an adjunct to it.
The Third Option is peer ministry and a psycho-educational program. It combines: a support group,
mentor couples and workshops on relationship skills. Many
couples will come to the Third Option rather than counseling because:
How does it differ from weekend experiences?
The Third Option is an ON-GOING program which gives couples a "place to
go" in crisis or anytime. Our emphasis is on HOPE through support and
skill building. The Third Option works well in conjunction with weekend
What are mentor couples and why use them?
Teams, or mentor couples are couples who have
overcome serious marital difficulties themselves and now share their
experiences: their pain and triumphs. Mentor couples are essential to
the program because it is peer ministry. It is through these "wounded
healers" that others find HOPE. We have all heard the "bad news"
regarding marriages and divorce. What struggling couples need to hear
is the "good news"- that reconciliation IS possible and that, in fact,
there are some couples who have actually done it.
What is the Format?
The first time someone comes to The Third Option, they attend an
orientation during the first hour. A couple who has had some marriage
problems but has worked through them (a mentor couple)
shares their story of hope and explains how to get the most out of the
program and introduces a couple to simple exercises.
Then, all join the main group at coffee break time.
The second hour, there is a ½ hour mini-workshop on one of 14 topics.
The workshops teach practical skills couples need in order to have good marriages.
The workshops include skits and games to make the material interesting and easy to remember.
Then a second mentor couple shares on the workshop topic. They talk
about what mistakes they made in the past and what they have learned to do, which works
much better and how much happier it makes them.
At the end of the meeting, each person receives a worksheet with a summary and 2
self-inventory questions. The questions are read and there is quiet time for each person
to decide what they will practice between meetings. (No one asks what others have decided.
This is personal time).
At the next meeting, the first hour (which newcomers missed because they were in
orientation) is a support group where couples share what they are learning and what
they are practicing. If they have questions or frustrations we talk about that. If
they have success stories, we celebrate with them. And we support each other as we
learn and grow and make our marriages better.
What are the workshop topics?
There are fourteen mini-workshops, which teach relationship skills.
They continually recycle and participants can come in at anytime.
The topics are: Handling Anger Constructively, Ending the Blame Game,
Understanding Expectations, Dealing with Personality Differences,
Breaking the Hurt Cycle, Communication Skills, Redefining the Power
Struggle, Childhood Issues and Emotional Baggage, Building a Climate
of Respect, How to Fight Fair, Forgiveness & Repair, Rebuilding Trust and Control Issues.
Read about How We Began