The History of Couples Coaching Couples
In mid-May of 1989, Hugo Mendez and Vialla Hartfield-Mendez, a recently married couple, attended a monthly meeting of an independent support group in Charlottesville, Virginia. This support group consisted of people who had attended a program called The Forum as well as others who had attended other programs about personal transformation. The purpose of the support group was to have people offer coaching to each other on any particular project or part of one’s life. Before the widespread popularity of the term “coaching”, the support group loosely defined it to be one person listening to another on a regular basis and reflecting back what he or she heard “behind the words”. Members of this group agreed to be in regular communication to support one other.
At the May meeting, Hugo and Vialla each requested individual coaching from members of the group. Both Hugo and Vialla were in the final stages of their doctoral programs. They were in identical fields of study in the same department at the University of Virginia. They had only the summer to write their doctoral dissertations and get teaching jobs at colleges in close proximity to each other, if not in the same place. Carl Huber suggested coaching them as a couple, rather than individuals. Hugo and Vialla accepted the invitation to experiment with this new approach to coaching.
During their first coaching conversation, Carl asked whether both Hugo and Vialla would be willing to have the other sign his or her dissertation, i.e., as author. Herein lies the very kernel of the concept of Couple. Each individual act or accomplishment is considered the product of the couple, rather than the individual. The individuals acknowledge the influence of the other in their being, and thus operate as a couple even when they are performing as individuals. This may sound frightening to non-couples, who, in clinging to their individual identities, prevent the creation of a true Couple relationship. The result of taking on each other’s project as their own empowered Hugo and Vialla to write and successfully defend their dissertations and achieve positions at the same college. They were acknowledged as individuals in these projects, but infinitely more meaningful to them was the extraordinary Couple relationship that they created in the process.
Late that summer, Leah, Carl’s wife, humorously expressed to Hugo and Vialla her serious envy and frustration about Carl’s coaching relationship with them. From her perspective, Carl was being a great coach to a great Couple, but Carl and Leah were getting none of the benefit for their Couple. Carl also expressed a similar frustration. Hugo suggested that the two couples coach each other; that each couple serve as the coach for the other Couple. Thus was born the quartet structure familiar to Couples Coaching Couples members. In the fall of 1989 the two couples began coaching on a weekly basis. In late 1989 Carl and Leah and Hugo and Vialla had an initial meeting with other couples who were interested in what they were doing, and began forming a group. On February 3, 1990, the two couples met with three other couples and Carl and Leah demonstrated a coaching session with Hugo and Vialla. The coaching demonstration was unilateral (one couple coached other one-way).
In the demonstration, Hugo and Vialla coached Carl and Leah as if they were conducting a weekly coaching session. This was the first time that two-way coaching was used, each couple coaching the other. The first coaching demonstration formed the basis of what would ultimately become known as the Declaration Process. At the February 3rd meeting, Carl and Leah and Hugo and Vialla each partnered with another couple to form two quartets. These two quartets (Hugo and Vialla, Joe and Marie-Jeanne Dane, Carl and Leah, Phyllis Koch-Sheras and Peter Sheras) constituted the first expansion of CCC and the first Circle. At the next meeting in Charlottesville, additional quartets were formed. This is how the first Couples Coaching Couples circle was formed. Couples Coaching Couples, Inc. is not-for-profit organization, with the purpose of making Couples Coaching Couples available to the world.