What To Do When Your Good Friend’s Marriage Is On The Rocks
You’re with your friend through so many phases of her love life. From that first crush, to that middle school boyfriend she held hands with, to that high school boyfriend she lost her virginity to, to that college boyfriend who gave her that first major heartbreak, and on through the slew of adult relationships she had before finally finding the man she’d marry. Maybe you two found your forever-mates around the same time, and grew together as couple friends. Perhaps you were a bridesmaid or even the maid of honor in her wedding. The point is that, you’ve invested in her marriage. You’ve seen it grow and, for the most part, you’ve felt it was a good one. If you have a good group of nearly life-long friends, you’ll also be around to see some of their marriages struggle. You’ll want to help. Here is how to help when your friend’s marriage is on the rocks.
Don’t tell her to be in or out
Whatever you think she should do—fix the marriage or join the divorce statistics—you can’t tell her, flat out. You may think her marriage is over and that she should give up, but if you say so, and she stays, she’ll feel you disapprove.
Assess what she wants
Find out what it is that your friend wants. Does she want to save this marriage? Does she want a way out? You have to support her within those desires. Remember that she is an adult and probably pretty smart—even if what she wants now is, ultimately, not what’s best for her, she’ll probably figure that out eventually. What she needs from you is to not feel judged.
Be a good listener
Be a tremendous listener. This is important for her, and for you. Your friend needs somewhere to talk out her thoughts with right now. Saying one’s thoughts out loud can help a person better understand their own thinking, and feelings. You should also get all the information you can if you’re going to make informed comments.
But encourage her to talk to him
While you should be there for your friend to talk to, you shouldn’t be the only person she’s talking to. If you get the hunch that she’s just talking to other people about her marriage, and not directly to her husband, nudge her to talk to her spouse.
Don’t dramatize it if she doesn’t
If your friend doesn’t think something is a huge deal (like her partner coming home later than usual one night or sleeping in the guest room one night), then you shouldn’t make it out to be one. She’s the one in her marriage, who knows if something is really a big deal. She doesn’t need people sounding alarms right now.
But do be aware of abuse
You should, however, be aware of any abuse. If you hear about potentially abusive behavior, then you should sound the alarms.
Be there when she needs an escape
When someone is fixing their marriage, it can feel like a fulltime job. There will be times your friend just needs a mental break, and asks you to take a girls trip or go out for dinner. Help her out—go with her.
But discourage her from running away
Just be careful not to enable your friend in running away from her problems. If she wants to start sleeping on your couch most nights of the week or to go on a trip to Europe for three months without her spouse, she’s moving into avoidance territory.
Do not talk to other people about your friend’s marriage problems. If she has any chance of fixing things, she needs a safety bubble around her marriage right now. She doesn’t need outsiders giving unsolicited opinions and advice.
But get therapist recommendations
Do seek out therapist recommendations for your friend. If you can tell it’s time for couple’s counseling, ask around and find a quality therapist.
Consider what you know about her
You know your friend. If this is a childhood buddy, then you know her family history, her traumas, and her insecurities. You know when she is reacting to a relationship problem and when she’s just had a personal problem triggered. Keep all of that in mind.
But don’t make assumptions
Don’t ever tell your friend, “You’re just feeling this way because your parents got a divorce” or “You only say that because that one guy cheated on you.” Nobody likes to be accused of not understanding their own feelings.
Ask engaging questions
Ask questions to help your partner better understand her own needs and feelings. You’re an outsider, which is a blessing—you can pick up on patterns that perhaps your friend cannot. You can ask questions to help her see those, too.
But don’t make accusations
Don’t say negative and critical statements about her marriage. You’re there to help her figure out what she thinks—not to put your own thoughts into her head.
Support her however you can
Be prepared for the fact that people can do some shocking and odd things when their marriage is on the rocks. Your friend might participate in an emotional affair, or become obsessed with some diet as a form of avoidance. Approach her gently. Don’t come off as judgmental. Be there for her through this turbulent time, as she has been there for you.