When a Friend’s Marriage Falters
Have you ever had a friend who has confided in you that he or she is struggling in their marriage?
Ted and I have. More than once.
And I’m not talking petty issues like stray socks left on the bathroom floor, but deep stuff. Things like infidelity, emotional detachment, and conflict that have been brushed under the rug for so long that now there’s no simple way to sort through it.
How have we responded when these friends have come to us?
Well, certainly not as relationship experts. Because we aren’t. Sure, I’ve authored a book on marriage that releases soon, but I write as a friend and fellow traveler. One who’s willing to be vulnerable and transparent in what God’s teaching me in my own marriage in hopes that it encourages others. Not as someone with all the answers.
The truth is, sometimes I feel ill-prepared and unequipped as a friend pours out her heart to me over Starbucks coffee or a bowl of French onion soup at Panera.
There’s a good likelihood that at some point you too will have friends who are struggling. Maybe you do now. I’d venture to guess that many of you, like Ted and me, aren’t marriage counselors, relationship experts, or seasoned pastors and their wives. That like us, you’re an everyday sort of person who has a passion to see marriages around you not only survive, but thrive, yet you don’t always know all of the right things to say.
If that’s you, be encouraged! Even if you feel unqualified, you can still be there for your friends. Here are three things I’m learning normal, non-counselors like you and me can do.
Listen. Sometimes in the past, I’ve been too quick to interject. I’ve been so hurried to formulate my own response that I’ve missed what’s being said. I’m discovering that it best serves my friends to let them finish sharing before I speak. And, as I actively listen, I also pray for wisdom in how to respond.
Encourage. When my turn to speak comes, I base my responses on biblical truth. The truth that God is a God of forgiveness and reconciliation — a God who designed marriage and wants to bring healing to relationships. I also encourage my friends to seek out the help of a trusted Christian marriage counselor if they haven’t already. At one point, Ted and I even offered to put our money where our mouths were and pay for a few sessions for friends.
Pray. Most importantly, I pray for them. For their marriage. My prayers stem from the belief that we serve a listening God who is in the business of miracles. Even when I have friends who I know have given up on their relationship, I still pray that the God of the impossible will bring restoration to their marriage.
The truth is, you and I can’t fix our friends’ marriages or guarantee that they last. What we can do is strive faithfully to be an encouraging, biblically-centered voice of truth in their lives. And even though that may seem like it’s not enough at times, your efforts — no matter how unqualified you may feel — could make a difference.
Thank you, helpful but brings up questions on related topic. What if friend is the single one who caused the infidelity in the marriage, which then caused a divorce. Now that single friend is engaged and pregnant with the newly divorced person. Clearly a string of bad decisions. How to love the person without sounding judgmental when stating that I don’t agree with what they have done?
Hi Laura. I wish I knew how to advise you regarding your friend, but since I don’t personally know either of you, I can’t. Do you have a trusted friend or pastor that might be able to provide some wisdom on how you can navigate this friendship in a God-honoring way?
such wise counsel! To encourage her to seek out someone with more intimate knowledge of them both and the pure Word.
And such a tenderhearted friend you are…I had a friend in a similar situation, so I will only say do everything you do in love.
I’ve learned that love rarely rushes. The Lord prepares opportunitys for us, we simply need to be ready to walk in the grace and mercy He provides. And remember, we follow a G-d who is expert at changing us. Often, we learn good lessons from bad decisions. Some learn faster than others:) It is no wonder He calls us ‘children’. And I so love the fact that He never, not even once, calls us ‘brats’. Personally, I think that’s His feminine side showing, His perfect Mother’s heart;) I know we call Him Father, but He says we are made in His image, male and female…
Thank you so very much for this article. Very timely. Just want to add a couple thoughts.
Listening is so valuable. We don’t need to have all the answers. Listening, authentically, actively, is a gift, a rare skill actually and therapeutic in itself.
I so praise and thank our great Maker and Master for those that have prayed for us-30 years and counting-for His answers too…He keeps answering those prayers of those people that are in heaven even. So pray, pray hard prayers. Our G-d specializes in the impossible and bringing dead things to life.
What if your friend that is coming to you is in an abusive relationship?
I recommend you tell your friend to seek safety, as well as get the help of a trusted pastor or counselor.
And tell her to trust our Poppa. To listen very carefully to His voice. Our G-d and His grace are greater than ALL our sin. Oh, and He will not waste the pain she and her family endure…He redeems it just as much as our sin.
Fine advice, but rather obvious too. Who, that one would be confiding in, wouldn’t know to listen, encourage, suggest a good marriage counselor, and pray?
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