We have a question from one of our listeners: How do I help a friend who has confided in me that they’re struggling in their marriage?
Great question … and research tells us that about 75% of us will find ourselves in this role someday.
When someone you care about shares a marital issue with you, your instinct is to make them feel better and to fix it. In doing so you may inadvertently offer false hope, give poor advice, or take sides and widen the gap between spouses. You may become so involved that your friend’s issue becomes your problem. That is not healthy for you nor helpful to your friend; instead acknowledge that your perspective may be biased … you are too close to the situation. And whatever you do … if you’re not trained … do not try to counsel both parties … you’ll be entering the devil’s triangle!
So, trying to help a family member, friend or even a co-worker navigate a painful marital relationship is challenging because most of us haven’t been trained on how to give the right advice. So let’s talk about some things that you can do to help …
First and foremost, you must understand that you’ll be acting as a “first responder.” Unless you’re a trained therapist, counselor, or relationship coach … you want to be careful … because you could do more harm than good. A first responder is not the final responder.
Listen, love and pray: these actions will give your struggling friend some encouraging emotional support. Listen and understand. Let them know that you care. Pray for them and their spouse by name.
Steer them away from the thought of divorce and keep them on the road to reconciliation. If they mention divorce … acknowledge their pain … but encourage them that they can work through any issue with God’s help and strength.
Refer them to a Christian counselor, coach or pastor … if you are not familiar with any in your area … do some research for them … use the American Association of Christian Counselors (www.aacc.net) website to help … or invite them to come to a Marriage Intensive retreat here at House on the Rock!
Pave the way for them to get the help they need. Offer to baby or dog sit … eliminate as many of the logistical issues keeping your friends from getting help.
Be patient … it’s probably taken years for your friends to get into this bad place … it’s going to take some time and hard work to get them through it. So, stay with them … don’t turn them over to the pros and leave them disconnected from your love care and prayers.
Keep listening, encouraging and supporting. The day will come when your friend will thank you for helping to save their marriage.