How much help should you give a friend whose marriage is in trouble? You don’t want to give more time and energy than you can afford to give. This is because you want to keep your own marriage healthy and strong. But you also don’t want to give less either and not be a “Good Samaritan.” God wants us to help each other. So how do you help your troubled friends’ marriages?
Helping Troubled Friends’ Marriages
We’re giving advice that you can glean through. But we want to give one caution. Be careful that a man ministers to male friends and a woman to female friends. Otherwise, boundary lines can get improperly blurred. This can lead to emotional ties forming—causing other serious problems. No one thinks those ties would form. After all, this is your friend! Those thoughts aren’t even close to being in your mind or motives. But it happens in more marriages than we can tell you. When you’re working with emotional situations, the dynamics can change. Trust us on this one. It’s important not to take a chance on jeopardizing your own marriage.
The exception is a counselor/pastor situation. But even then, great caution needs to be used at all times. That is because even in that kind of setting improper emotional ties can form. (We’ve seen it happen many times.)
It’s heart-breaking when we see a situation in a friend’s life that is painful. We want to help, but as humans we can only do so much. We have to be wise in knowing what we can and can’t do. It’s important to know when we’re to say something and when we’re not. God can help us with that. The Bible calls the Holy Spirit our Wonderful Counselor, so we can depend upon Him to help us with our friends.
Troubled Friends’ Marriages Can Complicate Yours
We also have to make sure our friend’s problems don’t swallow us up emotionally so that we don’t have enough in reserve to be healthy in our own marriages. There are some people who are totally needy. They are needy to the point where we can give and give and give to them and have no energy left. And yet they’ll go on to the next person with their all-consuming neediness. With these types of people, you have to discern how much you can give. You should only give that much —even though you want to give more. Jesus didn’t let any one person dominate his time and energy. He portioned out what He knew was healthy to give.
We all have the ability to reach out to God for that which human beings can’t give to us. That includes our friends. They need the help of humans AND God. God acknowledged that in the Beginning when he was with Adam. He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” What God saw was that man needed Him AND other human beings. We can be that for our friends, but we need to know what our job is, and what is God’s (and how other people can help, as well).
There could be a lot behind the spouse’s actions that our friends don’t realize. That’s why it would be good for your friend to become a student of marriage and of their own marital partner. Their spouse may need a human help-mate to inspire and encourage them to get the help they need.
Helping With Your Friends’ Marriages
But on the other hand, the spouse may be completely narcissistic and abusive. There are some people who are that way. But tell your friend not to assume that’s the case with their partner unless they know for sure.
You also need to know that your friend may not reach out for the help that would truly change things. It’s complicated to explain, but there simply are some people who say they want help. And yet they don’t do what it takes to improve matters. You need to be aware of this so you don’t spend too much energy trying to “fix” things when it’s not fixable. In that case you can just be their sympathetic friend. You can be one who prays for them to open their eyes to embrace truth and help.
Here are a few other things to consider when helping your friend, which comes from the book, Torn Asunder. This is a GREAT book on infidelity, written by Dave Carder. Even if your friend’s problem doesn’t deal with infidelity, these edited principles can still apply:
TO THOSE WHO OFFER SUPPORT TO FRIENDS:
Whether you are a licensed professional, a pastor, or simply a friend attempting to support a couple working through their reconciliation, the following suggestions are offered:
• Watch out for your own stuff.
Most of us have beliefs, feelings, and experiences that prejudice us when we deal with other peoples’ relationships —that’s what I mean by “stuff.” Warning: Never will your own marriage be more vulnerable than when you’re trying to help a couple in their recovery. You’ll find yourself working through the same issues with your own spouse.
• The survival of your friend’s marital relationship is not dependent upon you.
In most cases, the couple you are working with chose to marry each other before you were in the picture. You didn’t bring them together, and you can’t keep them together. You must set the couple free to pursue their own course.
• They must never be able to draw you into their relationship.
This is a process called triangulation. If that happens, each will individually attempt to align you with his or her side. Remember, the infidelity was an inappropriate triangulation, and so is an attempt to overly involve yourself.
• Keep the two of them talking to each other.
Don’t maintain secrets that one party shares with you hoping to align you with his or her side. Remember, infidelity was the worst secret that could afflict a marriage, and more secrecy doesn’t help. At times your neutrality may appear brutal, especially since you’re probably closer to one party than the other. You will feel the urge to intervene and provide protection, but you need to resist it.
• If you’re feeling more exhausted in the struggle than they are, you are inappropriately involved.
That is not to say that some of your time with them won’t be exhausting, but you need to gauge your degree of involvement. You shouldn’t work at it harder than they do.
Something we can do for our friends is to tell them of the Marriage Missions web site so they can read blogs and articles, and watch videos that can help them. Their spouse may not be pro-active in making their marriage the best it can be. But each of us needs to do our own part in doing what we can. It may eventually inspire the spouse to reach out for help also. Recommend this to your friend.
We need to help one another. But “it should never serve to replace that which God can do.”
Cindy and Steve Wright
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