Wifey Wednesday: Supporting Friends’ Marriages

Supporting Friends' Marriages--and helping them stay together!

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for a marriage post and link-up party! I’ll write a post about marriage, and then you all can link up one of your own below! Today, though, I don’t want to talk about your marriage. I want to talk about those marriages around us.

Marriage is a public good.

Society does better when more people are married.

People are more emotionally stable. Families are healthier. Children fare better. And there’s less heartache when people are in stable relationships.

God designed marriage as the first and most important earthly relationship. And so we shouldn’t take it lightly.

Yet while we all know we have an obligation to keep our own marriages strong, do we realize that we also play a role in other people’s marriages?

I’ve been at weddings where the pastor has asked the congregation members to vow to uphold this couple: to pray for them, encourage them, and support them. I like that, because it recognizes that marriage is also a community responsibility.

Yesterday, after my post about what to do when your husband announces he’s having an affair, a woman wrote and asked, “what do you do when your best friend is the one having the affair on her husband?” And it got me thinking that too often we live solitary lives, not really “interfering” in other people’s marriages because we don’t want to seem to meddle. So here are some thoughts on how we can live out the responsibility to help everyone’s marriages:

1. Be a Mentor

It is so important to have someone that you are mentoring. If you know a young couple who has just gotten married, reach out and ask them for dinner. Have coffee with the wife. Offer to pray with her. Often people don’t ask for mentors, so take the step and help someone! Or lead a Bible study for young married couples. That’s an invaluable help, too!

2. Watch How You Talk about Marriage

If you start complaining about your husband, you give other women permission to complain about theirs. It’s not good to complain about your husband in the first place, but I wonder how many of us realize that when we do that, we’re also hurting other people’s marriages? If, when you’re talking to other women, you denigrate your husband, then you give those women the impression, “it’s okay to think badly of my husband. It’s okay to put him down.” And what you talk about, you think about. The more you talk negatively, the more you think negatively.

Make a habit of praising your husband to other women, though, and you give the opposite impression: “it’s important to uphold marriage in how we talk.” That’s good!

3. Establish Boundaries

Make boundaries with the opposite sex, and stick to them. Try, as much as possible, not to be alone with a man who isn’t your husband, unless you can’t avoid it at work. Here’s why this is important: let’s say that you’re not worried at all about you straying, because your relationship is 100% great with your husband. But you worship lead on a praise team, and your co-leader is a guy. And you start getting together with him to plan the upcoming service every Tuesday night.

Now, nothing is happening between the two of you. You don’t think about him that way at all–and he doesn’t think of you that way at all, either. Occasionally you text him when an idea pops into your head, and it’s totally harmless.

But you’ve now given him the impression that it’s normal to text other women and to be alone with other women. And so you’ve lowered his boundaries. It’s now easier for him to start texting someone at work, or to start talking to someone at work, or to have lunch with a woman at work. Not good.

The vast majority of affairs that start begin perfectly innocently over a friendship. Don’t put yourself in that position, but also support others who are trying to maintain boundaries so that they won’t fall with someone else.

4. Trade Baby-Sitting

Help other couples with a date night by baby-sitting sometimes!

And now for the hard ones:

5. Confront Lovingly

If you see a friend starting to go down a dangerous road (like texting a guy from work), tell her to stop. Don’t shy away from confrontation because you want to be polite. Tell her it’s dangerous and she shouldn’t do it.

I remember hearing the story of a trucker who often drove with this other guy in tandem. At a certain stop the guy had a “woman” that he would visit. My friend (the first trucker) knew his friend’s wife well. And he was not impressed. So one day he told the guy, “stop it, or I’ll tell your wife.” And when the guy refused to stop, my friend decked him. And the guy stopped the affair.

Now, I’m not recommending cat fights. But there are times when confrontation is likely necessary. Think of the heartache you’ll all go through if the relationship progresses.

And confront, too, even if it’s not an issue of infidelity. When I was speaking recently, a woman came up to me afterwards and asked about her best friend, who hadn’t had sex for over a year. She’d been withholding sex because she had a baby and was sick of the whole thing. This woman who was asking my advice was very worried for her friend, and she ended up buying The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and writing down several resources that I also recommended (including some blog posts). That’s a good friend.

If you have a friend who is acting very counter-productively in her marriage, either by putting the kids first, or ignoring her husband, or being too busy, or whatever, find a way to gently tell her. Don’t judge her. Tell her what you do wrong, too. Ask her to hold you accountable as well. Pray a ton about it. But do confront her. We all need that sometimes.

We tend to shy away from this sort of thing in our culture because it’s not polite, and we don’t want to be seen as holier than thou. But then why are we surprised when relationships break down? If we’re afraid to step in early, when relationships can be rescued, then what good is real friendship?

6. Don’t Accept a Split

Finally, if your friend announces she’s leaving the marriage, here’s the strategy I would use to help her stay. It’s a longer post, and I won’t repeat it here, but do go read it. It’s all about how to start a conversation so she’s more likely to stay (because frequently our strategies are wrong).

Marriage is too important to let friends give up on. Let’s root for them, as they root for us, and create a community that really cherishes marriage.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now, do you have any advice for us today? Or what do you think about how we can encourage each others’ marriages? Just link up a marriage post in the linky tools below! And be sure to link back here so others can read some great marriage advice, too!

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  1. Excellent advice, Sheila. It isn’t easy to say the hard things to a friend, but a true friend will care more about their friend than they do their reputation.
    Debi – The Romantic Vineyard recently posted…Mortified – Part 2My Profile

  2. Thank you for this post. This is awesome advice. Early in my marriage it was another loving couple that stood alongside me and prayed for me that helped my marriage survive and thrive. I hope that I have done and will continue to do that for other couples.

  3. This is great…It made me think about the call in Hebrews 3:13: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” We are all blind to our sin sometimes and need another person to bravely call it to our attention so that we can become more Christlike. And thanks for linking to the post about what to do if a friend’s marriage is failing; my husband and I are in training to be lay counselors at our church and I think I may just print it out and put it in my resource file!

  4. Great advice (as usual!). I have some friends that I’ve been arranging babysitting exchanges with and that’s a great way to get out without worrying about expenses.
    Bonnie Way recently posted…Encouraging Children to Eat VegetablesMy Profile

  5. Anonymous Too says:

    Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

    Doesn’t mean it’s fun though.

    • So true! And great verse for this post. In many ways I think it’s harder for the friend doing the confronting than the one being confronted; it’s difficult (at least for me) to step over that line of normally polite behaviour and conversation and point out someone’s mistakes. But I think we need to do it (after prayer, of course!).

  6. Megan G. says:

    Would you stop that?! You keep convicting me about something that God has been wanting us to do and we aren’t doing yet! (just kidding – thanks for the awesome post!)

    We’ve known for a few years that God is pushing us toward leading a class for young marrieds sometime. We changed churches a few years ago and there hasn’t been a good time, etc. Your blog a couple of times has reminded me that we need to be actively moving forward and today you just said it outright! Actually at the Life Group Leaders meeting at our church a few weeks ago, a few people who don’t even know us very well were talking about how we’ll most likely be leaving our own life group soon to start a new class – God is putting things in motion and isn’t going to let us drop this one!

    We’re about to start a small group with an engaged couple for the summer. There aren’t a whole lot of engaged/newlywed couples at our church, so we’re starting small, but I hope/pray the group will grow and eventually become a life group.

    Thanks for always encouraging people to be bold and stand up for the Truth!

  7. Megan G. says:

    Oh! PS – I’m part of a babysitting co-op with several moms from my MOPS group. Each time you sit for another family, you get points based on how many hours you watched the kids. It’s an awesome way to be able to easily go on a date night (or go to a doctor’s appointment without an entourage, or even have a little mommy time to get a pedicure if you need a break), and all of our kids are so close and truly love each other. It has been such a blessing! If you want, I could email you the program we use to keep track of the points. It’s very user friendly, and that way no one person has to do all the work or be the ‘bad guy.’

  8. Great tips! :) I have some friends that daily complain about their husbands and *rarely* ever have something kind or loving to say about him. This makes me uncomfortable because I feel like I’m privvy to gossip and also encouraging them to gossip all the more, by being a listening ear and validating their feelings, etc. It’s hard because your first response is to think, “Sheesh, he really does sound like a jerk!” and so you say, “I’m so sorry, that must’ve really hurt your feelings.” But then they go on and on, telling more and more stories and rehashing ones from the past that you’ve already heard a thousand times, and it’s neverending. You want to defend him sometimes but when you’ve only ever heard the bad stories and don’t know him well yourself, you really don’t know if he has any redeeming qualities. But at the same time, you suspect that the stories are exaggerated and embellished, and of course, you don’t know what was said and done to him on the other side. It’s so easy to slander a person just by telling only your side of the story to someone who wasn’t there to witness the scene firsthand. It’s next to impossible to be objective. But how do you encourage them to be more loving and forgiving and to consider their own sins in the matter, when you don’t know his side of the story? It’s tricky.

    The other issue. How do you praise your husband to the friend in an unhappy marriage without sounding like you’re bragging and without adding to their heartache? (i.e. them feeling jealous or even more unloved by their own husband?)

    • Excellent points, Bekah! I know exactly what you mean–I’m so often tempted to say, “wow, he is a jerk”, especially at marriage conferences when women tell me their stories. And I’ve had to learn that there is always another side.

      As for praising your husband, I have an absolutely AMAZING hubby, and I just don’t talk about him very much to women I know are hurting. They see what our marriage is like; I don’t want to “rub it in”. But for people who are just beginning marriage, I often talk very nicely about my husband.

      Sometimes what I do share, though, is problems that we have overcome. If I know a friend who is struggling, I’m more likely to share times when I have struggled, too, or when I’ve treated Keith badly, and then how we got over it. But I don’t rub it in; I know what you mean. It’s not like bragging, so much, as I don’t want to give them another reason to dislike their own marriage. It’s difficult sometimes.

  9. I agree so much with you about the saying positive things. I”ve fallen into the bad habit of constantly saying negative things about my husband and I’ve seen it happen with him. He has a friend who really disrespects his wife. He loves his wife, and their marriage CAN be great, but sometimes the way he talks to her is way out of line. After visiting that friend, I would find that for a few days after my husband would talk to me in the same tone or say “you’re just like my friends wife, you _____”(insert think I do “wrong”). Finally, I confronted him about it. He is always complaining about how his friend acts, but then there he was doing the same thing. Now that he is more aware of it, he doesn’t do it.

    You know what else helps? Pay a compliment or make a positive observation about your friend’s husband. Something like, “I’m so glad we could meet for coffee. I’m sure the kids are having a great time with your husband. He is such a great dad.” OR if you know her husband recently did something around the house like painting, you could say, “Wow, this paint job looks great. You are so fortunate to have a husband who is good with painting so you don’t have to hire professionals. It’s the same for us and oil changes. Our handy guys, eh? hahaha” Stuff like that.

  10. Valerie says:

    ? this post! Thanks so much! God has really been speaking to me about stepping out in relationships to mentor and be mentored. Just more encouragement to do it!

    • Valerie says:

      that was supposed to be a heart :) not a ?

      • That’s okay! :) I thought it was one of those new typing short forms that my girls are always coming up with, and assumed it was a hip new texting thing and I was just in the dark. :)

  11. Sheila – Thank you – much-needed and well done.

    To those couples who have grown children, I challenge you to help a young couple by babysitting for them from time to time. Play grandparents, it’s fun!
    Paul Byerly recently posted…Are you just “punching the clock” in your marriage?My Profile

  12. Marriage Mentoring is where it’s at! Thank you Shelia for this great post. Divorce rates plummet when couples receive mentoring. Mentoring is also a great way for “mature” couples to keep their relationship fresh, as they impart their knowledge to younger couples. Our book can not only be a virtual mentor to young couples but also can provide the “know how” to someone who desires to be a mentor but needs to learn how.

  13. I’ve appreciated the examples of married couples who mentored me simply by living out genuine biblical love for each other in front of me:

    * Denis & Judy Fogo: a couple who had a friendly pillow fight together—as a kid, I’d never seen a married couple do that before—and they weren’t newlyweds, either. They had fun!

    * Time of sharing: before one of my fellow coworkers (who was 45 years old) was married, the men where I work held a very different bachelors party for him: an evening of encouragement and sharing. It was a great example to me of husbands sharing both the joys and difficulties of marriage, and the ways in which they were motivated to resolve them, and throughout it all to love, respect, and appreciate their spouses.

    * Two coworkers: two engineers I knew/have known for a number of years—Steve Wilson and Mike Axman—never said anything negative about their wives in front of me. There was, and has always been, a very solid, mutual respect between them and their wives.

    * Bruce & Carol Britten: a couple who continually lived God’s Word in front of me, and who expressed their appreciation for each other in front of others. Bruce frequently shared in his prayer letters the ways in which his wife was thoughtful of him by always having a meal ready even on days when he got home late from work, and how she never complained or was negative about it.

    * Mike & Tracy Yoder: a couple who led Nappanee Missionary Church’s “242″ Small Church (so named for Acts 2:42) for several years. Mike complimented Tracy in class several times—a good example of publicly building each other up (not in a prideful way, but a thankful, sincere manner). This set a great example for me to follow.

    …and even an example from 1960s TV: The Dick van Dyke Show. I can’t think of any other TV show (except The Cosby Show) where marriage is depicted the way it ought to be; not perfect, but well worth it.

  14. I so agree with the praise thing. In the past I went through quite a stretch of time where I would say bad things about my husband to people – I wasn’t trying to “bad mouth” him, I had just always said exactly what I was feeling and thinking without reservation, and I was hurting. The consequences or implications didn’t even occur to me. However, awhile back I read something about never saying anything bad about your spouse to other people, and it really convicted me. So after that, I would always say good things when talking to people, even when things weren’t going so well. It made a bit difference in my attitude towards our relationship, just changing the way I talked about him.
    Jen recently posted…the difference between a scratch, a tickle-scratch, and a tickleMy Profile

  15. Heather says:

    One of my pet peeves is when women use the term “man cold” to refer to their husbands being sick. I used to just bite my tongue and seethe inside when I would (regularly) hear people speak about it but now I just stand up and say, “hey, that is NOT ok”. I know it is a little thing but I remember something that my pastor’s wife said to me in our pre-marriage classes about making sure that we build our spouses up in front of other people. It is great to praise our spouse in person but how do we speak about them when they are not around? If we confront others about the little things, kindly and in love, you would be surprised how they respond.

  16. I so agree with you Sheila!

    The first three points were drilled to me even before i got married! Everything has served me well. I dare say that if all married people did what you’ve listed here, marriages in general would be in a much better state.
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…Marriage Is Still Between One Man and One WomanMy Profile

  17. To go along with your comment on watching how you talk about your marriage… One of the pieces of advice I was given by my high school small group leader when I got engaged was to “rat on him to Jesus, if you tell your mom or your friends they’ll still remember after you guys have solved your problem in the bedroom.” It’s something I need to remember more often and your post made me think of it again.

  18. Family of 5 Down Under says:

    I am curious what you do in a situation where a very Godly man who adored his wife and 1 year old son was deployed for 6 months with the military and has come home with PTSD. He now wants nothing to do with his family, wants out of the marriage, has stopped going to church, etc. What’s the best way to support your friend in this situation. It is heart breaking!

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