How to Save Their Marriage
Spoilers: This is not directed at my friends and family, because we already went through this and came out healthy. Sean and I are fine. This is for several sets of friends having bad times. (Weirdly, it never rains relationship trouble, but it pours.)
We hate to see friends and family unhappy. We hate it when people split up, whether that’s a friendship or a relationship or a full on marriage. It’s hard on everyone, because things get awkward and weird and everything changes, and the people involved are unhappy. It’s most especially hard on kids, if kids there are. (Talk to me about this sometime; I’m a child of divorce, divorced myself, married to a divorced man who is a child of divorce, and so on it goes.) Divorce is HARD.
When I was separating from my first husband – we had been a sort of romantic dream team for those around us, apparently…deeply in love, never arguing, building a life and dreams – no one could understand why. Many friends and family members tried to support our marriage. Things couldn’t be THAT bad, could they? Surely you can work on this? Surely if you try, go to counseling, do something, things will get better? Have you read this book? How about that one? What does HE think? We’re here to help you with your marriage!
Dearest family and friends of those touched by divorce: Stop it. Stop supporting the marriage.
You quite frankly don’t know enough about the marriage to support it. You don’t know the counseling we may have been to, because for whatever reason I don’t feel like outlining my every counseling session, and what happened in them, with you. You don’t know the sexual problems we might have had for years, because we don’t really talk about that stuff, and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or shame my partner or myself. You don’t know about the long, long months of miscommunication, of trying yet again, of feeling the hurt or the shame or the misery or the anger. You. Don’t. Know.
Where do you draw the line? Should we get more counseling if he hits me? After all, maybe things will get better. Should we work on things if he hasn’t touched me in years, hasn’t acted like a partner in forever and a half? Is there a book I can read to make HIM understand that calling me a worthless cow isn’t supportable for a long-term relationship?*
So, stop it. Your best bet here is to support the person you love. Be open. Talk through what they want to talk about, paying more attention to what they say, what they ask, than the things you want to tell them. Stop shaming a man for leaving to want a better life. (Feel free to shame him if he doesn’t take responsibility for his kids.) Stop shaming a woman for leaving to want a better life. (Feel free to shame her if, kids, etc.) Stop SHAMING them. They’re ashamed enough already, because they know divorce is hard, and it hurts others too. I know, I do. I know.
I have so much more to say. So much more I want you to know. But those are really the important parts. Stop trying to save the marriage. It’s not your damn job, and you have no idea if it SHOULD be saved. Support your friend/loved one, because he or she is in a tough, tough time.
Comments are open.
*None of these are real life examples of me or of mine. This is on purpose. My divorce, and his, and hers, and theirs and the other ones, aren’t your business to save.