A friend of someone with marriage problems gives their perspective
The subject of disclosing marriage problems to your friends is one I’ve been pondering quite a lot lately; ever since an old friend I went for a drink with the other night (let’s call him “John”) told me that his marriage was in trouble.
I feel a bit bad for saying this, but the first impression I felt when hearing this confidential piece of information was that John was being a bit disloyal to his wife by telling me of his marital woes.
However, it is important to add that my friend told me not in a spirit of complaint but in a manner of regret and with the air of someone who felt he needed to unburden himself to a trusted friend. I guess all his trusted friends were busy that night, so he had to tell me instead!
And while I could well imagine that his wife wouldn’t be too happy that her husband was telling a mate that his marriage was far from perfect, I could also put myself in John’s shoes – if I was him I would want to talk to someone if my marriage was in trouble.
And maybe just as I was talking to him about marital strife his wife was talking to one of her friends about the same subject. I’d like to think that she had someone to talk to.
Which brings us to the subject of who you should share your worries with. I’d be honored to think that John chose to confide in me because I am his closest friend in the world, but much as I like to flatter myself, I don’t think this is the case.
He has far better friends than me but, from what I know, these happen to be mutual friends of himself and his wife. I cannot be classified as a mutual friend; I certainly don’t dislike his wife, she is a very nice lady, but I knew John long before I knew her and most definitely said ‘groom’ and not ‘bride’ when seated by an usher at their wedding.
The fact that I am not a mutual friend somehow makes the act of him confiding in me seem less disloyal – I move in a different social circle to John and his wife and there is definitely no issue of ‘taking sides’.
As I only see John occasionally, it is perhaps easier for him to share his worries with me than with people he sees every day.
While I’m hardly a stranger he’s just met when ordering drinks at the bar, I’m also not the kind of friend he’ll bump into each day at the water cooler; the kind who’ll ask for regular marriage updates each time they pass in the hallway at work.
So, to answer the question posed by this article’s headline: yes, I do think it’s a good idea to share your marriage problems with a friend rather than just bottling them up.
Of course, there’s no need to take out a full page advertisement in the Times to inform the whole world of your marital difficulties.
You don’t have to tell everyone: just tell someone.
What do you think – who should you share your marriage problems with?
James Christie writes for Thomson Local Business Directory
Great topic, Dustin.
People frequently come for counseling because they can’t think of anyone they can confide in without being disloyal or creating social awkwardness. I applaud their ethics. But I do think everyone needs to have at least one personal friend they can confide in about serious problems. I don’t think anything can make you more lonely than having serious marriage problems. And I don’t think a therapist can completely alleviate that loneliness. Not that therapists aren’t terrific! 🙂
And verbalizing concerns to an empathetic listener can be an important step toward understanding the problem and taking action to solve it. Bottling everything up can keep you stuck.
So I think it has to be a balancing act. You sacrifice some privacy when you confide, but you still need to confide in one or two well-chosen people. As you say, someone who doesn’t socialize with your spouse is a good choice. But someone who is ethical, discreet and genuinely has both your interests at heart can also be a good choice. And please, be sure to choose someone who is definitely pro-marriage!
Thanks so much, Claire! I totally agree with your comment, especially your second point about the value of verbalizing your concerns. Whether it’s something minor or serious, I know that I always understand my issues and can deal with them much better after I’ve had a chance to “talk it out” a bit.
As someone who has been through this, I can definitely say that you need to have someone you can confide in. While I was in the thick of it, I chose to isolate myself and didn’t really tell anyone anything. That is definitely NOT the way to go. My ex chose to confide in a woman; and not just any woman. He chose a woman who was legally married, yet living separate from her husband, and who was involved with another married man. So, I would definitely agree with Claire’s statement that it should be someone pro-marriage. In hindsight, I would say that it would have been beneficial to have an agreed upon couple to whom we could talk; kind of like a mentor couple. If blessed with another opportunity to be married, I think this is a suggestion I would make.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Heather. While I know it was painful for you to experience what you did, I really appreciate you sharing your insights here for others to benefit from who may be going through their own struggles.
Interesting article, mostly I agree with having someone to confide in, but I would make one acception to this. I would share marital problems but I wouldn’t share infidelity. It’s too dangerous, it can have too many future outcomes and most of all it can ruin the chances of a marriage to survive after infidelity. I wrote about it just now in my blog if you are interested: http://www.how-to-save-marriage.org/when-your-husband-cheats/
It’s good to be able to confide in a friend, but the friend must be chosen carefully. It shouldn’t be someone of the opposite sex; intended or not, this is how emotional affairs typically begin. And, as in the case described in the original post, it’s better if it’s someone who isn’t a shared friend with your spouse. And you should make sure you’ve chosen a discreet friend, who is not going to blab about your problems to everyone else you know.
It’s great if your friend can sympathize with you, and perhaps offer some advice, but it’s generally not a good idea to pressure them to take sides. I remember when a good friend of mine was going through a terrible time in her marriage. She was angry and called her husband all kinds of names. She wanted me to agree with her and give her my opinion about what a horrible, rotten guy he was. I wouldn’t do it because I figured that if they reconciled she would be back in love with him again and would resent any negative things I had said about him.
I also agree with Lisa that, difficult though it may be, it’s best not to confide in any friends or family if your spouse has been unfaithful. Not only will they give you dubious advice, but they are likely to always harbor negative feelings of some kind toward your spouse, and this will definitely be a problem if you are trying to save the marriage. Surviving infidelity is best done with the help of a professional counselor.
It took a long time before I was finally able to find “safe” friends to confide in about the emotional, verbal and financial abuses going on in my marriage. I am also serving in ministry to women at my church. The pastor I serve under knows – but more as “information” as I was in leadership. When I needed counsel I went to a different pastor as a hedge against the emotional affair issue that could have arisen with the pastor I served closest with. I didn’t want to jeopardize our ministry relationship because of my emotional neediness. I have found some safe women to share the abuses with, who know that my desire is to try to stay married, so they encourage, support and pray for me. It can be hard because the problems are chronic and my spouse unrepentant and arrogant, and most likely has a mental illness and refuses to get counseling or help and disregards any attempts by pastoral staff who have tried to reach out to him. And yes, he “says” he is a believer.
I also see a therapist who is helping me grow stronger – while I stay.
And I will say this. I am writing under another name to protect my husband’s reputation. I write and twitter and facebook as Lilly Grace Brown so I can be honest and authentic about my pain (without blaming or naming my spouse) so I can encourage other women who are walking my path.
Great advice! and Friends are definitely a good place to start for help if you have that kind of relationship.
Here is some more advice for a happy marriage.
That’s an easy one. Discussing your relationship with friends and family is something best avoided.
Actually keeping it all to yourself, however, may be easier said than done. Most of us are naturally gregarious and when we gather with our peeps it’s like carte blanch gossip time to discuss what’s going on in our lives. If one of the main issues impacting our life involves our intimate relationship, there’s a good chance that this will be topic number one on the discussion agenda .
While we may be quick to discuss our mate with our folks we usually get awful testy when our mate has the audacity to pull the same crap on us. No, don’t tell your mother, siblings, girlfriends, minister, confidant, or co-worker—anything about me, about us. I don’t like it.
It makes me feel exposed and violated. Worse, now I have to be guarded when I talk to you for fear that our discussion may not be in the strictest confidence.
Remember when we started this thing? It was supposed to be me and you against the world.
It still is.
I’d also like to feel that we’re a team, a unique and special and exclusive team in which only two people are allowed admittance: Me and You.
Information about us should be given on a need to know basis. My opinion, nobody but and me and you really need to know.
If you have to chime in when you and your clique get to comparing relationship woes, why not spend your allotted floor time boasting about the positive things in your relationship instead of the negatives.
Your nosey, negative buddies may not appreciate you painting a rosy picture. Misery sometimes loves company. But if you can’t say anything good about your mate then you are probably with the wrong person.
Its good to confide in a friend.
What matters is the motive of the discussion and what you want to achieve. The person you talk to also matters. Opposite sex is a no-no. A foolish friend can even hurt you. But a wise friend can advise and support you. Lastly, avoid telling every person you meet about your marriage problems. Be a bit wise on this.
I can relate to this. My husband and I were having problems in our marriage and I knew he was discussing it with his long-time friend and best man because I would speak with him too. However, I did not know he was also telling other couples that we hang out with. I found out on a cruise. I was livid because my so-called friends were hearing about my marriage problems from my husband but they did not call me or otherwise. I freaked out, but I feel I had a good reason and I explained my feelings. Now it is just all awkward between us all. I feel like my husband should have been more discreet and friends more concerned. :0(
Well I just found out my husband called his old lover to share our marriage problems. He admits it was “wrong” but justifies it by saying she had messaged him on social media and told him her marriage wasn’t working out. We were having lots of problems and he said he felt “lonely” and thought they could “compare notes”. He says they ONLY spoke on the phone and she wanted to meet but he said no. He acts like he can’t understand why I am upset by this…after all, he didn’t sleep with her?!?!? Should I dump him? I don’t feel I can trust him.