How do I help my friend? Do I even try?


#1

I have no clue what to do so I thought I would offer this up to the vast experience on CAF and see if anyone has some insights.

Lifelong friends of my husband and I are getting a divorce because of the wife's infidelity. She's expressed no remorse and insists that she didn't do "much" wrong because she was so unhappy in the marriage something had to change. She's refusing to leave the man she's dating to try to work out her marriage with the husband that basically said "If you come home and try, you can name your terms...." (They both have told us this without us asking and we both wished they hadn't.)

So my husband has washed his hands of this wife. He thinks her actions are immoral, childish and trivializing the whole institution of marriage.

While I agree with my husband's opinion I also believe that my friend is very much a child of the "happiness is supreme" attitude. She doesn't have the same moral foundation and understanding that my husband and I gained through being raised as Catholics. (i.e. she comes from a family that divorce is very common and the idea that if it "feels" right it is.)

My husband has very gently told me that I am being naive. That the wife's actions are evil and she is old enough to know better even if she didn't have the same foundation we do.

Cutting her out of my life feels wrong as I am her friend but I feel very unequipped to help her. I'm praying for her which is all I can do. But she wants to talk and I just don't know what to say. If I try to explain why I think she needs to take her marriage more seriously I think I'll just blunder it, but I don't want to sit there in silence lest she thinks it is approval of her actions which might make her feel she is right in dismissing her marriage. I just don't know what to do.

Any advice?


#2

I'm so sorry. I'm praying for everyone involved.

You might want take a break from this relationship until things settle down a bit. Not totally blow her off, but maybe it might be a good idea to lay low for a little bit...getting involved in this will only damage your relationship with your husband. There are so many things in a marriage that can cause arguments. Why add another one?


#3

[quote="StarFireKK, post:1, topic:247591"]
I have no clue what to do so I thought I would offer this up to the vast experience on CAF and see if anyone has some insights.

Lifelong friends of my husband and I are getting a divorce because of the wife's infidelity. She's expressed no remorse and insists that she didn't do "much" wrong because she was so unhappy in the marriage something had to change. She's refusing to leave the man she's dating to try to work out her marriage with the husband that basically said "If you come home and try, you can name your terms...." (They both have told us this without us asking and we both wished they hadn't.)

So my husband has washed his hands of this wife. He thinks her actions are immoral, childish and trivializing the whole institution of marriage.

While I agree with my husband's opinion I also believe that my friend is very much a child of the "happiness is supreme" attitude. She doesn't have the same moral foundation and understanding that my husband and I gained through being raised as Catholics. (i.e. she comes from a family that divorce is very common and the idea that if it "feels" right it is.)

My husband has very gently told me that I am being naive. That the wife's actions are evil and she is old enough to know better even if she didn't have the same foundation we do.

Cutting her out of my life feels wrong as I am her friend but I feel very unequipped to help her. I'm praying for her which is all I can do. But she wants to talk and I just don't know what to say. If I try to explain why I think she needs to take her marriage more seriously I think I'll just blunder it, but I don't want to sit there in silence lest she thinks it is approval of her actions which might make her feel she is right in dismissing her marriage. I just don't know what to do.

Any advice?

[/quote]

First, always keep in mind that the only two people who really know what's happening in a marriage are the husband and the wife, regardless of what both of them tell the outside world (i.e., the rest of us). I'm passing no judgement on anyone in this scenario, please understand that.

One of the hidden tragedies of divorce is that both parties usually come out the other side with far fewer freinds than they had when they were still married. People take sides, people are (rightly so) afraid of getting in the middle of the divorce, so they avoid the divorcing couple altogether. I've know several people who have described life after divorce as really lonely.

And I do understand your quandry. Plenty of times in our lives non-Catholics do and say things that we know to be gravely immoral. I've had to sit through lunches where women have talked about their preferred methods of birth control, watched as friends had kids outside of marriage, and bit my tongue as friends left their spouses because they "deserved happiness."

This is simply my opinion, which you are of course free to ignore, but were I you I would provide a listening ear to your friend. Regardless of her moral foundation, she does sound and she's in crises and probably needs someone just to listen to her. You don't have to say anything, really. Just listen.

If she asks for validation for her decision to divorce you don't have to give it. You don't have to cite canon law, you can simply say something like, "I can't tell you what you want to hear, Sally, simply because I think it's damaging to you, Bill, the kids, and Bob that you're dating Bob while you're still married to Bill. It's sending your kids some really negative messages about the permanence of marriage, for one thing, and it's making your divorce a lot more complicated all around."

I'm not saying that you have to seek her company out necessarily. There's no need for you to hold her hand through the entire process, nor are you and your husband obligated to double-date with her and her new boyfriend. But, if she phones because she's down, just listen to her and offer some "the world isn't ending" encouragement.

Once she's past the crises stage, you can try to steer her in the moral direction you'd like to see her head towards. And she'll be a lot more receptive because she'll remember you were there for you.

Good luck. This is a tricky situation to navigate.


#4

[quote="StarFireKK, post:1, topic:247591"]
Cutting her out of my life feels wrong as I am her friend but I feel very unequipped to help her.

[/quote]

I remember being scared to loose a friend because she told me she was having an abortion and if I judged her she could not be my friend. I told myself 'this is the time to show her Catholics are not judgemental by sticking by her. BIG mistake. Her sin caused her behaviour to be abusive and after a year of her using me as her punching bag, I finally had to tell her to take a hike and I still have the scars

First and formost think of your self-esteem. If her behaviour is going to affect you negatively, then pray for her and don't go near her. Also, if she wants to talk tell her the truth. 'I do not judge as I don't know the whole story. But I believe in my religion and consequently my opinion is you need to leave your boyfriend and try to reconcile with your husband. If you can't work it out with your husband, you need to be single. You are free to do whatever you choose, but if you want to talk I must make my opinion known

CM


#5

The best thing you can do for your friend is to be her friend, but to be God's friend first.

Yes pray for her. Also listen to her. Be honest in your answers and your counsel.

Most of all be an example to her in your own marriage. By that I don't mean show her only the good. Rather talk to her about how tough things can be sometimes. I don't know the particulars of your marriage situation, but I suspect that every couple has times when they feel neglected, or under appreciated, or put upon or whatever. Heck there may be times whe you have been thoroughly "teed off" at hubby.

Don't preach, but if she wants to talk, then listen and be honest and even share some of the times when you've had negative feelings within your marriage.

So often people like your friend run around looking for what they thing others have..the "Perfect" marriage. They just don't realize how much effort goes into said "perfection".

You really can't do much of anything beyond this and there is a good chance that she will pull away from you since you obviously cannot be 100% supportive of her actions. But that will be her choice.

Peace
James


#6

You can tell her the truth:
"Sarah, I am no expert on marriage. I only know enough to know you need one."
"I don't think I can listen to you in the way you want me to listen. What you're doing is very far from my own sense of how marriage vows are lived out. I can accept you, but I can't accept what you're doing. I believe the promises of marriage are ours to keep. I believe they are sacred vows. But even if you wanted my opinion, what you really need is someone whose opinion can really help you. I'm not that person."

At any rate, you really can't "blunder it", because your role in the fate of this marriage simply isn't that central. What you say or do might well be a precipitating factor in one outcome or another, I'm not saying they are trivial. The truth, though, is that the causal factors, the ones that really make or break a marriage, are entirely out of your control.

As you go forward, then, don't forget that the ones who will make or break this marriage are the people in it, not you. Not you, not her parents, not her kids. It's up to her and her husband, and the only thing that one of them can do alone is put the marriage over the cliff. Fixing it will take both of them. You can encourage or discourage, but you can't make that happen, and you can't keep it from happening, either.

Prayer is by far the best thing you can do.


#7

You love her, "love one another as I have loved you". This does not mean you condone or accept her choices , it means you tell her the truth. Marriage is hard and a sacrifice love is not about being "happy" or "feeling " good all the time. It is about being there when times are tough, even when you don't feel loved. We are human and we are not capable of loving "all the time" only God is. He is truly our only hope, through Him can we love one another as He loves us. Your friend will not want to hear it, but she needs to deepen her (or start a) relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit this is truly what she needs, only then will she start to understand and see. Only God knows what is in her or her husbands hearts and only God can "give them new hearts of flesh". You may just be the instrument He uses to start this to happen. So please as others have said pray for her and her husband, but also pray for youself that you are open to His love and His peace, so you may be a light in the darkness of this world!

I will pray for them and you.

#8

First of all, pray. This is the most powerful thing you can do. She is in God's hands, like all His children.

It is fine to excuse yourself from the relationship temporarily, and this is what you should do if you will suffer side effects of the stress or if you cannot hold yourself back from getting over-involved if you get even a little involved. However, if you feel like you have the ability to counsel her as a friend (and NOT as surrogate priest or counselor), here is my own positive experience with giving friendly counsel to a friend:

A close friend was seriously considering both divorce and infidelity when her husband's behavior was leaving her feeling ugly, unloved, and undesirable. I spent about 94% percent of our talks listening and prompting her to explain herself, 5% asking leading questions (e.g., "What did you intend when you made your marraige vows? Is this choice consistent with that?"), and 1% giving direct opinions - in about that order.

The opinions I offered were mostly:
-See a good counselor who will try to save your marraige, and talk to your priest.
-Go to Retrovaille
-Recognize your part in this
- Don't get the divorce or do anything else that will permanently affect your life. At the very least, don't do it until you've given this a little more time.

- I will always care for you, but I cannot support you in an extra-marital relationship or a divorce. No matter what happens, I will be your friend - but I think you are making a mistake, and I love you too much to lie to you. (I stated this specifically as I refused any request she made for me to, e.g., babysit while she did paperwork for the divorce, affirm her decision, or otherwise help out).

I found this worked very well. However, I really had to keep reminding myself that my role was, at the most, to facilitate God's work in her heart. I wasn't in a position to save her marraige, and I had no responsibility to ensure that she understood my strong distaste for the poor decisions she was making. There were many times when I was sure my words were having no effect, that they were going to divorce, that she was going to make many bad choices. I had to pray for myself as well as for her at these points, as this was a great temptation to dispair and try to just limit the damage of the "inevitable".

I also tried to get her thinking about their early dating days and other happy parts of their relationship in a positive light, and reminisce on that (e.g., "What was he like when you were dating? Why did you get married in the first place?") and tried to avoid talking about how he's changed - but did try to talk about how she had changed, in the hopes that she might see how big a part her perceptions of him played in the whole mess. Obviously, I couldn't control the conversation, and I didn't try to - some small measure of influence is all we can hope to have in such situations.

Her situation ended fairly well, and it was clear that I'd played a very small part in that (but her counselor and husband did much more that was visible, and God's invisible hand was nearly visible in the situation). However, I don't know if there would have been that happy ending if her situation were more like your friend's - having a "whatever makes you happy" family, having already committed adultery, lacking spiritual support and some level of faith, and so on. Even if she had chosen divorce, I think this approach would have allowed me to exert as much influence against that choice as was possible, and also would have allowed me to preserve the relationship in the hope of bringing her closer to God in the future no matter what happened.

HTH, and that God blesses you, your friend, and your marraiges with peace as you work to love your friend but not her choices


#9

I think you will get nothing out of continuing with this friendship except perhaps a sense of being a "helper" to your friend. She may see this as tacit approval. If she can treat her own husband so callously, what makes you think she loves you as a friend? She can use people for her own satisfaction. I would tell her, "As long as you are betraying your husband, I will not talk to you. Sin is sin and it tends to spread all over our lives like rancid oil."


#10

You mentioned that your husband wants nothing to do with her. Is he okay with you remaining friends with her?

Are there any children involved?

She needs to learn to be happy by herself and not rely on a man. She is just going to repeat the previous relationship.

Does she have a relationship with God at all? Just try to be a good friends and listen while letting her know that you think her behavior is wrong. Pray for her.

While I agree that having an affair is evil, we all struggle with different sins in our lives.


#11

Here is how you described her attitude.

"She's expressed no remorse and insists that she didn't do "much" wrong because she was so unhappy in the marriage something had to change. She's refusing to leave the man she's dating to try to work out her marriage with the husband that basically said "If you come home and try, you can name your terms...." (They both have told us this without us asking and we both wished they hadn't.)"

What do you think you are going to do for such a person? Your husband is right, you should have nothing to do with this woman. Pray for her, and for her husband. I hope they don't have children...


#12

Thank you, everyone for your replies. You each have given me a lot to think about.

My conversation with my friend was short and a bit awkward. She apologized for not telling me sooner. I told her that was silly I had no need to know any of it, but that I am praying for her and I believed that after such a long and trying relationship they would find the strength to work out their differences if that was what they wanted. The conversation ended after shortly after that. I think she knew I was disapprove and she has made up her mind that she is done with this marriage.

Sadly, I don't think she's going to seek out my company much anymore and I feel terrible I am somewhat relieved by that fact.

I guess I'll just keep praying to God and try to be honest if she talks to me again. I've heard that most couples do try to get back together at least once while the divorce paperwork is going through so maybe there is some hope.

But thank you for all your advice and ideas. I do not have a lot of Catholic friends in my area so it is always nice to be able to get that veiwpoint on here. Thank you!


#13

[quote="StarFireKK, post:12, topic:247591"]
I told her that was silly I had no need to know any of it, but that I am praying for her and I believed that after such a long and trying relationship they would find the strength to work out their differences if that was what they wanted.

[/quote]

I think you handled this really well. It is now obvious how you feel about it and that you will not encourage adultery and divorce, and the point was made in a non-judgemental way.

I've seen a number of couples divorce, including my own parents. What happens is that the couple tends to expect support and then friends either take sides, or step away if they don't want to be involved. You husband has made his decision regarding your friend and personally, I can't imagine her wanting to be close friends with you while your husband won't speak to her. The situation might sort itself out without you doing much. It is awful to say that, I know, but people make their decisions in life and that determines many things, including the future of their friendships.


#14

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