What do I say to my friend who is getting divorced?


#1

Here's the short version: my friend W's wife had an affair and is leaving him after 6 years of marriage for a mutual friend. Two of W's longtime friends were party to the affair and encouraged W's wife to leave him. W and his wife had grown distant, but he was never abusive or even unkind to her.

So W's new mantra is that people can change over time, so marriage (or friendship) carries no assurance with it.

I'd like to tell him that it's important for a couple to know that and commit to loving and honoring each other through these changes when they take their marital vows. I also want to encourage him to seek an annulment, but I don't think it would be appropriate to do so right now.

What would you say to someone who was similarly disillusioned about marriage?


#2

[quote="Binary, post:1, topic:249228"]
So W's new mantra is that people can change over time, so marriage (or friendship) carries no assurance with it.

What would you say to someone who was similarly disillusioned about marriage?

[/quote]

W, I am so sorry you are facing this. I am praying like crazy for you. If you ever need anything, or just want to talk, please know that you can call me anytime.

He's grieving. He's bitter because he's grieving. He's been betrayed. He's bitter because he's been betrayed. Listening to him and praying for him are about the best things you can do right now.

If he's still disillusioned in five years, then maybe talk with him about it. But not now. I think it's only human to be disillusioned about marriage right now after what he's been through.


#3

Just be there for him. Let him whine, cry, scream, get angry, everything else.


#4

Yes, not really the time to say much, but to be there for him, as Rascalking says.
Don't wear yourself out though.
As karow says, pray.
Say what you feel you must, without hammering it, but the last thing he may wish to hear right now is anything that sounds like platitudes.
It sounds to me as if you will have good balance about it, because you state that you realize he may not be ready for part of what you'd like to say.


#5

[quote="Binary, post:1, topic:249228"]
Here's the short version: my friend W's wife had an affair and is leaving him after 6 years of marriage for a mutual friend. Two of W's longtime friends were party to the affair and encouraged W's wife to leave him. W and his wife had grown distant, but he was never abusive or even unkind to her.

So W's new mantra is that people can change over time, so marriage (or friendship) carries no assurance with it.

I'd like to tell him that it's important for a couple to know that and commit to loving and honoring each other through these changes when they take their marital vows. I also want to encourage him to seek an annulment, but I don't think it would be appropriate to do so right now.

What would you say to someone who was similarly disillusioned about marriage?

[/quote]

Well, in a way he's right. There are no guarantees. If he talks about dating again, that's the time to bring up annulment.

Just say, "I'm so sorry. A marriage is like any other kind of life...when it ends, it is something to mourn. How are you doing?"


#6

[quote="Binary, post:1, topic:249228"]
What would you say to someone who was similarly disillusioned about marriage?

[/quote]

Having had a cheating wife and subsequent divorce, I can tell you that there is little you can do with regard to his disillusionment with marriage. As others said, simply provide support at this point.


#7

[quote="Binary, post:1, topic:249228"]

I'd like to tell him that it's important for a couple to know that and commit to loving and honoring each other through these changes when they take their marital vows.

[/quote]

There will NEVER be a good time to tell him that. At best he will feel judged. But then he will probably be mad at you because indeirectly you are telling him he made the mistake of marrying a woman who didn't commit to her marital vows

As for the annullement, don't encourage too much. You don't know if his marriage was valid or not. And if you push him to seek annulment and he can't get one, he will be that much more mad at you

You don't need to say anything. You need to listen to him and be there

CM


#8

I just want to support what the others are saying. Listen, make sure he doesn't spend excessive time alone - get him out of the house if you can periodically. Don't push what he should or shouldn't do. Divorce is like a death and going through it is different for everyone, but most go through many different feelings and experiences. If you see that he's suffering or struggling, and he will not be offended, suggest counseling. I work for a family law attorney and we recommend counseling to every client - it's a very painful process.


#9

[quote="formerlysure, post:8, topic:249228"]
I just want to support what the others are saying. Listen, make sure he doesn't spend excessive time alone - get him out of the house if you can periodically. Don't push what he should or shouldn't do. Divorce is like a death and going through it is different for everyone, but most go through many different feelings and experiences. If you see that he's suffering or struggling, and he will not be offended, suggest counseling. I work for a family law attorney and we recommend counseling to every client - it's a very painful process.

[/quote]

Yes, I'm agree with you. When we met this problem, we'd better listen, don't push what he should or shouldn't do. Hope all the best.


#10

Thanks for the advice, all. I'm trying to skip over the details, but this has been going on for over a year now. He recently started dating someone else and they rushed into it way too fast, both emotionally and intimately. During that time, he had nothing but bad things to say about his wife (they're still not divorced, though they are living apart). The day after the new girl dumped him, he started talking about reconciling with his wife again. I'm always willing to listen to him. I'd estimate we've talked about his marriage for about 200 hours since he discovered the affair. But from my perspective, it looks like he feels lost and desperate. Going by what you all are saying, there isn't much I can do other than continue to be supportive.


#11

Is he Catholic? If he is, maybe a suggestion to join a group for the divorced/seperated at your parish or another local parish would help? It might be a good thing to discuss what he's going through with others in similar situations.


#12

Having gone through a divorce, I can say the best thing my friends did for me was to listen. It took me a LOT of talking (and crying) to finally accept the situation - what was my fault, what was his, what was no one's fault. After I finally got some of that sorted out, I started putting my life back together.

And it does get better, and please tell him that. Time doesn't heal all wounds (if I sat and thought about it now, I might still get angry or feel bitter) but it does put a very real distance between yourself and the hurt. When you look at something like that from a distance, it really loses a lot of its power.


#13

As someone who has been through a divorce, I can say the best thing my friends could do for me while I was "grieving" was to LISTEN. I had a lot of things to get my head around - what was my fault, what was his fault, what was no one's fault and was just wrong from the get-go. It was the hardest thing I've ever been through - I actually don't know how I got through it, I absolutely did not think I was strong enough.

But - and tell him this - it will get better with time. It doesn't heal all wounds (if I thought about it long enough, I could still get mad), but it does take the sting out and help you see things more objectively. One day, it just stops hurting. You learn to live around it.

It's a process. I am sure he is so grateful to you for listening. You are a good friend.


#14

[quote="Binary, post:10, topic:249228"]
I'm always willing to listen to him. I'd estimate we've talked about his marriage for about 200 hours since he discovered the affair. .

[/quote]

I guess the question I have for you is 'Are you starting to feel burned out by listening to him'. There is a way to be supportive and have a boundary. There is nothing wrong with telling him 'I know this is difficult for you and I want to be supportive but I can't always be there. Would it be possible to talk about this some other time'

Also, as a friend you would gently point out his mistakes. There is nothing wrong with saying 'I am really confused. Just last week you were bad mouthing your wife and now you want to reconcile. I think you need to get things straight in your own mind before taking action'

Supportive friend does not mean let him get away with murder. Supportive friends call each other on their garbage (in a polite way)

If he can not take your boundaries, then maybe he is not a friend worth having

CM


#15

[quote="cmscms, post:14, topic:249228"]
I guess the question I have for you is 'Are you starting to feel burned out by listening to him'. There is a way to be supportive and have a boundary. There is nothing wrong with telling him 'I know this is difficult for you and I want to be supportive but I can't always be there. Would it be possible to talk about this some other time'

Also, as a friend you would gently point out his mistakes. There is nothing wrong with saying 'I am really confused. Just last week you were bad mouthing your wife and now you want to reconcile. I think you need to get things straight in your own mind before taking action'

Supportive friend does not mean let him get away with murder. Supportive friends call each other on their garbage (in a polite way)

If he can not take your boundaries, then maybe he is not a friend worth having

CM

[/quote]

Thanks. I guess I wouldn't be doing him any favors by not speaking up.


#16

My wife walked out on me about 1.5 years ago after a 21 year marriage. First thing your friend needs to do is learn to live with himself, be himself again. He needs to sit down and determine who he is, what the divorce may have changed about him-- attitude, bitterness, trust-- and decide if he wants to be changed that way. I did not want my divorce to change me into an angry, bitter and vindictive person because I have never thought of myself that way. Hopefully, I've been successful. :)
I haven't even thought of dating, getting over and learning to cope with the betrayal takes time. And during that time-- even if the Catholic church didn't prohibit it-- it's a bad idea to get involved with anyone because frankly, your head isn't on straight. I know mine still isn't. You can't help but be 'needy' because of what you're missing, but you can't get into a relationship without being able to give. And frankly, it will take a long time for a relationship to develop to the point of the same level of intimacy that was lost. I don't see how anyone can jump straight out of one relationship into another and be there for the next person to the same degree as the first. You can't be all take, and you have to give yourself time to be able to separate your feelings from your ex-wife from other women you meet.

In many ways it's been easier for me as I have two minor children and they're living with me full time, with the ex visiting them here. I am able to focus on them.

He need to find something else to focus on-- work, hobby, new group etc. particularly beneficial if it's in something he'd always wanted to do but has put off. Motorcycles, sailing, SCUBA, art, dance -- whatever. A new subject/hobby/activity is better because it starts to give him separation from married life to his new life.

You need to listen and be supportive. For sorting out himself, he could see a therapist. If he hasn't been seeing a therapist I strongly recommend he go to one. They can be very good in helping him come to the realizations he needs to in order to move on. Or, to simply confirm to him that he is in fact coping, reaffirm that he's not abnormal and even confirm to him that he may not need therapy or counseling. And as a neutral unbiased, impartial observer he can talk to them about things he may not wish to discuss with anyone else, and get opinions that others may be unwilling to share.


#17

[quote="styrgwillidar, post:16, topic:249228"]
My wife walked out on me about 1.5 years ago after a 21 year marriage. First thing your friend needs to do is learn to live with himself, be himself again. He needs to sit down and determine who he is, what the divorce may have changed about him-- attitude, bitterness, trust-- and decide if he wants to be changed that way. I did not want my divorce to change me into an angry, bitter and vindictive person because I have never thought of myself that way. Hopefully, I've been successful. :)
I haven't even thought of dating, getting over and learning to cope with the betrayal takes time. And during that time-- even if the Catholic church didn't prohibit it-- it's a bad idea to get involved with anyone because frankly, your head isn't on straight. I know mine still isn't. You can't help but be 'needy' because of what you're missing, but you can't get into a relationship without being able to give. And frankly, it will take a long time for a relationship to develop to the point of the same level of intimacy that was lost. I don't see how anyone can jump straight out of one relationship into another and be there for the next person to the same degree as the first. You can't be all take, and you have to give yourself time to be able to separate your feelings from your ex-wife from other women you meet.

In many ways it's been easier for me as I have two minor children and they're living with me full time, with the ex visiting them here. I am able to focus on them.

He need to find something else to focus on-- work, hobby, new group etc. particularly beneficial if it's in something he'd always wanted to do but has put off. Motorcycles, sailing, SCUBA, art, dance -- whatever. A new subject/hobby/activity is better because it starts to give him separation from married life to his new life.

You need to listen and be supportive. For sorting out himself, he could see a therapist. If he hasn't been seeing a therapist I strongly recommend he go to one. They can be very good in helping him come to the realizations he needs to in order to move on. Or, to simply confirm to him that he is in fact coping, reaffirm that he's not abnormal and even confirm to him that he may not need therapy or counseling. And as a neutral unbiased, impartial observer he can talk to them about things he may not wish to discuss with anyone else, and get opinions that others may be unwilling to share.

[/quote]

He's been seeing a therapist for... about 10 months now. I'm going to keep on listening to him and being supportive, but not of destructive thoughts/behaviors he gets into.

I think the way you've handled your situation is excellent and admirable, and I'm sure it's to your kids' benefit. My parents did not respond to divorce in any kind of positive way, which made it very difficult for my sister and I. So cheers to you for being a good dad!


#18

[quote="Binary, post:10, topic:249228"]
....I'm always willing to listen to him. I'd estimate we've talked about his marriage for about 200 hours since he discovered the affair.....

[/quote]

You are a good and kind friend!

If I do some quick-calculating based on your 200-hours it seems to me you have spent about *4 hours weekly for the past year *discussing, listening to and supporting your friend. While this is a loving thing to do it may be taking you away from your own family, hobbies, friends or other involvements. Not to mention that after you spend time listening to and counseling your friend you are possibly emotionally and spiritually drained.

What is the appropriate time to spend? Honestly I don't know, but in my opinion you have outdone most people I know in the "supportive-listening" department! If I were you I might spend some time in prayer to discern your role in this frienship and perhaps backing away a little bit.


#19

If you want to suggest the decree of nullity process than maybe bring it up as a healing process that may be helpful as a form of closure. Other than that let him be a human being and rant and rave and make mistakes - this is what things like Reconcilliation are for - because we will make mistakes - we are human. That does not mean we should set out to do these things but it does mean that for some people they happen. It is our fallen nature. A year may seem like a long time but it is not a long time to recover from the loss of a life long vocation. After all would you expect someone widowed for only a year to bounce back?


#20

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