You know it is coming when you get the 2 am phone call from your friend asking if he or she can crash at your place for the night. Some argument they had has led one to believe that getting out of the house for the evening will be a fix all. Of course you can’ as you stumble out of bed, preparing coffee with the realization that it is going to be a long night. After all, this is your friend. Almost as quickly as the Arabica beans have been ground, you realize that with horror that both the he and the she in this troubled relationship are ‘friends’ of yours. Your dreary mind needs to sharpen up because anything you say can and will be used against you at a later date. Offering marital advice to others is something that should be done with caution and the easy realization that in the time of need your ‘friend’ may be saying things that out of anger or frustration rather than truth. Chances are after’ making up’ all this drama will be for not.
Before you begin playing armchair marriage counselor with others keep in mind that matters of the heart and family are often blown way out of proportion as well as seen through the cloudy lenses of love. In other words, the story you get may not all be true. It may feel true to the person telling it you, but a basic rule of thumb when it comes to humans is that none are completely honest. If they go on about the horrid words that their spouse used toward them, they may be leaving out the part where they threw their wedding ring down the toilet before insulting the daylights out of their spouse and hitting them in the face with a frying pan.
It always, no matter what or whom – takes two to fight. It also ALWAYS takes two to escalate a problem into one that makes Jerry Springer’s show look like a replica of the typical household. No matter how difficult it may be to keep your wealth of wisdom to yourself, do not pick sides. Instead, just listen intently, nod when you need to, offer wine or coffee as appropriate and be there for support. Hold back, refrain and try to think of your own marital arguments before harshly judging anyone else’s. This may be difficult, especially because they want you to commiserate, but truth be told – few know the nook and cranny details of another’s personal life or what kind of pain in the butt your friend may be to live with which causes their spouse to go off the deep end. This way, when the situation calms (which it will) you won’t be regretting anything you say or be maddened by the fact that your friend took back their no-good-loser of a spouse; especially after YOU told them to divorce them immediately! No harm, no foul.
Another thing to consider before offering marital advice is the implications of divorce on another person’s life. It is really easy for someone else to tell another that divorce is the best option, that their personal happiness is the most important factor and to sing the fruity tunes that life is all about abundance, well-being and freedom. It is something altogether different when this person has to face the divorce and pay the hard consequences that can include financial devastation, single parenting, broken-hearted children and stifling feelings of anger and resentment, which may eventually be turned on you. Yes, life should be good and marriage should add something positive but marriage is definitely not like two kids playing nice at the swing set. It is difficult and sometimes the challenges people face in marriage are actually calls to action that if dealt with, can actually better the relationship and the individual person involved in the marriage. There is always something to be learned or gained from trouble in a marriage and no two people are perfect partners. Time can make someone a perfect spouse. Marriage is for better or worse and even though that may sound clichÃ©, it is absolutely important to think back to the days when life together was simpler and love came easy. Perhaps when offering martial advice to others that should be something to point out.
For the most part, few people like being told what to do or how they should handle their lives and no matter how well intended your marital advice is, it will fall on deaf ears once the storm blows over. In fact, although people may ask you for advice or ask you what you would do, your answer is not theirs. It can’t be, because what you would do in real life is quite possibly altogether different from what they should or can do. The only time when your two cents is really worth a dime is if the relationship is consistently abusive. This means that one spouse is emotionally or physically abusing the other as part of the relationship. Then, unequivocally advise for divorce. Keep in mind that this isn’t the same as an argument that stemmed unexpectedly one night when tensions were high and both he and she became physical; but real abuse.
here’s the thing. Offering marital advice may be fun, may make you feel important at the time, and may make you feel as though you are being a good friend. It may be many things, but the bottom line is that it is not your business. Being a friend to someone means listening and supporting them, yet allowing them to own their decisions as well as take responsibility for their wrongs in a relationship. While it’s nice to have people to depend on as necessary, opening your mouth and inserting your foot can ruin a friendship down the road. Chances are that whatever advice you give will not be heeded and that any criticism you offer of your friend’s spouse now, will be taken as an insult in a few weeks. Perk the coffee, prepare the couch and lose any tendencies toward ‘broken wing syndrome’ that you may have instead of opening your mouth about the should be’s of marriage. If they ask you a question or are seeking advice simply make it rhetorical and ask them what they think or how they feel. This keeps you even keel on the fence of friendship and accountability later.