How to Help a Friend Cope With an Unhappy Marriage

On my article about unhappy marriages, a reader described her friend’s toxic relationship and asked for ways to help her friend cope.

“My friend’s husband is a liar, a cheat, and a thief,” says Ria on When to Give Up on Your Marriage. “They have children together and she will get angry, but take him back due to the economy excuse, still in love excuse, they have kids to raise, financially a divorce would destroy the both of them. He lies to women at work, saying his wife – my friend – is a nasty woman. He wishes he could leave, but stays for the kids. But, he will have no problem posting ads behind her back, lying to people at work, friends, at church, to his own family.”

She adds that this husband has destroyed multiple womens’ lives, and he has no problem stealing money or lying to clients. “He uses past abuse in his life as his excuse,” she says. “It’s like he’s 18 and could care less, and he’s in his late 40′s. How can I help my friend? How can I get past the pain of her continuing to tolerate the BS? Any suggestions? Thanks!”

It sounds like the husband and wife is co-dependent – they’re in a mutually satisfying relationship. It’s not a healthy one, but somehow they’re both getting what they need from it. He is lying, cheating, and using other women – and his wife is letting him.

How do you be a good friend to a woman in a marriage like this?

Accept that she has her reasons for staying with her husband

As you said, your friend has many excuses for staying in this unhappy marriage. And her husband has lots of excuses for his behaviour. Their relationship is meeting their needs – and it’s none of your business. I agree that it’s unhealthy and full of BS, but there is nothing you can do to help your friend leave her marriage. She has to have the courage and insight to see what’s happening – and she’s not ready to yet.

To learn more about co-dependency in love, read How to Untangle a Codependent Relationship.

Set boundaries when you discuss her marriage

I encourage you to listen to her talk about her marriage, because that’s what friends do. Let her vent and share her thoughts. But, I think you should put time limits on it (boundaries). If you spend an hour together, don’t let her talk about her toxic husband for the whole time.

Change how you’re coping with her unhappy relationship

You can’t change your friend’s relationship or personality, but you can change how you’re coping with her unhappy marriage. Her relationship really bothers you because you love her and want the best for her. And, you see the damage her husband is doing to other woman. I encourage you to ask yourself for other reasons her marriage bothers you so much. How’s your relationship with your partner? Is her unhappy marriage triggering something in you?

Focus on becoming a healthy, happy woman. The more grounded and whole you are, the better a friend you’ll be.

Share your healthy, happy life with your friend

Start talking about your insights and activities with your friend. Focus on things that bring you joy, peace, inspiration, and wellness to your life. Don’t dwell on helping her cope with her unhappy marriage – she is coping the way she wants. Again, her marriage is her business. Your health and happiness is your business, and your perspective will spread to her!

Your friend will learn a new way of living by seeing you in action. You can lecture and push her all you want, but you’ll get nowhere. Instead, focus on getting and sharing your emotional, physical, and spiritual health – and you’ll have a profound effect on your friend. Or you won’t. But if you don’t change your friend’s life or perspective, you’ll be affecting the world, your loved ones, and your self in positive ways.

If your friend is in an abusive relationship, read How to Help a Friend in an Abusive Relationship.

I welcome your comments below, but I can’t offer advice. You may find it helpful to share your thoughts and ideas on how to help your friend, though. Often, writing brings clarity and insight.


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