It's not easy to see a woman struggle to cope with a bad marriage. You may be torn between not wanting to interfere, and giving her the support she may need. Think about how you would feel in her situation. It would make you feel good to know that somebody cared enough to express concern for your well-being. However, it is important to approach the subject with sensitivity and patience.
1. Be a True Friend
Your friend may be feeling confused, scared, insecure or anxious about the state of her marriage. Make yourself a stable force in her life, advises domestic violence educator Pam Smieja in the article "How to Help a Friend…Who's in an Abusive Relationship," for Oprah.com. This is good advice, whether she is a victim of abuse or not. Show her that she can confide in you by being there when you say you will be, being sensitive to her moods, and keeping confidences.
2. Show You Care
If your friend talks to you openly about her bad marriage, listen to what she has to say without interruption or judgment. Listening is a crucial part of good communication, says certified family and marriage therapist Isadora Alman in the article, "I Hear You: Five Tips on Being a Good Listener," for Psychology Today. Maintain eye contact and use appropriate body language, such as nodding in agreement or shaking your head in sympathy. If your friend doesn't instigate the conversation, let her know you are worried about her, by saying something like, "I'm always here for you, if you need me." Avoid asking probing, open-ended questions, such as "What's going on in your marriage?" as this may make her feel overwhelmed and exposed.
3. Discuss Her Options
The solution to a bad marriage doesn't haven't to be separation or divorce. Be a sounding board for your friend as she considers her options. If she and her husband are both willing to do the necessary work to make the relationship work, a professional counselor may be able to help. According to marriage and family therapist Sharon Rivkin in the article "Is Your Marriage Toxic?" for WebMD, most couples can turns things around, even if the marriage has been unhealthy for many years. Your friend may be able to leave her bad marriage in the past without actually leaving her husband.
4. Help Her Find Inner Strength
Your friend may feel trapped in her bad marriage, aware that she wants to leave but unsure how to go about it. She may be scared to face life alone or as a single mom. She may be intimidated by an abusive or controlling partner, and fear that he will retaliate if she leaves him. Perhaps her husband is the main breadwinner and she doesn't want to struggle financially. Unhealthy or frustrating relationships may lead to low self-esteem, suggests psychiatrist Neel Burton in the article "Building Confidence and Self-Esteem" for Psychology Today. Help your friend focus on her achievements and good qualities, take care of her health, and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. These techniques may help her find the strength to make the right decision about the future of her marriage.
5. Freedom from Abuse
The marriage may be beyond repair if there is abuse, says Rivkin. If you know or suspect that the woman is in an abusive marriage, simply being there for her to talk to is a great starting point. Focus on her good qualities, rather than her husband's bad ones, psychologist Miriam Ehrensaft advises in the article "The Exact Words That Could Help a Friend in an Abusive Relationship," on Huffington Post. She's more likely to listen to you if you are understanding and non-judgmental. Patience is required when dealing with a woman in an abusive relationship. In the Huffington Post article, Diane Lass, Ph.D, who treats victims of domestic violence, reveals it can take up to nine attempts before a woman leaves an abusive partner for good. Let her know you will always be there for her.
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