What Your Friend's Divorce Means for Your Marriage
"Could it happen to us?" continued...
But there's an upside to all this bystander anxiety: Divorce is a little
less scary to talk about in the context of someone else's situation.
"Sometimes it's actually easier for your husband to talk about issues in
the abstract than directly, because there's less performance anxiety," says
Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men .
"There's less concern that he's going to get it 'right' if he talks about
another couple." And, though it might seem counterintuitive, talking about
divorce — how it happens, how it might happen to you, and how to prevent it —
is one of the best ways to avoid it.
This is all the more true when someone you care about has cheated or been
cheated on: Their experience can be the sensible opening for a conversation
that reestablishes the rules of your own marriage. "Whenever I say to Ned,
'Can you believe he did that?' it's really just my way of saying, 'You can
never do that to me — these are my values, and these are my fears,'" says
Amy, 37, a mother of one in Pittsburgh. These difficult, even painful,
conversations can be a blessing, says Tina Tessina, a psychotherapist and
author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free . "It's not an
entirely bad thing to internalize some of someone else's divorce — you
shouldn't jump to conclusions that divorce is never going to happen to
you," she notes. "If you have been taking each other for granted, it
might motivate you both to pay a little more attention."
"How strong is our marriage?"
Of course, getting your guy to pay attention to the same questions and
worries that plague you is another matter. If you've ever told your husband a
friend's getting divorced, you already know that men don't always greet the
news with the compassion we might expect. "Men are very detail-oriented.
He's not so concerned with, 'Wow, your friend must have been really hurt by
that,'" says Haltzman. "He's thinking, I need more pieces to the puzzle
here. He may become analytical: 'Was her husband acting that way for a reason?
Maybe you don't know the whole story.'"