What Your Friend's Divorce Means for Your Marriage
"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.'"
Naturally, this ticks us off — but it shouldn't, says Haltzman. "It's
just your husband's way of making sense of things, his way of understanding
cause and effect." And that's actually good news for you as a wife.
"You want him to figure out what it is wives are looking for, what things
you think are important when you hear other women are divorcing," says
Haltzman. "Instead of getting upset, you can use it as an opportunity to
Besides, talking to your husband about your relationship might be a welcome
switch from slicing and dicing it with your girlfriends. With them egging you
on, it's all too easy to fall into the habit of only discussing the bad patches
of your marriage (the same way people are more apt to go on and on about
miserable, rainy weather and generally let crystal clear, low humidity days
pass without comment). And while you may get reassurance from your friends that
being annoyed with your husband and occasionally arguing with him are just part
of being married, you may also forget that these are issues you need to discuss
— with your spouse. "Some friendships are bonded around life's
problems," says Pamela Berger, a therapist in private practice in Brooklyn.
"But connecting around complaints about your husband makes it easier not to
truly confront the problems in marriage."
What's worse, when a friend who's vented the same way you did (or seemed to,
anyway) decides she's had enough, you may start to wonder if your grievances
are divorce-worthy, too. Thus commences the microscopic reevaluation of every
facet of your marriage — a research project your soon-to-be-single friend is
sure to join in on. "I went out with my newly divorced friend for a drink
one night, and she told me, 'Wow, it sounds like yours isn't going to last,
either,'" says Jessica, 33, a mother of two in northern New Jersey. This
harsh comment made her incredibly angry. "But it also got me to make a
concerted effort to invest time in making the bad things in my marriage
better," she says.
Instead of looking at your marriage through the gloomy lens of your friend's
heartbreak, you may need to see the friendship in a new light. "If you're
so close and intimate with a best friend, and your paths have been so similar —
you get married around the same time, you have a kid around the same time —
it's hard at the point where your paths diverge not to think that it will
happen to you, since you had so much in common," says Amy. "But then
you're forced to see that your friendship is changing rather than that your
marriage will fail in the same way." Amy, like Jessica, figured out that
the best thing for her friendship and her marriage was to stop the pattern of
garden-variety whining to her pal about her husband. "I didn't want her to
feel like I was on the same page with her, because I was not," says Amy.
"I think I just made a decision not to stir my own pot."
If you and your husband were especially close to the divorcing couple, you
may both be feeling something that approximates mourning — not just for the end
of their marriage, but also for the memories you expected you'd continue to
make together. "If you have very close friends who are getting divorced, it
can feel like you're losing part of your family," says Michele
Weiner-Davis, a couples therapist who has authored several books about
preventing divorce, including Divorce Busting . In an effort to
process the loss, you may find yourselves endlessly analyzing what happened,
comparing he-said, she-said notes that aren't likely to yield helpful truths.
"Of course, what your girlfriend is going to tell you about why the
marriage fell apart is going to be very different from what the husband is
going to say," says Weiner-Davis. "What you really learn is from
observation. If you can stand back a bit — without taking sides — and think,
What did each partner do to contribute to the downfall of their relationship?
you might be able to learn something vicariously."