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Health & Sex

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What Your Friend's Divorce Means for Your Marriage

"We're safe. Aren't we?" continued...

Such is the meteorology of marriage, the alternating cold fronts of resentment and what-ifs, followed by the warming thank-heaven-I-have-him thoughts. News of a friend's divorce can bolster your most positive beliefs about your marriage — or it can reinforce the most negative ones — depending on when and how the news hits you, and even more so, on how you take it. Because for every question that a friend's split creates in your mind, there's an answer that can strengthen your own relationship.

Would I be happier single, too? "Don't compare the best moments in your single friend's life with the worst moments in your own," says Tessina. "Develop a skill that will serve you well throughout your life: reality checking. What would your life be without your spouse? Financial status? Household workload without someone to share it with? Going to bed alone?" Suddenly, a man whose biggest offense to date may be forgetting your wedding anniversary doesn't seem so bad. Even if the image of your footloose single future is appealing, that doesn't mean it's time to call a lawyer. "If there's something you're really longing for," says Tessina, "you need to talk to your husband about it."

How strong is our marriage? A friend's divorce, says Tessina, is a great opportunity to discuss the health of your relationship with your husband and reaffirm your commitment. For Diana, her cousin's divorce has led to talks with her husband about their fears and desires for their future. "I think in the end we're closer," she says. "Seeing the extreme pain the divorce and the affair have caused my cousin and her children has showed us what we don't want."

But ideally, you're not waiting until someone else's marriage hits the rocks to nurture yours. Keep the temperature of your marriage from reaching boiling (or, just as bad, cool) by instituting "state of the union" meetings, suggests Tessina. "Set aside a sacred period to talk about what's working, what's not, then focus on solving problems. If you do this regularly, you'll find problems are usually minor and easy to solve," especially because you'll be tackling them before they fester into the resentments that put your marriage at serious risk.

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