If ever there is a time to bite your tongue, it is when a friend confides to you that they want out of a bad marriage. Much as you wish to be empathetic and helpful to your friend, the wise course is to say nothing, and simply listen.
When someone is contemplating the life-altering decision to end a marriage, they may have an insatiable need to vent on many emotional issues. The best thing a good friend can do is listen objectively, offering no advice, opinions or judgments.
While you want to be supportive to your friend in his hour of need, you do not want to put yourself into a position of influencing his decision either way.
There is also the possibility that your friend may have a change of heart. If he decides to give his relationship another chance, he might resent any previous negative input from you on the subject of his partner. You can be supportive of your friend during a breakup without bashing his ex in a misguided attempt to be loyal.
Accept your outsider status
No matter how close a friend you are, marriage is exclusively between two people. You cannot really know what goes on behind closed doors. Much as you might believe that you understand the relationship, it is better to take a step back from voicing your opinion and be there for your friend strictly in a listening capacity.
Your friend’s emotional state might vacillate from one day to the next. Be patient and understanding of his mood swings. Be there for him, but refrain from pointing out his erratic behavior. Encourage him to talk about his pain, but be aware of your own limited ability to offer concrete relief. If he solicits advice, turn the question back to him, as in,
“What do you think?” or “How does that make you feel?”
Self-esteem and confidence are often is at its lowest point during a breakup. Point out your friend’s positive attributes and potential for future happiness. You can try to uplift your friend’s sagging spirit without detracting from is ex’s persona with derogatory comments. Badmouthing his ex will not make him feel better, but might be taken as criticism of his poor judgment in choosing her in the first place.
Distract with healthy activities
A mourning period can be expected during and after the breakup of a marriage. Your friend might indulge unhealthy behaviors in his depression over a failed marital relationship. Spend time with him in healthy pursuits, such as fitness workouts, movies, or just hanging out together. Let him know you are available to listen at any time, and how much you wish only the best for him, whatever decision he ultimately makes regarding his marriage.
By being patient and understanding, refraining from passing judgment, giving advice, or opinions, no matter what the outcome of your friend’s difficult times with his marriage, you can rest assured that you have behaved in the best interest of your friend during his period of angst. Whether your friend ultimately reconciles or breaks up, your friendship will remain intact, potentially with an even stronger bond.