For Better, For Worse

4 ways to support your friend in a marriage crisis

When I first met Karyn*, her zany humor and spiritual depth drew me in. Even though we're polar opposites—I love hiking and adventure, she likes sitting on the deck and sipping tea—we connected instantly. We talked about everything, especially our families.

Then Karyn's husband, eager for a new beginning, quit his job. Before long, however, it became evident he wasn't actively seeking employment. He stayed up late at night, watching endless hours of television, then slept long into the day. Soon he withdrew from friends, family, and Karyn, even refusing to go to church with her. The harder Karyn tried to help—begging him to visit a counselor, highlighting possible employment ads, asking him to reconnect with church friends—the more her husband resisted.

I was in unfamiliar territory as a friend. Angered by how Karyn's husband treated her, I offered opinions instead of listened to her. As her marriage spiraled downhill, our conversations grew more stilted. Not wanting to add to Karyn's pain, I carefully sidestepped the topic of my healthy marriage.

Overwhelmed by life, Karyn isolated herself from her close friends. As the barriers between us seemed to loom larger, I made the mistake of letting our friendship slip away just when she needed me most.

One day, while I prayed for Karyn, tears streaming down my face, God reminded me that while I couldn't mend Karyn's marriage, I could love her through the hard times. I realized I needed to search for gentle, creative, practical ways to support her in the midst of her crisis, instead of wait for her to ask me for help. That's what being committed to our friendship—for better, for worse—meant.

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