It's common to know someone whose marriage is in trouble and to be unsure how to help. These 10 practical tips will help you get started helping others.
1. Pray for them by name. Ask God to intervene in their marriage. Ask God to give you and others wisdom to know how to help. Pray in their presence as well as when alone. Send emails and note cards of encouragement.
2. Listen. Listening doesn’t mean simply hearing. It involves empathizing, seeking to understand and expressing genuine interest.
3. Don’t give advice. Your main job is listening. Leave the advice giving to a pastor, counselor or mentor.
4. Don’t make the problem worse. Don’t allow your support to be seen as an encouragement to give up or get a divorce. Your job is to help steer them toward the proper help and reconciliation (If addiction or abuse is involved make sure they get the professional help they need and are safe).
5. Help them think outside the divorce box. Recommend booklets – When Your Marriage Needs Help, Should I Get a Divorce, Marriage and Conflict give couples both research and practical advice to help them consider the facts about divorce and how to get the help they need for their marriage.
6. Help them find the right help. Locate a good licensed Christian counselor in their area. Ask your pastor or Christian M.D. for a referral. Focus on the Family offers a free counseling consult as well as a free referral service to a Focus-screened marriage therapist. (Phone 719-531-3400 x7700).
7. Connect them with a mentor couple. If you are not qualified to help, call your pastor to recommend an older couple who is willing to mentor a younger couple.
8. Refer them to helpful web sites. www.troubledwith.com; www.family.org/marriage and www.pureintimacy.org offer hundreds of articles, practical advice and resource recommendations on various marriage issues. Focus now offers a Marriage Forum (www.family.org/marriageforum) designed to give couples a safe place to talk about struggles and successes in their marriage.
9. Encourage them to work on their problems and not simply expect them to be solved on their own. Focus offers an online Marriage Checkup (www.family.org/couplecheckup) which measures over 18 major areas of marriage - identifying both strengths and weaknesses. This is a good place for a couple to start in addition to working with a professional counselor.
10. Refer them to solid Christian-based books and seminars. Visit family.org for marriage books, broadcast CDs and resources to strengthen a couple’s faith through a difficult time. Key resources like Yes, Your Marriage Can Be Saved, Love and Respect, Love Must Be Tough, First Five Years of Marriage, Help! We are Drifting Apart, Breaking the Cycle of Divorce, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage and others can provide needed encouragement and direction.