How Do You Support a Friend When They Are Royally Screwing Up?

broken heartI love my girlfriends– they’re wonderful and supportive and funny and pretty much the coolest people I know. And I pray that I can be a wonderful and supportive friend to them as well. But right now, I’m having a hard time figuring out how to do that when one of my friends is royally screwing up.

Megan (not her real name) has been married for 11 years and has two precious children. I don’t know her husband very well, but he’s always seemed like a great guy. And, while I know they’ve had their ups and downs in marriage (what marriage doesn’t?), she’s always seemed happy.

Until two weeks ago. When she moved out and moved in with another guy.

I’m still shocked. She called me up non-nonchalantly and asked about my kids and my family and my pregnancy and then she dropped the bomb: “Oh, by the way, I don’t love my husband anymore. The love is gone. And I don’t really like being a mom anymore. So, I left. I’m now living with this guy Matt that I met at work. He’s so funny and wonderful and everything I’ve been missing in a relationship…”

*stunned silence*

Then: “Erin, aren’t you happy for me?!”

I didn’t know what to say. Of course I want her to be happy but my heart breaks for her husband. Her kids. And the last thing I want to do is condone what she’s doing. I obviously don’t know what happened in her marriage or her life to make this happen, but by telling her I’m happy, I tell her I think it’s okay.

Part of me wants to call up her husband and see if he needs help with the kids or meals or something…after all, he was the one that was abandoned. But she would KILL me. And part of me wants to just stay away from her until she comes to her senses. And part of me wants to take her out to coffee and ask her why.

Any advice?

40 Comments

  1. Tough situation, but one I’ve seen a number of times. Good questions, too. I would say, yes, take her out for coffee and ask here what is going on. Also, you might call and check on the kids, and have your husband check on her husband. Does it matter if she gets really upset with you? She’s already abandoned her most important relationships: wife and mother. Her main interest in a relationship with you now is that you affirm her decision. She is not real interested in truth and honesty. Tough situation.

    I have an interview up with another Christian author you will enjoy “meeting,” if you haven’t already.

    wb

  2. I agree with the coffee approach. It’s going to bother you until you speak with her. The truth is, at this point you don’t know the whole story (and what you do know sounds pretty bad). Asking more questions and finding out what she is thinking/feeling and what led to this decision will help you determine your next step (i.e. devoting some time to helping her husband get on his feet, advising marital counseling, advising she personally seek some help etc).

    You will not under any circumstance feel okay telling her you’re happy. That’s just not true. You may not ever support her in this. But you may understand…? Or not, but you’ll have tried. Very difficult situation and I am sorry you’re dealing with this! If she “kills” you for helping her husband or gets angry at you for not supporting her, you’ll have to grieve that loss but at least you’ll know you spoke truth into her life, as painful as that might be (to do and to hear).

    Let me know how it goes!

  3. The previous two comments are very good, and I agree with their advice. If I may add, I “lost” a best friend many years ago over a poor decision that she made. I didn’t agree with what she had done, and I didn’t feel that our friendship was going to be able to continue. I told her so, and I didn’t call her again. She didn’t like my decision, but honestly, my life has turned out to be none the poorer for it – because I know that I did the right thing (sorry if that sounds insensitive). In this day and age, so few people are willing to stand up and do the right thing, so it’s nice when people do. Anyway, when I cross paths with her now, we are cordial and friendly.

    I think if anyone has “messed up” this friendship between you and Megan, it’s her -not you by you trying to do the right thing. I would definitely take your friend out for coffee and find out what’s going on. If you try to be there for her and listen to her and help her – without telling her that you support her decision – but you guys can’t see eye-to-eye, maybe this friendship needs to end. Hopefully, one day, she’ll go back home, and I bet then she’ll come looking for your friendship again.

    And in the meantime, if you/your husband feel the need to check on the family that she left behind because you all are friends, you shouldn’t feel badly doing so. That’s what I would do. I feel sorry for them.

    Life deals all of us rough days. But we have to know how to escape – without literally escaping.

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  5. Wow.

    Your friendship is about to be tested. A true friend would definitely meet with her and share what a crazy-insane choice this is. Unless, there are biblical reasons for leaving her husband that you didn’t mention (though none would include living with another man before marriage) you will have the blessed opportunity to share your heart with her.

    It won’t be as bad as you think. Unless this friend is completely mental, she will listen to the voice of reason from someone who loves her. She may not agree, and her selfish nature may win out, but you will be the friend she remembers as sharing truth in love with her…when she has lots of regrets later.

  6. Whooooooa!

    This is a huge dilemma! Ok, first and foremost, is she a Christian? I ask this because your approach will be different depending on the answer. Us Christian gals know better than to take the route she has chosen and sometimes it’s easier to reel them back in by applying scripture to the situation.

    I would confront her (hate confrontations myself), but send her an email letting her know that as her friend, you are genuinely concerned with what’s going on for everyone involved. Let her know that you want to reach out to hubby and kids, etc. Just lay it all out there because if no one confronts her on this issue and she continues this pattern of behavior, she will wake up in two years (or less), and be knee-deep in remorse. By then it will be too late for any type of reconciliation.

    When you meet with her, go prepared. Numbers of Christian marriage counselors (or pastors), and a trusty old copy of the “Love and Respect,” book. After taking, teaching and leading an L & R conference, that one ministry is without a doubt a marriage-saver. More than likely (and from the sounds of it), she’s not ready to entertain any of this because she is enjoying her current life with somebody else. Unfortunately, when reality comes knocking, she is going to fall and fall hard.

    I feel for you and I feel for your friend and her family! I’ll start praying and I hope she is able to come to her senses and soon…before it’s too late.

  7. I have been thinking about your situation and wanted to share one more thing… a few years ago my friend got engaged and I did not support her decision. It was really hard b/c I was a bridesmaid and she is a very close friend but their relationship had a lot of issues and I didn’t feel they were ready to move forward with getting married. I told her my concerns and she was really upset at first and felt like I wasn’t being supportive. Things were weird for a while but eventually she softened, forgave me and our relationship went back to normal. They moved forward, I accepted her decision and we didn’t speak much of it again but I felt confident knowing I had expressed my concerns.

    They have now been married for a few years and have had the same issues they did as a dating and engaged couple. She told me her dad an I were the only two people willing to speak up about it and even though it was hard to hear at the time (and she did not take our advice) she still appreciated our willingness to speak truth into her life.

    Even though it was hard (and still hard to see her in a difficult marriage), I am in a sense, proud of myself for being one of the few who were honest with her! Hope this helps in some way!

  8. Oh, my! Erin, I missed this post, I think maybe your blog makeover (which is very nice, by the way) bumped you off of my feed. Anyway-I am SO sorry to hear about this friend. I think this is one of the hardest things about our friendships with other women… we want to love them and support them no matter what, and be good friends… but what happens when they are really screwing up?!

    I think the only thing you can really do is let her know how you feel. Tell her that you want to be happy for her happiness, but with the knowledge that she has abandoned not only a husband, but also her kids, it is impossible for you. Once you have done this, you have to decide if she is the type of person you want to remain friends with. I have had friendships dissolve because I could not back a friend’s choices, and they were unwilling to see that they were making choices which would ultimately cause self destruction.

    I guess what I’m saying is, there is a fine line between being a good friend, and being an enabler. I never, ever want to be the person that makes a friend feel ok about a really bad decision (and I’m talking seriously bad, like marrying an abuser) rather than dealing with the hard truth. Sometimes by just being a friend who won’t tell it like it is, we think we’re doing a favor when really we’re motivating that person to believe what they’re doing is ok. Looks like I’m pretty much saying what everyone else is, so I guess we’re all on the same page.

    I can say-I have had friendships where I cut contact with friends rather than talking to them about the situation first, when I was a bit younger. I really regret not having those discussions now, because I wonder if it could have at least lead to some sort of closure!

    Finally, pray on it. You know God will walk you through this! And I hope for the best, for you and Megan’s poor husband and kids. And peace for Megan… because you know that somewhere inside, she knows this is wrong.

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  10. I just recently had a friend do the same thing. For her it was linked to alcohol/drug use, but same basics. Two kids, loving husband, and all of a sudden just gone. Not only was she a great friend, but a leader in our church, which made it all the more uncomfortable.

    So many people just shunned her, cut off all ties, and called her a horrible person, wife and mother. But what it comes down to it this, we can never know what really went on behind those doors, and as Christians, who are we to judge.

    So as a friend, I never condoned what she did, because as a mother, I couldn’t understand how its even possible. But shes not my mother, nor is she my wife, she is my friend, and although she made a couple bad choices and wrong decisions, she is still my friend, and likely needs me now more than ever.

    My advice? Be completely honest. That is what friendship is about. Tell her your heart breaks for her kids, but if she is truly happier this way, then everything will work itself out in the end. No need to take a position on her choices, just be there to listen when she needs you.

  11. Wow, that’s so tough! I’m all for the coffee and asking her questions approach. Proverbs 3:3 calls us to have both mercy AND truth. Leaving out one or another isn’t what loving someone is all about. If loving her enough to tell her the truth ruins your friendship but does something to bring her closer to healing the relationships that are most vital for her, her husband and kiddos, then maybe that just has to be ok.

  12. Previous comments have already stated what I was going to: meet up with her for coffee somewhere and be honest with her. Sure, she may not take it well, and it’s hard to confront, but I think that’s necessary. Is she a Christian? If so, it’s even more imperative that she knows what she’s doing isn’t the best decision. Speak the truth in love, right? It’s easier said than done sometimes.

    I don’t know what it is, but it seems like this story/situation is becoming more and more common, especially in the church. I don’t understand it, especially leaving children to live with a different man. This is harsh but I think it’s incredibly self-centered. And it seems like as Christians, at least in America, we’re getting more and more that way.

    Anyway, I think you need to speak to her in person and figure out everything that’s going on. I’ll be praying for you and for her!

  13. Oh Erin!

    I somehow missed this blog post when it was new too and I’m so sorry. I know you’re in a tough spot. I went through a similar situation myself recently.

    The friend of mine was a Christian so I knew that she knew what she was doing was wrong. At first I was just sort of stunned into silence so I didn’t have much to say.

    After awhile I realized that she wouldn’t have told me if she hadn’t expected me to be honest with her. There are so few people in this world that are willing to be honest that it’s important to grab on to opportunities like that.

    Best of luck!

  14. This is SO hard. I’d like to say I can’t relate. But unfortunately I can. Too well. I’ve walked in your shoes and have wrestled hard with myself and God.

    Pray. Pray. Pray. That’s all I’ve got tonight.

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