Betrayal of any kind is a terrible thing to experience, but betrayal within the sacred vows of marriage is heartrending. Your entire world shatters as you come to realize that everything you once believed is a lie. It’s a confusing, overwhelming time when even simple tasks seem to require impossible energy.
When a friend experiences this kind of pain, it’s hard to know how to help—what to say, what to do.
In the first article in this series, I shared the feelings of betrayal and the myriad of emotions assaulting a person going through this pain. I shared the story of losing my marriage and how I felt during that time. It is my intent with the first article to help you understand how your friend feels. You can read it HERE.
Today I will list several practical, everyday ways you can help your friend cope. This list was compiled from my own experience, as well as the experiences of other women who have gone through betrayal in their marriages.
One thing before we dive into the list—women in this situation may find it very difficult to ask for help. We feel like we’re being a burden, and we will often try to solve problems on our own, even though friends have said things like, “call me anytime” or “let me know how I can help.” We DO need the help, even if we find it hard to ask for it.
Practical ways to help a friend whose spouse has been unfaithful:
- Help with food, especially in the first days and weeks after finding out about her husband’s betrayal. Like I mentioned above, even simple tasks are monumental during this time. It’s all she can do to keep herself and her children dressed and fed. Text her that you’re dropping off a casserole for supper. Prepare meals she can pull out of the freezer. Grab some premade items for her kids’ school lunches, and while you’re at it, buy her favorite treat.
2. Offer to run errands, pick up groceries, or babysit her kids if she would rather run the errands herself. Throughout your week, check with her to see if she needs you to pick up anything if you are heading out.
3. Send LOTS of encouragement her way. Text verses of encouragement. Save inspirational memes to your phone and send them to her. Write cards and notes of encouragement. If you don’t know what to write, simply saying “I love you, I’m here for you, I’m praying for you” will be enough. (On a personal note, I have every single card, letter, and note that was sent to me during this time in my life. I cherish these tangible expressions of love.)
4. Be willing to listen without judgment. “What you should have done” conversations are not helpful and only rub salt in her open wounds.
5. Be very, very careful about giving her advice. Usually the best practice is to let lawyers give legal advice, and let qualified counselors give marriage advice. Be willing to listen and love without necessarily telling her what she should do. The same goes for her children. If they want to talk about the situation with you, ask permission from your friend first.
6. Don’t allow others to speak badly about your friend. It’s very easy for people outside the situation to judge, and these hurtful comments often get back to her. She does not need any more pain on top of what she is already going through.
7. Look for ways to boost her self-esteem. Compliment her, give her a gift card to get her hair or nails done, or buy a small thinking-of-you gift. I as I mentioned in my previous article, she feels extremely unattractive and blames herself for her husband’s sin.
8. Check in with her often. Perhaps even arrange a signal (such as a certain emoji) that she can text you if she feels desperate and needs to talk.
The rest of the list includes ways you can help if your friend loses her marriage.
9. Offer to attend court or to sit with her as she meets with lawyers. The legalities of divorce and child custody are extremely stressful, and she desperately needs support during this time.
10. Realize that in a divorce, she doesn’t just lose her husband. She loses his family, many mutual friendships, and the family gatherings and holidays she’s always been a part of.
11. Remember that all the household chores now fall to her. The cooking, cleaning, laundry, and homework duty must be taken care of by her. Add to that mowing, lawn care, upkeep of the house and car, and snow shoveling in winter. If you (or your husband or church family) can help in any of these areas, she will greatly appreciate it.
12. Offer to help with transportation. Even in a two-parent family, it’s difficult to get all the kids to and from school, church, and sports events. It’s doubly difficult for a single mom.
13. In a split-custody situation, check to see that she’s not alone on the holidays when she doesn’t have her children. If she is, invite her to your family gathering. (Christmas is especially hard without her children.)
14. Having a plan for emergencies will be a big relief for her. Help her make one. Who can she call if she gets a flat tire or her car breaks down? Who can help if the furnace suddenly stops working in the middle of the night? Who can assist if she has sick kids and can’t get the day off work? Put together a list of willing friends who are able to volunteer. (True story—I had a gas leak at 10pm one night. The pilot light to my gas water heater was lit, and my boys and I ran outside until I was able to get my brother on the phone and followed his directions to turn the gas off. The next day a deacon from our church capped the gas line and installed an electric water heater by the time I got home from work. Your superheroes may wear capes, but mine mostly wear jeans and flannel shirts.) 🙂
15. Help her kids buy or make cards or gifts for Mother’s Day and her birthday. Until they are older, they will need help in making her day special.
16. If she has boys, help her connect them with men who can do “guy things” with them. Sports, hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, etc. are things they might miss out on. They need positive male role models in their lives.
17. At church gatherings, save a seat for your friend. It is overwhelming and painful to be single in a sea of couples and families, especially in the first few weeks and months following separation or divorce.
18. Be aware that school and sporting events are particularly hard, since her former husband (and often his new girlfriend/wife) are in attendance. One woman shared how her friends would surround her “like a wall” at sporting events, and how it really helped to have their support when she had to be in the same place as her ex husband and his affair partner.
19. Encourage her to do “fun” things. Healing and joy will be a long time in coming, but “pockets of fun,” such as attending a movie or concert or having a girls’ day out, will remind her that there is joy up ahead.
20. Finally—-pray, pray pray. Whenever she comes to mind, pray for her, and let her know that you’re praying.
At the time of this writing, I’ve been a single mum for 6 1/2 years, and I’m so very thankful for the friends, family, and churches (both my church in Australia and my church here in Missouri) who have helped me get through this difficult time. With the Lord by my side and the support around me, I have come to a place of comfort, healing, and joy.
Your friend will get through this—there is light at the end of the tunnel. She will one day find true joy and healing.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being there for her.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
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