I while back I was on the spot to come up with a few questions to help a couple avoid divorce and save their marriage.
Let yourself feel this story. It happened to me. Your friend and fellow LifeGroup leader, Natalie, texts you one evening and asks, “Hey, can you talk?” Something’s up. Your heart beats a little faster, and instead of replying, you give her a call. With some panic in her voice, Natalie describes how her LifeGroup started normal tonight, then ended really crappy. She explains that her friends Karen and John told her they’re considering divorce.
Now, let yourself feel this. Natalie and her husband have no clue what to say to John and Karen, yet they’re getting together later that week. What do I tell Natalie? How will she know what to say to John and Karen?
Sadly, the chances are strong you’ll end up in Natalie’s situation, or at least mine. When you do, it’s less about what you know, and more about what you ask. Asking the right questions will help couples to hear themselves think out loud about the right and wrong answers. So, when a couple in your LifeGroup is considering divorce, ask these three questions.
1. Is someone in danger?
Sometimes people consider divorce as a way out of a dangerous situation. Out of fear, they won’t admit abuse, but they’ll talk about divorce. It’s always a good idea to ask the person who’s talking about divorce if they’re in danger. If you have any reason at all to think there could possibly be verbal, emotional, or physical abuse happening, ask. But, ask the spouse who may be a victim when their spouse is not around.
If someone is in danger, their first priority should be safety. The marriage problems can be addressed in the future, but the immediate need is to ensure they are safe. Reach out to your pastor right away to ask for advice, resources, and expert guidance on how to help if you suspect someone is in danger.
2. Who else are you talking to about your marriage?
Nothing grows without some kind of external feedback—marriages included. We need trusted relationships to help us sort through seemingly impossible situations. This is about helping both spouses to realize together that they need healthy people to help them find healthy answers.
When life is going moderately well, we tend to hide our struggles. People like John and Karen are most willing to share because they’re in crisis. Use this crisis window to connect their openness to the godly wisdom of people like you, and others who can help. The next question will help them discover who they may need to involve.
3. Are you worried about crisis, on your way to crisis, or in crisis?
Every marriage experiences pain and adversity. However, when unaddressed pain erupts or unexpected catastrophic events occur, the marriage can be thrown into crisis mode. But how do you know if a marriage is in crisis? Just ask one or both spouses. Remember, if they’re in crisis, they’re way more likely to share. If they’re in crisis, act fast to help them reach out to a pastor and seek immediate professional help. Counseling usually isn’t free, but compared to the emotional, spiritual, and physical costs of divorce, it’s pretty darn close.
If the situation is not yet in crisis, your questions can encourage a longer-term approach. Ask them to consider counseling, start praying together, attend a marriage event, read a marriage book, meet with a pastor, continue your conversations, bring back date nights, or plan a weekend away.
Finally, remember this.
It’s your job to be a connector, not a catch-all. You’re a friend, not a psychologist, sex therapist, or marriage counselor. Your pastors are just a phone call away. Put us to work as listening ears, guides, and address books of helpful connections.
I changed everyone’s names, but the couple in Natalie’s group was in a significant crisis. We were able to connect them with a counselor, and Natalie’s LifeGroup played an ongoing support role. It took time and a lot of hard work, but their marriage turned in a very positive direction, and they’re still married today.
God has placed you in friendship so that when the unexpected happens, you can ask the right questions to connect people to the help they need. Trust God, reach out for guidance, and you’ll be amazed how God uses you to bring restoration to marriages headed toward divorce.
Craig and Amy wrote a great book and Bible Plan every married couple should read.