When “Betsy” came in for her first appointment, she wore big sunglasses to hide her bigger tears. She finally composed herself enough to explain that her friends “Meg” and “Rory” were getting divorced.

It is always hard to watch people you care about, in pain, I said.


 Betsy cried harder.

Rory had called Mark with some lame excuse about why he wasn’t coming to the Olympics –watching party at their home. Meg would be there, though. It was curious, but not alarming.

Then, at the party, Meg confided in Betsy. With a big grin, she announced, “I’m free” I’ve got my life back. Wahoo!

Betsy couldn’t believe her ears. “It felt like Meg and Rory were divorcing me and Mark.”

DIV 3-1

After all, since their weddings three years ago, Betsy and Mark and Meg and Rory had been socially inseparable. Nothing kinky about it, they attended concerts and sporting events together. At least a couple of nights each week, they got together for an evening meal.

One night a week, all four played league volleyball on the beach.

“It was perfect,” she said.

Betsy… and it turns out… Mark too… was in something that felt like mourning. They had to say goodbye not only to life as they knew it, but to what once was happy anticipation for fun times with these people in the future.


 For their own sake, I so hoped Meg and Rory were getting some professional counseling, separately or together.

But, here in my office, was Betsy, in obvious distress, seeking help for herself. She was sad for her friends, for sure, but was even more frightened for herself and her marriage.

Research has shown that divorce does sometimes seem to be contagious. When the marriage of really good friends, explode, there is a tendency for significant others to become more vulnerable.


  1. Bring up your fears with your spouse… but relate your concerns to the failure of your friend’s marriage. It’s less threatening to talk about issues in the context of others.
  2. Be careful not to overdo this, though. Men, in particular, get annoyed when you bring too much drama from the lives of others into your own relationship.
  3. Remember that talking about divorce and then about the joys of your own relationship, remains one of the best ways to avoid it.
  4. You may be sad for your friends, but their misfortune can turn into a gentle reminder to pay attention to your spouse and his/her needs.
  5. Demonstrate,…don’t just talk about it… how you have confidence in the strength of your own bond with your spouse.
  6. Your own life has to come first. Don’t stop exercising in your grief. If you take care of yourself, you can be a better friend… and even more crucial… a better spouse.

DIV 4-1



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