Woman to Woman: On Giving Advice

Woman to Woman: On Giving Advice

Do y’all mind if I DON’T talk about Christmas for a second?  This has been on my mind for several days so I’m just going to say it despite the lack of holiday theme.

My women friends are so special to me and we do like to talk.  We share our problems, our struggles, our needs.  Many women talk to me about their problems and often tell me of difficult marriages.  It can be so hard to listen to a friend tell you about injustices she lives with through her husband.  Many times I’ll learn of very private, heartbreaking situations.

So I have a rule.  I never, ever talk badly about my friend’s husbands.  I won’t tell her how awful he is or how he should just shape up.  I don’t tear him down or council her to stand up to him.  I may sometimes think those things, but it is not my place to come between my friend and her husband.  The marriage relationship is the most sacred human bond in Scripture, making you one with another person (Mark 10:8).

I am also aware that I am only hearing one side of the story.  I don’t think my friend is lying or deceiving me.  She’s just venting.  I have to remember that.  I don’t need to solve her problem.  I just need to listen.

So when a friend tells me her husband is unloving toward her, I reply with something like, “Let’s pray for him.”  God promises to be there when two or more are gathered in His name (Matthew 18:20).  I may give advice, I may not.  But it will only be advice for her.  I have no business giving advice for him.

For example, if friend complains that her husband doesn’t help disciplining the children I might say, “Let’s think of ways you can build him up to the children and show unity,” or, ” If he won’t get involved, would he mind if you talked to him about your own plans for the kids so he could back you up if there is a problem?”  Or maybe, “Be sure you praise the good things he does in front of the children so they know he’s still a part of the parenting.”  I might try to help her come up with ways to manage the children without help.  But I would not offer any suggestions for things her husband should do.  That will only serve to divide them as a couple.

The man is the head of the home (1 Corinthians 11:3).  We must remember that when talking with our friends.  He is her head.  We must not undermine that.  He doesn’t have to deserve the position and he answers to God for his actions.

I’m not saying this is easy.  Boy sometimes I just want to haul off and give a piece of my mind.  That’s why I make it a hard and fast rule.  No matter what.  No matter how hard.  I don’t do it.

Your friend may not like that you don’t seem to sympathize with her by not saying how awful he is.  You can assure her that you care deeply, but you can’t do or say anything that would undermine her marriage.  You can listen, you can let her bounce ideas off of you, you will be glad to pray with her.  I’m telling you, your friends will realize they can trust you when you don’t cut their husbands down. If she asks you to give her advice that she can give to her husband, let her know that you can only give advice for her.

That’s what God does when we turn to Him with our problems.  He doesn’t say, “Well that jerk just needs to stop his terrible ways!”  He helps us improve ourselves and tells us where to turn.

In my personal experience, this has become a habit.  It’s been many years since I made that rule for myself and I’ve had hundreds of discussions with friends about their marriage struggles.  After a while, it has became habit and I realized that even in my own heart I am more likely to think kindly of other husbands despite the things I may know about them.

I hope you’re encouraged to make your own rule not to talk badly of your friend’s husbands.  If you’re worried that it will affect your friendships, how about making the rule together with your friends.  Decide not to do it anymore and ask her not to do it with you.

It’s a step toward being a trusted, godly friend.

“Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” 2 Corinthians 1:4

Comments

  1. Such wise counsel, Lisa. How would you handle a friend who continually complains about her husband… even when she is telling the truth (at least from her perspective)?

    • Suzanne, those conversations are hard, when you have to tell a friend that you can’t listen to her complaints anymore. If it was often, I would treat it like gossip and tell her I was not comfortable with discussing her husband unless it was something I could specifically help her with. I might also divert the conversation consistently to her and not her husband. She will either get the hint or stop talking to you about it.

      It’s tough. Lisa~

  2. Thank you for your words of wisdom. Although me and my girlfriends are not married yet, we plan to make this commitment to not only each other but to God. This is an excellent article and a reminder that bashing my friends (future) husband is the opposite of my mission as a Christian. To be Christ like. I honestly believe that by taking this approach, My friends and I will not bash our husbands on consistent basis, but instead pray for our husbands and encourage each other to pray for healthy marriages.

    Thank you,
    A 24 year old College Student.

    • DeMetra, this is a great idea! What a wonderful start to your future marriage. Thanks for the idea to start from the beginning. Lisa~

  3. Jannell Nolan :

    Thank you for this advice! More of us need to be reminded of this. You never really know what is going on in someone else’s home. Praying with/for them is the best thing we can do.

  4. The pastor that performed our wedding ceremony gave us the best piece of marriage advice. He said to never speak negatively about your spouse to your friends or family. They may do something to make you angry or hurt you and you vent to your friend or family member. Then you forgive your spouse and move on and forget about it, but that friend or your mother or your sister will NEVER forget what your spouse did to you and they will always affect their opinion of your spouse.

    I think it’s a great piece of advice. I rarely ever have anything negative to say about my husband, but when I do, I take it up with him and no one else.

    • Jenny, I got similar advice and it has really saved me many times from saying things I shouldn’t. Thanks for reminding us of this….it’s so wise! Lisa~

  5. Lisa,

    These are great personal rules and habits to practice.

    I recall sharing with my husband what a SIL said about her husband (my husband’s own brother). I was a very new bride. My hubby was appalled. “I would feel so horrible and embarrassed and angry if I knew you talked to your friends about me like that.” So, number one, it’s disrespectful to our husbands. How would he feel if he knew we were talking like that about him? And furthermore, I was too young in The Lord to respond wisely.

    Secondly, where in the Bible does it ever say that God is the head of the woman (wife)? Nowhere. As you stated, husbands are the head of wives. If we aren’t reverent of God’s divine order, we are rebellious to God’s Word.

    Finally, years ago I broke down in despair before a Titus 2 aged woman who was a long-time wife, mother of four and grandmother. I told her I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, and wondered how I could make things better for me and my man. I was highly hormonal that day with a raging migraine. I needed sleep and cramps management, not to mention tongue control. HA! Like you advised, my wise friend’s first response was to take me in her arms and say, “Sweetie, let’s pray.” I shall never forget it as long as I live, and in turn, I have been afforded many opportunities to return the favor.

    It’s good to remember that we’re a Titus 2 woman to some gal, no matter our age. Oh, how we need wise, godly counsel from women like you today. Prayer, prayer, and more prayer is the key. If I’d only learned decades earlier to shut my mouth and pray… Wow. Fewer regrets, I can tell you!

    friend’s husband
    friends’ husbands

    *hugs*
    Kelley

  6. Thanks for mentioning this– it’s the approach I have instinctively taken in similar situations but I hadn’t really thought through why it is so important in supporting our loved ones’ marriages.
    Mary

    • Mary, I’m so glad you have had this instinct. I had to do it purposely or I would have probably said too many foolish things to count and hurt a lot of people. You’re so smart! Lisa~

  7. I have similar rules when talking with children about their parents. :) Very important to remember, thank you!

  8. I agree for the most part except where I see that there is actual abusive patterns (even emotional/psychological not just physical) then I will say more. Not that he is awful or this or that… But say hey is there a pattern here that needs intervention, healing, counselling (& if its violence, separation may be needed too). Just praying and being super awesome wifey won’t necessarily fix a bad, spiralling or dangerous relationship. We need to discern the difference between venting and a cry for help.

    • Lisa, I often make suggestions and sometimes you have to help a friend see she’s in a dangerous situation and needs to seek help. I’m not suggesting “just praying and being super awesome” will fix everything. I’m saying don’t engage in tearing down the husband. Even in abuse (and most problems are not that extreme) we don’t need to tell her what we think of him. We just need to help her figure out what she should do. Thanks, Lisa~

  9. What a great post. I hope when I am in that situation with a friend, I remember what you wrote.

  10. Such great advice. So encouraging and helpful! We need to have a plan. Thank you for sharing!

  11. What a wonderful thought. I have a similar rule never to say anything about someone that I wouldn’t say in front of them. Only God knows our hearts, and words can be so tricky!

  12. Okay, after reading your 31 ways post and now this…I think you should start an ask Lisa column on your blog:) You are great! This is such a great topic and you gave great advice. It’s so easy to go the other route and relate to your friend by agreeing how horrible whatever is happening is because of hubby. Great advice!

  13. I have enjoyed reading your blog and wonder if you could help me find some answers. I have had an on again/off again boyfriend for the past 4 years. He is my best friend, or used to be and now he still calls me his girlfriend but seems to be having a hard time. He goes for days without talking to me and wont bring me around his friends or family because of some hard times we have had in the past or at least that is what I can only assume because he wont give me any other answers. I love him more than anything and he claims to be a christian and turns to God often. I have to wonder what I am doing wrong. any advice is welcomed.

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