Friends And Divorce, For Better Or For Worse
You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child, well it can take a friendship network to enhance your marriage or dampen it.
Whilst there are many things that can interfere with a marriage’s stability and chances of divorce, it turns out your friends might be one of them.
We tend to think of friendship networks as a source of help rather than hindrance but when you express those marriage vows you not only take on your spouse’s family, you also become connected to their friendship group, for better or for worse.
So how do those friendship networks impact your marriage and your chances of divorce?
Links Between Partners’ Early Disapproval Of Friends & Divorce
Researchers looked at the effects that both shared friends and one’s spouse’s friends can have on a marriage, by looking at the perception each spouse had of those friends, and divorce rates.*
Namely, how did spouses’ reports at Year 1 and Year 2 of marriage correlate with divorce over the ensuing 16 years.
A sample of 355 couples – a mixture of black couples and white couples – from the Early Years of Marriage project was used.
The researchers examined reports of positive and negative aspects of the spouses’ friendship networks, specifically:
(a) reports of support from shared friends at Year 1;
(b) reports of disapproval of spouse’s friends at Year 1;
(c) reports of interference of spouse’s friends at Year 2.
The key finding was that when the husbands had reported negative perceptions of their wives’ friends during the early years of their marriage, there was a higher chance that they would have divorced later on than when the wives had reported negative perceptions of their husbands’ friends in those early years.
Importantly, the researchers deduced that this connection between Year 1 disapproval of wives’ friends and later divorce may partially be the result of wives’ friends interfering in the marriage.
Furthermore, negative aspects of married couple’s friendships were more predictive of divorce later on than were positive aspects of those friendship networks.
Interestingly, disapproval of friends seemed to be less of a risk factor for divorce amongst black couples compared to white couples.
Does Your Spouse Disapprove Of One Of Your Friends?
So if your spouse does disapproves of someone in your friendship network early on, it’s important to pay attention, especially so if it’s the husband disapproving of one or more of the wife’s friendships.
But what are the possible reasons for these issues and what should you be on the lookout for in your own marriage that you’ll want to address?
And would you be willing to end a friendship if you felt it was causing ongoing problems in your marriage?
Let’s take a look at five of the factors that may be at play here.
5 Reasons Your Spouse May Be Concerned About A Friend Of Yours
1. Your Spouse Is Concerned About The Advice Your Friend Is Giving You
If you wife or husband feels that your friend is giving you bad relationship advice, it would make sense for them to have concerns about your friendship. Maybe your partner notices that you seem different – for example, distant or uncooperative – every time you’ve been hanging around with them, on the phone or in person.
Whilst seeking advice from loved ones can be a great idea in some situations, it can also be risky, damaging even, depending on the topic you’re seeking advice for and the attitude and intentions of the person you’re speaking to.
Anyone trying to help you should help you to find the right answers for yourself, not tell you what to do. Also, loved ones can have their own personal opinions and experiences colouring the truth.
So if your friend is being negative about your spouse, maybe even telling you to divorce them, telling you they won’t change, etc, they don’t know that this is the right decision for you and you also have to ask yourself if they are doing it because they have your best interests at heart.
No matter how long you’ve been friends, people can drift apart and if they are jealous of the things you have when their life has turned out differently or not as they had hoped, they can secretly be jealous of you or even resent you and wish that you were back to where they are, and may try to make it so.
Another thing to consider when speaking with a friend about your relationship problems is whether your friend generally has a bad attitude towards romantic relationships and marriage in general. Despite how much you and your friend love each other, maybe they’re not the right person to seek relationship advice from.
So maybe your spouse doesn’t like your friendship with this friend for fear that someone with a negative outlook on relationships, or someone who is themselves in an unhappy marriage but appears to not even be trying to resolve their own marital issues, is not someone your partner wants you spending so much time with. Especially if your spouse perceives a negative change in you after you’ve been spending time with that friend.
2. Your Spouse Is Concerned That Your Friend Dislikes Them
If your spouse gets the impression your friend dislikes them, your spouse should care to understand why and have a desire to improve things for your sake. But if your spouse simply has a knee-jerk reaction to dislike your friend back in a ploy to protect their own ego, then it might give you cause for concern.
And if your spouse simply tries to turn you against your friend or end the friendship outright, without any attempts to improve the dynamic between themselves and your friend for your sake, then is there something more sinister at play here?
Is it because your spouse does not want your friend to help you to see that you are married to someone who actually is making you unhealthy and unhappy, like for example, when you are married to an abusive partner, albeit unbeknown to you. (If this is a concern, seek help from a trusted loved one or a professional.)
So how your partner approaches this divide between him- or herself and your friend will be telling. That doesn’t mean your spouse has to jump over backwards to make your friend like them. But they should have a mature response to the predicament.
3. Your Spouse Is Worried Your Friend Has Romantic Feelings For You
If your spouse feels your friend is romantically into you, that’s an understandable cause for concern regardless of how much they trust you.
People who are your friends but also have lustful feelings for you, can easily try to find the right moment to try to steal you for themselves. And even if they don’t win, things may still happen that destabilise your own inner peace and/or break your partner’s trust and maybe even your relationship.
Plus, importantly, when someone has romantic feelings for you, they may try to break down your marriage in subtle ways, planting seeds of discontent, even contempt, in your mind for your partner. Little by little, this is how people psychologically manipulate their ‘friends’ when they want to have that friend for themselves. The spouse can simply become collateral damage.
Never underestimate the power of lust and jealousy.
Protecting your marriage is of utmost importance.
4. Your Spouse Feels Your Friend Distracts You From Them And Your Marriage
Does your friend regularly take up a great deal of your time, energy and attention without there being an understandable temporary reason for it, which results in you giving disproportionately less time, energy and attention to your spouse and your marriage? If so, it makes sense for your spouse to take issue with it.
Over time, that’s a lot of distraction, and too much distraction means you’re not nurturing your marriage as much as you should, not creating enough good memories with your spouse, you’re not resolving marital issues as quickly and easily as you should, and/or you’re creating unnecessary problems in your marital relationship.
Friends, especially those who are like family, are incredibly important, and friends who are good for you would never want to distract you from your spouse or be the root of any marital discord.
So assess where the problem lies and address the balance. Nurture your friendship but not at the detriment of your other significant relationships.
5. Your Spouse Thinks Your Friend Is a Bad Influence
Jim Rohn once said, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ Certainly, the information we consume through our eyes and ears do influence our health, our thoughts, and our behaviours.
So if your spouse is worried that your friend is a negative influence on your life, it’s worth paying attention because maybe they see changes from afar that you’ve not yet noticed yourself. If what your spouse says makes sense, and you’re glad they’ve highlighted these concerns to you, great! But then that does leave the question of what you’re going to do about that friendship.
In life, we evolve and if the people around you are making you evolve in a direction that has negative repercussions on other aspects of your life, such as your self-worth, your family relationships, your marital relationship, your parenting skills, your reputation, your integrity, your health, your life goals, and so on, then you have to take stock and decide what shape and form you want your social circle to take going forward. After all, ‘Not everybody is meant to be in our lives forever, and that’s okay.’ (Happy Relationships)
Listen, Reflect, Decide
So if your spouse has something to say about a friend of yours, listen to their concerns, take some time to reflect on their delivery and on the topics they’ve raised, and then decide.
Decide who has the right intentions for you.
Decide how important your marriage is to you.
Decide what you need to do.
* Fiori, K. L., Rauer, A. J., Birditt, K. S., Marini, C. M., Jager, J., Brown, E., & Orbuch, T. L. (2018). “I Love You, Not Your Friends”: Links between partners’ early disapproval of friends and divorce across 16 years. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 35(9), 1230–1250. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407517707061