A few months ago, a woman at my (Jeremiah Gibson's) church pulled me aside to talk about some marital problems.
I listened, but also reminded my friend that because of our relationship, I was unable to do couples counseling or provide advice as to what she should do. Fortunately, I know of a few couples therapists in her neighborhood, and I referred her and her husband to one of my therapist friends.
Friends and Confidants
A recent study showed that 73% of the 1000 men and women assessed have played the role of confidant for another friend regarding their relationship troubles, including growing apart, not communicating enough, and how one partner handles money. Over half of the confidants have discussed their friends' infidelity or consideration of divorce. 72% of people who divorced said they confided about the problem leading to the divorce in a friend of family member, not a professional.
In fact, almost 63% of those surveyed have played the role of confider. Fortunately, these confiders seem to searching for people to listen to them or give emotional support. Only 20% of confiders reported wanting their confidants to be critical of their partner. Only 12% of confiders reported needing their confidants to provide feedback as to whether or not to stay in the relationship.
Nevertheless, playing the role of confidant for your friend (or worse, a family member) can leave you in a really uncomfortable situation. Almost half reported feeling little confidence about their role of confidant.
For one thing, you often only get one side of the story, and in a worst case scenario, you feel compelled to support your friend and break a potential friendship with his/her partner. You get triangled into a dispute; rather than your friend confronting his/her partner about the issue, they involve you.
And for another thing, what an enormous sense of responsibility to talk with someone about their relationships! We experience this whenever we work with couples, but we've also had years of training in working with observing relationship processes and teaching positive communication and intimacy skills. Odds are, you've had minimal training in working with and coaching relationships, if any.
So if you find yourself in the position of confidant, please listen to your friends and avoid giving unsolicited advice. Ask your friend what he/she might need from you as they are sharing information about their relationship.
And feel free to send your friends our way. Our couples therapists are trained and licensed to help couples work through a diversity of issues--communication, intimacy and sexuality, infidelity, divorce, emotional and physical abuse.