If your marriage was in trouble, who would you turn to help you out? Would it be a spiritual leader, female friend or a co-worker? Or maybe a male friend or a family member?
"Results from our online survey indicate that people are most likely to confide in a female friend, followed by a family member, male friend and co-worker," says Dr. Bill Doherty, professor at the University of Minnesota and developer of the Marital First Responders training. "This is important information because we know from experience that friends and family can be helpful. But, they can also throw gasoline on the fire by taking sides, giving pointed advice or criticizing the other spouse."
After years of working in the field of marriage and family and seeing this happen, Doherty and his daughter, Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, took action. They came up with the concept of Marital First Responders.
"How many times have friends or family members confided in you that their marriage was in trouble, and you honestly had no idea what to say?" asks Doherty. "I think it is very important for people to be able to find support from those who love them and truly have their best interests at heart.
"A couple of years ago, I found a journal article about Mental Health First Aid Training in Australia. It was started by a couple who was dealing with mental health issues. Within 10 years, 1 percent of the entire adult population in Australia had gone through this training. It has now gone worldwide. I thought, 'If they can do this for mental health, surely we can do it for marriage.'
"One woman shared that, after she learned of her husband's affair, she kicked him out and went straight to a divorce lawyer," Doherty says. "In the midst of the chaos, she confided in a longtime friend about what had happened. The friend shared that 25 years ago she'd had an affair. But instead of divorcing, she and her husband talked about it, got help and worked things out. The woman admired her friend and thought, 'If they can figure out a way to make it work, I should at least try to make our marriage work.' Both couples are together today as a result of the helpful words from a trusted friend."
While marriage may not remedy all social ills, the research is solid that a healthy marriage benefits society at large. Whether you are married or not, you can help your married friends by being a good friend to their marriage.
Also, celebrate and take care of your own marriage and the marriages around you.