Dear Coleen,

I’m a woman in my 40s and I’m really struggling to help my friend, who’s going through a tough time in her marriage.

She and her husband ­basically hate each other’s guts and there are constant arguments and screaming matches.

He also often stays out late or doesn’t come home at all, so she has no idea where he is.

She talks to me about it a lot – in fact it takes up most of our conversations to the point where I feel mentally and physically drained after discussing it.

I find myself telling her to leave him because I literally don’t know what else to say to her any more, but I don’t think she feels able to do that because they have two kids and a big mortgage.

She’s advised her friend repeatedly to walk away (file image)

She never takes my advice – I’ve advised counselling, I’ve advised taking a break from each other, but I think she just wants to shout about it to someone and that someone is me!

My husband says she’s selfish for dumping all her problems on me all the time and he’s probably right.

The truth is, my friend and her husband are both as bad as each other, and she can be vile to him.

I’ve often thought that I don’t blame him for not coming home. What else can I say to her and should I tell her I don’t want to talk about it any more?

Coleen says…

Maybe this drama is actually what keeps them together, but of course it’s not a healthy relationship.

Or maybe they just can’t be bothered to break up, so would rather endure the stress than face a divorce or perhaps it’s a “better the devil you know” scenario.

What my ex-hubby and I discovered was that we didn’t actually hate each other, we’d just got to a point where we hated the marriage and were better off as friends. 

I think all you can say to your friend is, “I’ve told you what I think and I don’t feel there’s anything more I can say to help you. The situation doesn’t change. I want to see you happy, but I’m running out of ideas”.

You’re right, she really needs to offload to a therapist, but she might never make the decision to do that.

I’ve been through two divorces, and my friends were wonderful when I needed to get things off my chest. However, I also managed to see my friends without making my troubles the focus of every get-together.

I actually needed to take my mind off things at home by lightening the mood, enjoying some laughs and even listening to someone else’s problems.

So while it’s good to offload, it’s also good to take a break from it, and I think you should suggest that to her.

It doesn’t mean she can’t talk about it, but she could talk about it for a few minutes, and then you can move on.