045: How to Help Friends and Family with Marriage Struggles

Podcast Guest: Dr. Bill Doherty
045: How to Help Friends and Family with Marriage Struggles

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In this Episode

On today’s episode of the stronger marriage connection, Dr. Dave and Dr. Liz sit down with Dr. Bill Doherty, back from Season 1 due to popular demand, to share how we can all become marital first responders. A long time Marriage and Family Therapist, he is an expert on challenges couples face when navigating marital crisis.

0:00 – Introduction: Who is Bill Doherty?  

2:29 – Where the idea of marital first responders comes from

4:42 – First important step in being a first responder.

6:32 – Other Do’s and Don’ts

9:45 – We can be an influence

12:16 – Common complaints from marriages

15:26 – Perspective skill technique example

19:16 – Learning to protect boundaries

21:36 – Unforced error

24:12 – You can be a friend to someone and their marriage

30:33 – What to say without adding negativity

31:14 – Where to get more resources from Bill

32:55 – Takeaways

Insights and Invites


Bill: Marriage is existing of social relationships and when people open up, it is a precious gift they are giving. It is good to be mindful and intentional in how we respond.

Dave: We can have empathy without agreeing with others perspectives, you can still show compassion and lend a helping hand even if we don’t necessarily agree with what they may be saying. 

Liz: LEAP: Listen, empathy, affirm and positive perspective.


  • Check out maritalfirstresponders.org and participate in some of the workshops available to you
  • When giving advice to friends it is important to be a good friend to that person but also their marriage, listen with empathy but don’t rush to give advice. Don’t jump to take a friend’s side without considering the whole picture.
  • Use life experience when giving out advice, you may not be an expert but we all have experiences to take and learn from when helping others.

About Bill Doherty:

Bill Doherty is a Professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. A long-time marriage and family therapist, he is an expert on challenges couples face in the modern world, on navigating marital crisis and avoiding divorce, and on using family rituals to enhance the quality of family life. His books for the public include The Intentional Family and Take Back Your Marriage. In recent years Bill has taken this couples work to the national level via cofounding Braver Angels, an initiative working to decrease the political polarization that is dividing the country. Among his awards is the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Family Therapy Academy.

Bill Doherty Links:


Bill Doherty Books


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