Sometimes life doesn’t always go the way we plan. Sometimes our dreams and ideals do not turn out the way we hoped. I never would have imagined at 31 years old, I would be divorced and finished with the annulment process.
Going through a divorce has taught me about myths sometimes held in relation to divorce. It has expanded my heart with greater mercy and grace to other people I encounter on the journey of life. While some Catholics can experience divorce as “the scarlet D” writes Rose Sweet, the heartbreak of divorce on people is something our God passionately cares about.
Yes, God hates divorce, but He does not hate divorced people.
Annulment is not a “Catholic divorce.” While Annulments are specific only to Catholic Christians, I think they can often get a bad rap and be confusing for people to understand.
A divorce is a civil judicial act that legally ends a marriage. An annulment is an ecclesiastical determination where what was believed to be a valid sacramental, Catholic marriage is declared to never have been a marriage in the first place.
So what does that translate to? That means the day a couple got married, it looked like a sacramental marriage took place. It appeared that both parties had the proper intent and will to live out these vows in a life-long covenant. However, after a thorough investigation, there can be found reasons and circumstances that can prove that a marriage never really happened at all (making it null).
Annulments are not the Catholic version of divorce. It means for a variety of reasons, it was never a sacrament to begin with even though it appeared to be. It also does not mean children that came about through that union as deemed illegitimate.
I was going through the annulment process during the Year of Mercy. Can we say ironic?! Let’s just say I had a lot more to learn about mercy and forgiveness that I ever imagined.
I found the annulment process to be healing, very freeing, and critical as I moved forward with my life in peace and wholeness.
Being divorced doesn’t mean I gave up on my vows.
Seven months after I got married, the walls caved in around me. I discovered my husband was a sex addict and unable to be honest. I was both verbally and sexually abused. But giving up was not an option, and we wanted to do whatever it took to lay a new, healthy foundation.
We plunged into recovery: individual and couples counseling, weekly therapy groups, a weekly couple’s recovery group, and intensives. In the end, we spent close to $25,000. We tried every single possible avenue to heal and try to save the marriage.
Being a divorced Catholic woman doesn’t mean I gave up on my vows. Rather, after much prayer and discernment I saw there was nothing left to do. I was merely surviving and not thriving. I could no longer continue to live in that environment for a variety of reasons. Sometimes after trying the most desperate measures, there are real possibilities that a relationship cannot be saved.
Divorce does not mean you failed or gave up. It means you are human. And humans are imperfect, but God always uses our pain and imperfections to make something better than we could have imagined. Our brokenness and wounds don’t push God away, but rather they draw us to His Sacred Heart.
Divorce doesn’t mean you will never have a successful marriage.
It takes two people to make a marriage work, and it takes two people for a marriage to fall apart. While my former spouse had some significant issues, I’ve had to face the reality I dragged in plenty of unhealthiness and my own set of issues into the marriage as well.
I was a raging co-dependent, emotionally insecure and needy, manipulative, and controlling. My brokenness contributed equally to a marriage that didn’t last.
Going through a divorce doesn’t mean I (or anyone) cannot someday have a healthy, life-giving marriage.
I have a learned a lot of lessons: about myself, love, honesty, addiction, and relationships. I want to learn these lessons now so I will not repeat the same actions and behaviors in a future relationship. Even if a first marriage failed, that doesn’t mean I (or you) are a failure. The only way to be a failure is to live out of a victim mindset.
With hard work, counseling, and prayer, it is possible to walk forward into the future with hope and renewed strength. Facing your own pain, issues, and brokenness now will not only change you but be a game changer for future relationships.
We all will have a different story and travel a different path in this life. This is just a chapter in my story. It will not define me, but I am choosing to let it refine me.
If you are divorced or know someone who is, please know you are not alone. The Catholic Church wants to be a supportive, loving place for you to land. We all will face and go through pain throughout life. And if divorce is that pain for you or someone in your life, please know you are not meant to face it all alone.
If you are divorced or know of someone in your life that is, there are so many wonderful resources available to help in healing and moving forward. Consider reading good books like Healing the Heartbreak of Divorce, Divorced. Catholic. Now What?, and The Catholic Guide to Dating After Divorce. Consider finding a local church that offers a Divorce Care support group. If you need a fellow sister in the Lord to talk with, please comment and we will get in touch. I would be happy to offer any encouragement or support that I can.
You don’t need to walk this path alone, and you are certainly not the only one facing this pain. God can use this painful reality if you let Him. You can find hope, healing, and joy again.
You may have regrets about your marriage, but you do not want to have regrets about how you chose to respond and heal from your divorce.
God uses all things.
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And yes, He can even use a divorce for a greater purpose you may not see right now.
Written by Patty Breen. Find out more about her here.