The member stories here at CatholicMatch are filled with examples of people who have overcome some serious struggles to find happiness with someone on CatholicMatch. I don’t think it’s shortchanging the cross any of them carried, to say what 61-year-old Jan went through to find her way to Greg trumps them all.
Jan’s first marriage lasted 35 years, but was marked by abuse—both verbal and physical—along with infidelity. She was able to prevent her first husband from doing physical harm to her two children, but at great price to herself, including ending up with cracked ribs. “Mom, why don’t you divorce him,” her daughter would ask, as the years and the abuse piled up.
When she chose to make the break, the Church was waiting for her. Jan, a confirmed Lutheran, decided to go through the RCIA process. She watched EWTN daily and it was there that she heard of CatholicMatch.
“Joining was therapeutic for me,” she said. “CatholicMatch made me a wiser person, along with the Church.” The nice men she met and went out with helped pave the way for her entry into a healthy relationship. Her first marriage was annulled—she was free to remarry without conditions, while the ex must get permission from a bishop.
Greg, four years older than Jan, had been through his own Calvary. His wife had passed away from a stroke. One Sunday after church he flipped over the parish bulletin—something he would later recall as being something out of the ordinary—and happened to see the CatholicMatch ad. Shortly after, he joined the site in September of 2008, Jan sent him a “smile” emotigram.
Normally if almost 30 days passes without a reply, it means that, to borrow a movie title “He’s Just That Not Into You.” Not so in this case. Greg was simply having a difficult time figuring out the computer and how to reply. When he got back to Jan, she was a little skeptical. “Yeah, yeah, “ she recalled thinking upon getting his reply. “What, did nothing else work out?” But they still corresponded and after a couple weeks got together at a local Panera Bread.
Greg and Jan lived a couple hours apart in Illinois. Greg made the drive to her for the initial meeting. To say it was love at first sight might be going overboard, but Jan said there’s no question that they clicked right away. Greg departed saying he would “be in touch,” and she was fine with whatever the future might hold.
What the future held was Greg getting back in touch and soon they were taking turns driving to the other’s home on the weekends. “He treated me with respect,” Jan said. “He was funny, we laughed continually. There was never a dull moment in our conversations.” As the relationship grew, Jan’s daughter would put it to her more bluntly—“For the first time, you’re being treated by a man the way you should.”
Jan wasn’t the only one bringing kids into the relationship. Greg has three grown kids of his own, and Jan told CatholicMatch that all of them easily accepted her. It’s something she acknowledged may be more difficult for children whose parent passed away rather than a divorce.
In June 2009, Greg and Jan went on a camping trip together. He, and each of his three brothers own RVs and they all went off for the weekend. When they came back home, an exhausted Jan lay down on the couch. Greg was next to her on one knee saying “Will you marry me?”
“Yeah sure,” Jan recalled telling him. “We’ve talked about this before, sure I’ll marry you.” Then she looked up and saw that this time he was really “on one knee” and had an engagement ring for her. “He got me good,” she said jokingly afterward.
In March 2010, they had a small wedding with about a hundred people. The priest would later tell them it was the most fulfilling wedding he’d performed because the focus was so much on the marriage and the Church, rather than the quality of the reception afterward.
It brings to mind a recent blog post by Lisa Duffy, that invites those who’ve had a previous marriage annulled to reflect on whether they’re ready to remarry. One of the reflection points is to consider whether the integrity of the union itself is what’s foremost on your mind when thinking about a second marriage. Greg and Jan passed that test with flying colors.
After their marriage, the couple retired—Jan from her job as a fire chief’s assistant and Greg from his work as a sales rep with Caterpillar. They relocated to the mountains of Tennessee, 40 miles outside Chattanooga. It was here the next phase of their life has unfolded.
“There is serious poverty and lack of education,” Jan said. “I feel like helping those around me is my way of paying it forward.” She also continues to pay it forward by sharing the story of what happened to her with other young people. She hopes that they can learn the importance of extracting themselves from bad situations. “God made me carry my cross,” Jan said. “So I could see things, learn and grow and eventually be in a good relationship with a man.
Greg is right there with Jan, helping her help others, but in no case has it been more profound than with her son. Jan told CatholicMatch that her son already calls Greg “Dad,” and that Greg has become the true father figure and influence her boy never had before. “It’s what I am most grateful for,” she said.
This is a couple that gives of themselves selflessly, but they find time for fun together. Greg is often found barbequing and they can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the mountains and the nearby lake. “We enjoy life, some people might say we’re the elderly, but we live a full life.”
“I didn’t know what a healthy relationship was,” Jan said gratefully. “I could not be happier.”