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Divorce & Annulments

The analogy that best describes the end of my marriage would probably have to be a flash flood. I woke up one morning and the sun was shining; by afternoon though, it was raining; and by night time, I was completely underwater. I was totally blindsided and had no idea that my husband was having an affair and that he had made the decision to divorce. He announced this to me as if we were talking about sports scores. His mind was already made up. There was no discussion, no compromise, no chance to work things out.

In hindsight, one of the most foolish things I did at the time was allow him to stay at the house under these circumstances. I think those initial first weeks of suspended disbelief would have gone much smoother if I wasn’t pretending everything would work out. But the truth was, I was desperate and overwhelmed. At the same time as this announcement, I had a dear life-long friend dying in hospice. I was 35; she was 37 and my daughter’s Godmother. Her battle with cancer had been on our family radar for just under a year.

I chose to keep my marriage problems a secret for weeks because everyone around me was affected by the death of my life-long friend. These things combined literally almost killed me; more than once my therapist expected to check me into the hospital.

This may be one reason why I take offense when people who don’t know me imply things like “I used the court system to my advantage to cut my children’s father out of the picture” or that my speaking out on this difficult time of my life condones that I agree with divorce and are perpetuating the myth that it’s okay among Catholics. Neither of these things are remotely close to the truth. It is unfortunate, but I have found that if you are going through a divorce or are divorced, judgment—especially from people who call themselves Catholic—is a harsh reality, one that is extremely destructive. And I’m not sure why such judgment exists.

For those of you who are honestly seeking to constructively help your friends or family through the traumatic process of divorce, I found that there were practical ways my friends supported me which were irreplaceable:

1. Help With the Kids. My parents or close friends would help watch my daughters if I needed time to work out arrangements with my spouse or meet with my therapist or even just stay home and have a good cry. Most single parents I know try to be strong for their children and sometimes what they need most is a time out to deal with practical arrangements or their own feelings without being afraid of upsetting their children.

2. Make a Meal. A group of friends organized to make dinners for my family once a week for a couple of months. This was truly a life saver and it gave my daughters and I the chance to share a hot meal together without taking the time for set-up and cleanup which was often more than I could handle in those beginning weeks. There was a sense of normalcy about these dinner times which helped ease the rough edges of our life which had suddenly been pitched into chaos.

3. Offer to Drive. One of the most difficult practical details was working out driving arrangements—two children meant two different schedules and activities. I never realized how much I counted on that second driver until my husband was gone. I spent many long hours driving children to separate activities. Having someone available to help with the shuttle service was a huge deal.

4. Just Listen. Lastly, having close friends who would just listen—without passing judgment—was so helpful to me. One emotion that kept recurring during these beginning weeks and months (and even now returns once in a while) was fear. I was desperately afraid of so many things—being alone forever, being enough for my daughters, making enough money, living without a man in the house to protect us. Never in my life have I felt so vulnerable. My friends would let me talk these things out. Sometimes they would give me really good, practical advice— things I couldn’t see on my own because I was blinded by my circumstances. Other times they would just listen. But always they encouraged me to seek God’s will, to pray and they even prayed with me.

If you have gone or are now going through the traumatic issues of divorce, what concrete things helped you to make a better adjustment?

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8 Comments

  1. Kathy-730470 May 22, 2014

    Good article. When reading about your feelings divorce and being blindsided my experience was similar. Although my circumstances are not the same as yours being in a prayers group, praying the rosary, talking to my priest, having a supportive family and friends whom did not judge were a blessing for me and helped me through my divorce.

  2. Sandra-963593 May 22, 2014

    Wow! It’s amazing the dreadful thing people do to each other. Jesus’s mission of overcoming betrayal, abandonment, and pain can help us get through these darkest hours. Admittedly, I wasn’t that connected when I was going through my own break-up, but I bet he was there! ;>

    Thank you for this kind and insightful piece!

  3. Teresa-993518 May 22, 2014

    Ah, yes. The “friends” who no longer include you in events. The “friends” who are suddenly so busy. How sad, that more people don’t live out their Catholic Christian faith.

  4. Patrick-874728 May 23, 2014

    My situation was similar in some ways, different in others. I was quiet about my marital problems with my family until the divorce had actually already happened. I live in Japan and my family is back in the states so I didn’t tell anyone until I was absolutely sure the marriage was over. The divorce was done (it’s a very different process here) in a few hours at the end of February, 2011. I still hadn’t told anyone but my siblings by March 11, the day we had the earthquake and tsunami here. Then lots of family started contacting me offering help and telling me I should bring my family to come stay with them. That was awkward because I really couldn’t tell people face to face. I had to announce the end of my marriage via email. Divorce hurts so many people.

    One thing that made things worse was that I have many very kind friends. Every day my friends would check on me and ask me how I was and what was going on. I had to re-hash everything that was going on in my home several times a day. Often, my friends would say things like, “Maybe she’s not really having an affair.” or “I’m sure it’ll work out. It can’t be that bad.” She was, and it was. Actually, it was worse. During those times, I wish my friends would not have prodded me to talk incessantly about my problems and had not offered false hopes. I am truly grateful that they were there at all, though!

  5. Jerry-1094131 May 24, 2014

    Real good article, we Catholics do need to exercise some mercy on each other. I recall my days of being super judgmental… now it happened to me and now I see.

  6. Bernadette-1091676 May 25, 2014

    I too was blindsided by my husband’s decision to divorce. I thought we were happy enough (I know no relationship is perfect) and had just welcomed our second baby into the world. He did not leave the home right away and “tried” through marriage counseling, so it was a little different. In our first counseling session, he was already bringing up divorce so I don’t really think there was much consideration to saving our marriage. It’s such a shock to think that you know somebody so well and to realize that they are a totally different person. I would have never in a million years have imagined that I would end up divorced. I thought divorce only happened in abusive marriages or in marriages where both parties decided to end the marriage. I didn’t realize how common it is for one spouse to want the divorce while the other wants to save the marriage.

  7. Regina-998037 May 25, 2014

    Very good article. I agree that a good no judgmental friend can be of great help. Besides that, God’s grace and a good therapist are important elements to the long healing process.

  8. Regina-911983 May 30, 2014

    Very helpful article. Abandonment/betrayal – worst than death. You never get over the pain. You just do on with the help from God, therapy and random acts of kindness. When you help and love others, the pain gets lighter. A therapist said not to dwell on the why and the shouldas and couldas. Don’t get into their head! One never knows why a person decides to abandoned their marriage. When you help others, you are also helping yourself. Jesus was betrayed and abandoned so I never gave up.

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