It was 6:00 pm and I was in a bit of a predicament. I was standing in a very crowded restaurant bar, trying to mind my own business as I waited for my group of friends to arrive, but noticed I was being watched by one of the gentleman at the bar.
He smiled and tipped his golf cap, which was polite enough, but being a single woman alone, I began feeling uncomfortable because I wasn’t there for the pick-up scene and I focused on the hostess as she arranged a table for 7 at my request. As this man turned to face me, I thought I knew what was coming and hoped I could excuse myself politely.
But I was about to be surprised.
“Would you like my seat?” he said.
“Thank you,” I replied with a friendly smile, “But I’m waiting for my friends…the hostess is making a table for us.”
He introduced himself as Mike and then an unexpected and interesting conversation ensued. Surprisingly, this late-40-something gentleman was quite an open book. He talked about his contracting business, then a recent golf trip with his buddies, and then his third wife and teenage son who “hated him.”
Since I had also been through a divorce six years earlier, I felt sad for him. He said he used to be Catholic, used to serve Mass as an altar boy, referring to that time in his youth as “the good ole’ days.”
I briefly mentioned my own divorce and that I, too, was Catholic, but added that my faith was what got me through it all (in hopes that I might send a positive message about practicing the faith). And right about then my friends showed up and our table was ready. I thanked Mike for the conversation and said goodbye, still feeling sad for him.
Unexpectedly, Mike approached our table after a few minutes.
“I want you to know that I am jealous,” he said, and he laughed somewhat awkwardly. “I’m jealous because you have your faith.”
Everyone at the table was quiet and attentive.
“I was supposed to be a priest,” he said, pointing to his own chest. “I’ve known that since I was a kid.” His eyes welled-up a bit. “But I got a girl pregnant and well, I haven’t been back to church since. You don’t know how lucky you all are.”
I related to Mike because, although my circumstances were very different, I too at one time had allowed the world to pull me away from my faith in a very dangerous way. Six years earlier I was struggling with my own failed marriage and not really understanding how I could reconcile the fact that I was “divorced and Catholic.” In my morally weakened and emotional state, I became highly susceptible to what I call “the culture of divorce.”
The culture of divorce is society’s attitude about how to heal from divorce and poses itself as an oasis in the desert of pain, but in reality it is the ultimate mirage. The suggestion is that avoiding or ignoring the pain is the way to heal, and the way to do this is by finding someone new.
In the culture of divorce, the environment is laced with an “anything goes because you deserve to be happy” attitude that suggests all kinds of immoral behavior is completely appropriate and acceptable, based on the premise that indulging yourself is the path to healing. There are endless opportunities for finding new relationships to help you “heal”; casual dating and intimacy, weekend flings, new “loves,” etc. Unfortunately, I found myself immersed in this culture for a time after my divorce and what I received in return was anything but healing. Instead, I received confusion, bitterness, heartache, severe depression, total dissatisfaction with life, and a strained relationship with God.
I finally woke up to the fact that doing it my way was the wrong way and I was headed for disaster. My mistake was trusting in myself instead of in God, the One who knows best how to make me happy.
It’s easy to get sucked into the culture of divorce because of the sadness, loneliness, and heartache. Even if you have the personal strength to not give into a self-indulgent lifestyle, inappropriate relationships, sink into depression, etc., you must still beware, because the main goal of this culture is to make you lose your faith in God. Many good people lose their faith altogether because they are so hurt and angry. If you are struggling with this culture of divorce here are a few suggestions to help you detach from it and find the real path to healing:
- Focus on healing: Give yourself enough time to heal from your divorce. Reflect on the things you want to change about yourself, the type of person you don’t want to become involved with, or the attributes of the future relationship you want and write those things down. Then write down how you will make those changes and then put them into action.
- Keep your eyes on the goal: When the temptation to do the things you know will prevent you from your goal present themselves, say a quick prayer for strength (God, help me!) and remind yourself why you set this goal.
And here’s an important point to keep in mind: Simply by being a member of CatholicMatch, you are significantly decreasing your odds of being pulled into that culture of divorce. The process of meeting people that CatholicMatch offers will guide you toward like-minded Catholics whose faith plays an important role in their relationships and is a strong, positive step toward a happy future.
There is a time and place for everything, and the time for you to be with someone will come. If you live faithfully now and work on yourself, you will be truly free to fall in love when the time comes and it will be an incredible experience!