On the Brink of Divorce
By Lenora Grimaud
When a marriage is on the brink of a divorce it means that both partners are in need of healing, both are wounded, both need to make changes in their own selves. It takes two to make a marriage healthy, and it takes two to get a divorce.
When my marriage was on the brink of divorce, I went into Rehab because I was consuming too much wine. Later, I discovered that this was not my problem, but a symptom of the problem. I was using wine to numb the pain that I was in. This is common with people who are going through a divorce. They look for any means to distract them from the pain and loneliness—promiscuity, alcohol, drugs, gambling, affairs, pornography, food, shopping, etc.
Our marriage ended in divorce before either of us could get the healing we needed and make the necessary changes for a healthy marriage.
I discovered that I was suffering from burn-out, and it was slowly killing me. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, I broke down. That was when I went for help. Sometimes we have to literally hit bottom—come to the end of our rope, the end of our human strength—before we recognize that we need help. I learned that I needed to learn how to say “no” without feeling guilty. I learned that I needed to learn how to discern between what was my responsibility and what was not my responsibility, because I took responsibility for everyone and everything, thinking it was my responsibility. I needed to become aware of my limitations and surrender them to God in humility, instead of punishing myself for them, or blaming others for them. I needed to become aware of my own personal wants, needs, and desires, and to learn how to care for and nurture myself. I was always very independent and never wanted or expected others to take care of me, but I also did not know how to take care of myself. I thought I did, but actually I just denied my own wants, needs, and desires because I believed that it was selfish to have them. I saw my purpose in life as being to serve and love others; to make others happy, not myself. So, I neglected taking care of myself. I didn’t know how to cope with my emotions and feelings. My emotions were out of control and my feelings were suppressed until they became numb. My priorities became confused and out of order.
Our purpose in life is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is why we were created. Our first priority is our relationship with God, which includes our relationship with our own self—the salvation of our own soul. Self-knowledge and knowledge of God go hand in hand. Humility enables us to know the difference--who God is and who we are. If we are not in right relationship with God, we will not be able to be in right relationship with anyone else. Our second priority is our spouse and children. If we are not in right relationship with God, our relationship with our spouse and children will suffer. We will not have good judgment or be able to make good decisions. We will not be able to provide our family with the right kind of guidance and nurturing. Our love will be disordered. This will affect our relationships with everyone outside our home as well. If our immediate family unit is healthy and ordered, our love will flow out from it to others outside our home—family and relatives, friends, and community. Our priorities will be in order. If this family unit is not healthy, all our other relationships will suffer, as well.
It took quite awhile for me to get the healing I needed and to make the changes in myself that I needed. When I finally felt that I was healthy enough to resume my marriage, to be committed to my marriage and husband even if my husband didn’t change, it was too late. My husband didn’t want me back, or wasn’t ready to make a commitment to me or our marriage. Both partners have to be willing to make a commitment to each other and to the marriage; a commitment to work towards a healthy and fruitful marriage, or it will be a marriage in name only.
If one partner is involved with someone else, they have to be willing to give that person up, or there can be no healing, no marriage. If one partner is violent or controlled by rage, they have to be willing to get help—to get therapy. If one partner has a serious addiction that threatens the safety and security of the family, they have to seek healing, or there can be no marriage. In some cases, there is a serious pathology that makes it difficult or impossible for one or both partners to have a relationship of intimacy and mutuality. Unconditional love doesn’t mean that it is always good or possible to live under the same roof as another person. We need to know our limitations. We need to discover them ourselves. No one else can make our decisions for us. But, we need pastoral and family counseling to hold up a mirror for us so that we can make a free and morally sound choice. Sacrifice, and even martyrdom, is a necessary part of marriage. But, suicide is not. As long as both partners are willing to heal their marriage, and to forgive, most other kinds of wounds, defects, or problems, can be healed and over-come.
Most of all we need the power and strength that comes from the Sacraments. When we are going through distress, we can’t always pray as we would like; or pray at all. Our prayer is more like some of the psalms of misery and distress. We wonder where God is in all this and why we can’t hear him, or why he doesn’t answer us. We feel lost and abandoned by God and when we pray, we feel numb; like we are just going through the motions. This is when we need the Eucharist, regular Confession, and the Community, the most. We come face to face with Jesus in the Sacraments, even though we can’t experience his presence. When we are in distress, we are bombarded with negative thoughts and emotions—anger, resentment, guilt, fear, judgment, self-pity, condemnation, blaming, etc. We need the Sacrament of Confession to set us free and keep us open to love and grace. Through Confession and Eucharist, Jesus gives us what we need, and turns our problems into opportunities for growth and an abundance of his love. “God works all things for good for those who trust in him.”
We may be on the brink of divorce, but we are not without hope. We can turn things around and have a marriage that is truly a Sacrament—where Jesus is truly present—where we sanctify and make each other holy.