Patrick J. DiVietri. Ph.D., CPC, OCDS
“Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?” “I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”
No matter what you do, I will remain married to you till death. I promise always to forgive you. There is a radical difference between couples who contemplate divorce and those who do not see it as an option. Those dedicated to preserve the marriage will recover far quicker then those whose purpose is weakened by indecisiveness of possible escape hatches. The mistaken notion that many suffer from is that “God wants me to be happy and therefore I will leave this painful situation to find happiness somewhere else.” My professional counsel to those who say this is, “God wants you to be happy in this life and the next. However, the suffering of this life may be part of the happiness in the next life. We also know that suffering is a part of deepening the capacity for happiness even in this life.” In light of Faith we may also say that “you may not be happy with this spouse but you will not find happiness with another spouse.” The only avenue for that happiness is through the vocation to the spouse to whom you have been bound. It is important to explain to couples the situations where pain might be intolerable and a separation may be required because of grave circumstances. The two situations that best fit this description are:
- Physical abuse of spouse or children that is ongoing and not being remedied
- Flaunted infidelity such that the children are aware of it and will be given the message that such behavior is acceptable if separation did not take place. The separation is for the sake of reconciliation.
Cultural Influences against permanence
There is a need to discuss the problem of the Catholic approach to divorce. I.e. We don’t get divorces per se so when there is a crisis in the marriage we say, “There wasn’t any marriage in the first place.” One immediately assumes that there wasn’t a valid marriage in order to justified the civil divorce.
These days, we hate the idea of pain and suffering. We don’t see it as redemptive. We don’t see any value in it. But people who know what love is understand suffering. People who love know that suffering has value. When you love someone, there isn’t anything you wouldn’t endure for that person, including the cross. In the end we know that love conquers all things, because love conquered all things when Christ conquered death on the cross.
One must also address the issue of parental divorce and the effect upon the engaged couple. One must ascertain the circumstances of the divorce and how the engaged person/couple views the divorce. They need to consider how they intellectually view permanence and what their experience and emotional development might be. For example, a common dynamic is as follows:
- “I am against divorce.”
- “My parents divorced and I don’t want to do that.”
- “They divorced because they said it was too painful to be together any longer and that they were better off apart.”
- “I love both my parents and I accept their decision. They really were hurting each other too much and it’s better.”
What’s the experiential message? “Marriage is permanent but if the pain is too much, divorce is better.” What will happen when things get really painful?
The individual has to confront this idea and think through how they will make their life different.
What would the couple do?
- Do you know of a married couple who gave up on their marriage because their jobs and personal interests pulled them apart?
- What would you be willing to do with your own spouse to make your marriage work?
- How could you safeguard the permanence of your marriage?