I’m going through an extremely traumatic experience. I desperately want some spiritual advice, but I feel like a square peg. I want to return to the church but when I look around and see the other families, I feel I don’t belong. And I’m reluctant to go to a priest.
6 years ago, I was married to D in the Catholic church. We had an amicable relationship but the marriage should probably never have happened – we became estranged from one another for serious reasons, on both our parts. Wanting to maintain an image that everything was perfect, I told no one of our marriage difficulties. No one, that is, except his older brother J. J’s wife had just left him for another man, and we grew closer as we confided in one another our problems. This was probably not the smartest idea. We slept together, and during the time I was recovering from the shock of what I’d done, I discovered I was pregnant.
Long story short: I had the baby, a beautiful son (beautiful, smart, funny, and kind – the light of my life!!) who is now 5 years old. D and I divorced; we remain good friends (not much different from the marriage) and he’s a wonderful support and a great uncle to my son. D and I once jokingly mentioned to each other years ago that our marriage could probably be annulled, but neither of us is/was religious at that point and it never occurred to us that it might be important to pursue it.
I lived with my son until he was a year old, and the stress of working full time as a lawyer and taking care of an infant was becoming overwhelming; I was having anxiety attacks and all sorts of things. J moved into a new home with us and I quit my job to be a SAHM. We began living as a family, and were happy, except of course the status of our relationship was always a source of stress. Our intention was to raise our son together in as ‘normal’ a situation as possible. At first we shared a bedroom, and then we didn’t. We’d become closer to one another, and then he’d distance himself emotionally. I have always wanted to bring our relationship to the next level, and think about marriage. But he seems to have drifted off into another place over the years, and lost his job over a year ago – hasn’t gotten another one, and the financial stress has caused trouble between us. (I should also mention that both of us grew up in alcoholic homes and have little idea of what good relationships look like!)
Around Christmas, J announced that he didn’t want us to be apart, and wanted to work on our relationship for the sake of our son – be a “real” family. We went on a few trips together, alone and as a family, and although at first he seemed sincere about it, it wasn’t long before he became emotionally withdrawn again. I finally arranged for us to get counseling (should have done that 5 years ago!!) and during our first session together, he pulled out a letter saying that our relationship should never have been, and expressing his wish that we both go our separate ways – he’s not doing the counseling. He just wants to quit. Instead of feeling relieved, I’m devastated. He’s told me he loved me, we’ve lived as a family for years, and now he’s gone without really any explanation. I’m home alone for almost three weeks now with our son, who of course wants to know where Dad went. I’m heartbroken. I don’t know where to turn with my feelings. My whole life I swore I would have a normal, happy family – and look at me. I’ve made it a mess!!
Most of my girlfriends are saying to get off the roller coaster and let him go, move on. But I have been finding myself at church for the first time in many, many years, praying what to do about this and that we can find whatever we need in our hearts to remain a family – and certainly become a better one. I grew up in a divorced home, shuttled between parents, and I don’t want my son to experience the same thing. I know that I love J, but with all of these issues between us, I haven’t really explored these feelings or allowed myself to express them. I want to do what’s right, but I’m not sure what that is anymore. I want J to come back and work on things – not just give up, but after humiliating me in that therapist’s office, I can’t even talk to him any more. I’ve wanted to talk to the priest, but given my story, I’m embarrassed. I’m so not the model catholic mother, obviously – will he wonder why on earth I want to come back to the church for support and advice? Let’s face it, this situation doesn’t really fit the mold when it comes to marriage and family counseling from the church. I think I’m afraid of what he might say.
Do I bother to pray for this relationship? Do I bother going to talk to a priest? Is there any hope of my finding a place in the church again???