Confused about marriage!

I have been married for 10 years and have two beautiful kids ages 9 and 7. I had a rough childhood and early adulthood due to being sexually abused from the age of around 7 up into about 16. I didn’t value myself and strayed from my faith in my late teens and most of my 20’s. I then came back to the Church and tried to value myself more. Then I met my now husband and he was very nice to me. He was Catholic also but not practicing but I did make bad decisions again and had relations before we were married (I didn’t really want to but I was very insecure and thought I would lose him). We actually got married with sin because we never went to confession for this (I was just scared and insecure). I never thought I could have horrible feelings towards him, but it all changed after we got married. 2 months after we got married I got pregnant. It’s like a light switch flipped and things totally changed. He was lazy, was very mean to me because I was sick my whole pregnancy and was annoyed that I was sick. He worked for my dad for a year before we got married an afterwards, but started to have conflict with him as well. I was miserable but we had a baby on the way and we said our vows before God and was married in the Church. I was also hoping that he would “grow up” along the way. When we got married I was 30 and he was 27.

Basically the whole time we’ve been married, I’ve been miserable because God has never been first in our marriage. 8 years into the marriage I finally got him to go on an ACTS retreat because he did something that hurt me so bad that I told him he could do that to make it up to me. When he got back, he said he actually got a lot out of it and was glad he went. Things changed for a little while but slowly went back to the old ways.

I then went on my first ACTS retreat last spring with hope of getting clarity and guidance on what I should do about my marriage. At this point, we had grown far apart, our kids didn’t like him (not because of me but because of how he treated them). My husband and my son fought all the time and my husband would get too rough with him. So on my ACTS retreat I confided with a Deacon and he said basically that our marriage was not a marriage with God or as God would intend it to be (I’m not finding the right words he used so I’m trying to get close wording). Then when going to confession on my retreat I spoke with the Priest about it, I was given basically the same advice. So I prayed endlessly about it and several months after my retreat, I filed for a divorce.

At that point I was done, I never thought I could have feelings for him again and I was just disgusted with how he treated me and our kids and how selfish he was. After a few months and big changes in his behavior, I decided to try to reconcile (I never wanted our marriage to fail or divorce and didn’t want my kids to have divorced parents). But now I’m here again seeing all the old patterns coming back into play.

We’ve been to counseling through the Church several times over the years and he doesn’t do the work the counselor suggests. When I calmly try to talk to him about how his words and actions make the kids and I feel, he just defends himself. The kids tell me all the time how mean daddy is and when they have to stay with him if I go somewhere, they get very upset. He isn’t beating them but he emotionally hurts them. I’m now on Team for the Spring ACTS retreat and sitting in our meetings, I can’t help but question what is the right thing to do for me and my kids based on all the different things we discuss.

If he doesn’t have God in his life or in our marriage and he doesn’t allow the Holy Spirit to guide him as a husband and father, what is the right thing to do?

A very small sample of how he’s mean: My 7 year old daughter helped me make mints all weekend long because my husband was on a hunting trip and my son was at a friends house. Together we made 867+ mints by hand, one at a time. She did a fabulous job helping me all weekend. Then today, I was doing one last batch and was running late and needing help so I could make my ACTS team meeting. My daughter is helping me and when my husband came home, I asked him to help. He immediately starts giving my daughter a hard time saying she’s not going fast enough. He kept on and on so I said something, then he got mad at me. Then my daughter got tired of him and went off crying and quit. I always tell my husband he picks on them too much, so when I tried to point out that example to him, he justified his actions by saying she was going too slow. And it’s ALWAYS that way, he is always so critical of all of us. So what I’m I teaching my kids by allowing him to always treat them that way? That was a very small example and he’s even worse with my son and actually left a bruise on his bottom from whipping him with a belt Sunday. I grew up getting spankings, but I never received them out of anger, they were controlled. My husband gets angry and spanks out of anger. This use to happen a lot before I filed for divorce, but quit afterwards. But he’s starting to go for the belt again and I don’t like the lack of control and how he spanks out of anger.

How do I know what the right thing to do is? Am I hurting the kids more by staying together? I worry so much about how they will turn out seeing me let all this happen. Thankfully I have a great relationship with my kids but I don’t know what I should do for them.

On a side note, he’s very lazy, I do all of the housework plus work part time, he never wants to go out on dates or do anything I’m interested in. He hunts all winter just to get away and be by himself. He never wants to improve himself or better his career because he’s scared and not very ambitious. Those were just a few of the other issues we have.

Please help!!!

Your intuition that he is harming your children is correct, unfortunately, and you could indeed be teaching them that you believe the treatment that they are getting (and that you are getting) are acceptable. You need to separate again until he mends his ways.

To tell you what to do is a bit beyond our pay grade, except to say that you have moral reason to separate with the bond remaining on your own authority, because of the grave harm it could do to your children’s hearts if you do not change the situation. Once you have gotten your children out of that danger, seek some pastoral guidance about how to proceed. I fear very much that in your case a divorce will prove morally permissible.

Perhaps, though, your husband will be able to regain himself if he works out how becoming a father has changed him. Feeling inadequate to cope with that responsibility is something that he might be able to recover from, and in that case his avoidance of his responsibilities, self-absorption, and irritability might be something he can get beyond. Surely he would be the most relieved to have “his old self” back. That ACTS retreat showed that he does want to change. Perhaps he needs support on an ongoing basis, instead of feeling he is carrying the load himself. Perhaps that retreat was a step in the right direction, it showed the direction he wanted to go in, but it simply wasn’t enough support to help him follow through on such a huge change. (This is not to say that you do not support him, but that he is not accepting the help he needs to make a more substantial return to his old character and aspirations.)

As for your children, though, they ought not have to live with him again until you are quite sure that he does indeed have his old self back. Let’s hope he can do that, but you do have to protect them from a relentless diet of the kind of incidents you describe. (It isn’t unusual to have an incident or two like that on a bad day, but the parent ought to know and be able to admit that he or she was out of line, in retrospect.)

Thank you for your advice. I did meet with a friend this morning and she gave me the name of a Christian counselor that she said her husband really liked. So I’m going to give it one more try and hopefully my husband will respect this counselor. Apparently he’s into hunting and fishing, which is right up my husband’s alley. So maybe he’ll respect this guy. But if things don’t change quickly in the treatment of our kids, I’m going to have to separate again.

The fact that he left a bruise on your son’s bottom is enough to make me think you need to get yourself and your kids away from him. Spanking in anger can easily cross the line from discipline to abuse. And if there are physical bruises, it already is abuse, in my humble opinion. And that’s not to mention the mean things he says. Your kids will learn his behaviors and come to think they are acceptable and/or allow others to treat them in an abusive way and/or go through life treating others that way, possibly their own spouses and children. I’ll pray for you and your family.

I would suggest you carefully read what you wrote here, and then ask what you would recommend if you were reading someone else’s words here?. It seems like you are arguing one way throughout, with little good to offset the bad.

The tipping point here is when your child says his or her father is mean, more than once, with good reason, AND your husband demonstrates that they are correct. You need to protect your children as you weren’t protected as a child.

It is critical that you remove yourself and your children from this situation. He is using and abusing you, and is taking advantage of your willingness to endure it. This is harming you and the kids. There is nothing good here. For your own sake and your childrens’, you must go. Don’t feel guilty about it, because if you don’t get out now, you will feel even guiltier later that you didn’t do something about this sooner.

I was all prepared to move my kids and I out and file for divorce but I was going to need my parent’s help financially to buy a travel trailer to live in. Last year when I served him divorce papers, my parents supported me. But now my dad thinks I should stay with him because of some Catholic books he’s read and stories of Saints that had to endure the same type of awful marriages but stayed with their spouse. He said this is my cross to carry. So now he’s not willing to help me. But then when I spoke with my Deacon, he said for the sake of the children, I have every right to leave. I’m so confused!!!

Legally,. leaving bruises is child abuse. If another adult finds out, and reports it, you could lose your children. yes YOU could lose them, because you knew it was happening and didn’t leave. You are allowing it to happen, which makes you culpable. Leave. leave now. Before your children hate you.

If he were ever to leave bruises on one of the kids, report it as abuse. Then make sure charges are pressed. But, I’d also say move out as soon as possible. As in, why are you still there? Also, as part of the separation, tell him that couples counseling isn’t optional, but that it’s required. If he is unable/unwilling to do as the counselor suggests, then that’s it.

I agree with the poster who said that this isn’t really a valid marriage since you were “in grave sin” at the time you got married. Getting the marriage annuled shouldn’t be a problem. Also, look for a battered women’s shelter or group that’s close to where you are. They could help you get through this. Oh, and get counseling for the kids as well. They’ll need the help getting through this as well.

You do not have to put up with abuse as a cross to carry. This thinking in my opinion is perverse. Plus, you have a duty as a mother to protect your children. You are not doing your husband any favors by allowing him to persist in his sin.

Your deacon is right. Protect yourself and your children first.

I will be praying for you.

Sometimes it is better for the children to if the parents separate.

While it may be your cross to bear, it is not your children’s cross to bear. You are obligated to put their needs first.

Your dad not helping is just a test, a stumbling block to see if you can stay the course. Leaving is not easy. Are you going to sell out your children for the cost of a travel trailer? Put on your thinking cap, there has to be more options. You may need to humble yourself before friends or the government to receive help. Go get a full time job. Do what needs to be done and get your kids out of an increasingly dangerous situation. You’ve been told by lots of people to leave him. There will ALWAYS be at least 1 person who tells a Catholic it’s her cross to bear. Totally agree with PP who said this cross is NOT your children’s.

Also, given that he is abusing the children (yes, spanking with a belt and leaving BRUISES is BEATING THEM! and is abuse), you can go to a women’s shelter, I would think. Call one, ask for help.

Have some priest talk to your dad. He’s exposing his grandchildren to grave danger so that his daughter can “carry her cross.” There is no excuse for it.

More to the point, let him know that you are leaving on account of direct attacks on your children and his grandchildren, and if he won’t help you put a roof over their heads, it will be on his head to answer to Heaven for it.

Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” Luke 11:46 Tell your father to come and look at his grandson’s bruises and to listen to how he was told to hide them from his mother, and then ask who is helping that little boy to carry his cross? Will the grandfather tell the grandson that, so when the child grows up he’ll leave the Church that won’t lift a finger to protect a child, and never come back?

Your husband beats your children with a belt?
Why are you still with a man who does something like that?


You have left once, and reconciled.

The patterns have repeated, and certainly not become better - whether they are worse or not is a matter of history, but the likelihood is that matters are gradually becoming worse.

It is understandable to be torn between marriage and divorce. You now have how many years of history with this man; children, retreats have been made; matters improved for a while then went back to normal - normal being the same old story and treatment.

You are the one who has to make a decision; and if you make the decision to divorce, then you need to make that final.

Going back, wishing and hoping, is a form of codependency. And codependency means you are an enabler. You cannot change him, and after all these years, he has not been willing to change himself. Continuing on with him enables him to continue his pattern of behavior.

The choice is yours; but you need to make it and stick with it. Going back one more time will only enable him to continue to get worse.

I don’t really have anything to say about the marital issues other than that it is extremely rare for people to truly change. You describe a decade of frustration with a husband being simply who he is. You need to decide if you are okay staying in this marriage if your husband never changes.

But I do have something to say on how your husband treats the kids. You said in one paragraph that your husband doesn’t beat your children, and in another that he hits them with a belt and out of anger. I am not against spanking, but as others have said, what he is doing is not spanking but beating.

You are so deep in this that you don’t see the blatant abuse. What is worse, you are liable for these episodes too if you are standing by and not stopping it.

You need to make remove you kids from that home. If he beats them again, you should document with pictures, and write down date and description of events. And your husband should not be allowed to be alone with them.

Does your father know about the beatings? Maybe that will change his perspective.

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