Divorce due to abuse

I have been struggling with a decision for a long time. To make a long story short my husband suffers from mental health issues (PTSD, Bipolar, Borderline Personality). He has in the past been abusive in his words and his actions. He does not trust my faithfulness as a wife or my commitment to our marriage. He has accused my for years of being unfaithful and I have never broken my marraige vow to be faithful.

We have separated twice due to his actions against me. The first time we were separated for 8 months and reconciled. 14 months ago we separated again. This time I have no desire to reconcile as I do not trust his words of change. Through out the last year he has made promises of change but has still shown signs of distrust and threats of harm (I do have a protective order against him).

He tries to use our vows of “though good times and bad”, “through sickness and in health” to show that I am a quitter and giving up on our marriage. I feel as if I am doing the right thing but my faith makes me question I am doing the right thing. I have filed for divorce and we are going through that process now.

He tries to use the Catholic faith against me and states that I am doing the wrong thing by divorcing. Does the church support my decision?:shrug:

The church does not expect you to endure abuse. You are considered married unless granted an annulment, but at this point that merely means she does not consider you free to remarry. You have no obligation to continue to live as husband and wife with an abuser, or even to have contact with him.

I am not a canon lawyer (Church law expert), nor am I a theologian, nor am I talented at pastoral counseling.

Still, you asked, so…

…So, if I were you I would give some serious thought to a permanent separation from this man. He sounds manipulative, and lazy. I don’t think he’s really trying live up to his vows and duties as husband.

Yet, there are the laws of the Church concerning marriage. About those, if I were you, I’d find a good, genuine expert, or two of them, to discuss over the facts of your case in light of the laws of the Church regarding the law.

I’m sorry all this is happening to you. You deserve a man who will be a real man, and not a wimp.

You might want to check out this, which discussed a book by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She is not Catholic, but she does understand and teach many good laws of behavior. See: bible.org/article/proper-care-and-feeding-husbands

Couple of good resources right from the USCCB website:


which summarizes and explains actual Church teaching about divorce, contrary to what your husband is telling you,

and this


which is an alert to priests and others in the Church about domestic violence, and is educational in itself about the entire issue. Additionally, it has very useful resources for women who are in situations of grave risk.

You are in my prayers.

I would suggest that you read these documents either from a public computer, such as at work or at the library, or if your husband does not have access to the house, at least clearing your browsing history. Inordinately suspicious people frequently go through the internet browsing files of others to see what they have been looking at. Consider password-protecting your computer system.

This sounds like a pre-existing condition - not something that came on after you married - and it sounds everything like a condition that makes the marraige vows invalid (so they would be annulled.) Because how can you keep a vow when you have serious mental health issues that prevent you from loving another as long as you both shall live in sickness and in health? Can the husband love as Christ loved, sacrificially giving of himself? It sounds like he has not kept his vows because his pre-existing condition made him unable to ever keep the vows he made. It certainly sounds so to me. but I am not an expert and I have not served on any Tribunal. However there is an annulment support group on this forum, and on that forum, you may ask a question of an annulment lawyer. He woudl tell you an informed answer. And so would your priest, of course - he should be asked, and should be the main priority person to talk to.

It sounds very unbearable what you have gone through! I am sorry. I had a close friend for a couple of years recently, maybe 3-4 years, another single mom like me whose boys were my son’s age and we all did a lot together. But she had severe, severe PTSD, and I was always making allowances for her very real and severe PTSD problem, and being somewhat of a person with codependent tendencies, I accommodated *continually. * After a final straw situation, God helped me see that I needed to make a firm distance from this friendship. I have never been one to cut people off, but this one time I felt quite called to.

Sometimes some people with mental health issues, because of their great need, know how to guilt and manipulate people into helping/serving them (as they do sincerely feel needy, and they develop this “talent” out of sheer need for survival). However God does not want to see any of his dear children victims of manipulations, and he does not want His dear children manipulating others. And certain people like me can get sucked into that, and its not good for either party. Not good to be drained, not good to be a drainer. So, in my situation, God made it quite clear to me that this was not a true friendship, but a dysfunctional relationship, that was truly not good for either of us, and that I needed to back away.

It also seems to me you certainly cannot have a true marraige in such a situation. I don’t know you and cannot say if your marriage/husband is such, I only know that a marriage like my friendship would not a real marriage.

If you want further counsel than your priest gives you, I strongly suggest calling Gregory Popcak’s marriage counseling services. He is very Catholic, and deeply understanding of psychology and of the Church’s teaching. I think you can call free the first time. In just one session, or maybe two or three, I think you would gain extremely valuable insight into your situation!

About this man’s mental illness diagnoses.

A person can have genuine mental illnesses, such as bipolar, etc., and still nevertheless be a jerk, a wimp, a bump, a manipulator, a liar, a cheater, a sinner and an immoral person.

Mental illness is a real thing, and it adds an extra dimension of suffering and difficulty to life. But it is not all-encompassing and all-controlling. Even persons with mental illness (except in very rare psychotic episodes) still have the option to push themselves to act better, or to not do that. Mental illness is not a universal “get out of jail free” card. Some people with mental illness “milk it” to make others be their slaves and punching bags. Not all. Not most. But some. Some blind people and paralyzed people do the same thing. And of couse persons with perfect mental health and perfect physical health can be jerks and abusers too.

God bless.

Welcome to CAF! :wave:

It sounds like a tough situation you have endured. :frowning:

I encourage you to talk through your situation with your priest. He will be in a better position to give you more meaningful advice than we are.

I will keep you in my prayers. God bless!

**Art. 2.


Can. 1151 Spouses have the duty and right to preserve conjugal living unless a legitimate cause excuses them.


Can. 1153 §1. If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too difficult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay.

§2. In all cases, when the cause for the separation ceases, conjugal living must be restored unless ecclesiastical authority has established otherwise.

Can. 1154 After the separation of the spouses has taken place, the adequate support and education of the children must always be suitably provided.

You have a fear of harm from your spouse that is reasonable based on his past acts, and the Church holds that you have a right to live free of the fear of harm, even if it means ending your common conjugal life. That includes emotional and psychological abuse.

I think your husband is trying to manipulate you into staying in an abusive situation. Manipulators do not have a conscience or else choose to ignore their consciences and yet know how to use the consciences of others to their own advantage. Your husband, for instance, is trying to hold you to a standard that he himself does not adhere to. It is also very common for a manipulator to try to use the tenets of a faithful person’s religion as a way to force others to do what they want, even though the manipulator binds himself by no religion or outside moral authority at all! Don’t let him pull that on you. If you need help in believing objective reality instead of the story he’s trying to pass off as the truth, seek an outside counselor to get your feet back on the ground.

Hello My4kidz,
Your family is definitely in my prayers. It sounds like your separation may be ok. A faithful Catholic will seek permission from the bishop to separate (if there is grave danger in delay he/she may separate and then seek permission later). Few priests are aware of this canon law. But it shouldn’t need to take an appeal to the canon law. It should only need an appeal to the heart of one who is loving his/her spouse as Christ loves His.

Even if a separation is needed a civil divorce is not morally licit and cannot be tolerated unless it is the “only possible way” of providing the needed protections. This is very plain in our Catechism if you look there. Most, not all, modern priests will not realize this.

If there is a legal separatiin alternative in your state that provides the needed protections then civil divorce is not “the only possible way” and therefore "cannot be tolerated " and does “constitute a moral offense.” Whether a certain priest or bishop will tell you that or not. Our Mother Chuch makes it undeniably plain in Her Catechism.

It is extremely important to hold up this truth. When someone is civilly divorced they easily fall prey to the devil’s lies that they are no longer married. They claim that the marriage bond has ended. This claim is the "grave offense"of divorce. Check out the definition of divorce in our Catechism and then read what our Catechism says about it.

It is true that the Church does not tell us we must live with someone who is gravely abusing us. In no way am I saying that She does. I do not even see how that is loving the person to continue to allow that.

She does, however, hold up the Truth that we are to love our spouse as Christ loves Her. The separation is not done out of love for the “self.” It is done out of love for the other… and the children.

I just believe that we should long to imitate Christ’s love and forgiveness for us when we have gravely sinned against Him. We will never go wrong… eternally speaking… imitating Him.

Again, your family will be in my prayers.

Sorry, I shouldn’t forget to mention the book Gift opf Self. It is an awesome resource for someone trying to remain faithful their vows and our Lord while separated and/or civilly divorced.
Be strong sister. You can do this… or rather… He can do this through you ; )

I am really shocked to see that on the first page of this sub-forum, this is already the second thread about an abusive marriage. It’s such a horrible thought that these things are going on not only in the world but in the church. I’m so sorry you have to go through these trials and hope and pray you will find the strange to make it through.

As people have said, even though the Church teaches that the sacrament of marriage can never be broken, you have the right to separate legally and leave this terrible situation for the sake of your safety.

Remember that this is considered by many a safe place to ask what they are afraid is a dangerous question, and it has members posting from essentially everywhere in the world. For that reason, this forum tends to be a place that people ask for advice about far more distressing questions than what they would typically ask elsewhere. It is easy to think you’re the only one, when no one you know in person asks you questions like these.

Yes you’re right and I think that just makes it worse. I really wish that if any woman that is a friend of mine is ever in a situation like that she would tell me, or somebody else she can trust and who is close. People from far away can’t help someone in that situation as well as somebody who’s nearby and knows the person and cares about them.

Often the first thing an abuser does is destroy those relationships. That was one of the first tricks my ex-bf did…in his case by acting hurt whenever I chose to spend time with someone else.

This sounds terrible but I’m glad you realized it in time and separated. I’m sure you will find the right person sooner or later and it will be wonderful.

I know a lot of good Catholics who think that “good Catholics don’t have bad marriages”. They believe that if they aren’t willing to “offer it up,” no matter how out-of-bounds “it” is, then they aren’t as serious about marriage as a good Catholic ought to be. If they tell a Catholic and the Catholic isn’t that “hard core”, then they’re afraid that their Catholic friend isn’t very Catholic, after all. It is essentially a Catch-22…that is, if you don’t confirm their worst fears about the Catholic faith, then they have a hard time believing you’re Catholic enough. The only thing that can break the cycle is if they get an official Church teaching or advice from a priest whose orthodoxy is beyond question. Yes, I am saying they aren’t even willing to believe they can trust a priest. So who are they going to ask?

I learned better from a religion class at a Catholic high school, but I think our high school was rare in the topics it covered pertaining to marriage. The priest was adamant that his students not go into the world naïve about these things, though.

A civil divorce has no effect on the state of your standing in the Catholic Church, and the Church has repeatedly said that separation and divorce are permissible in such cases. You’re still Catholic, you can still receive the Sacraments, be a godparent, etc, etc.

What is NOT permitted is initiating a new romantic relationship with someone else, unless a decree of nullity has been made. That means no dating, no cohabitating with someone else. It doesn’t just mean not getting married to someone else. A divorced Catholic remains “married” in the eyes of the Church, regardless of where their spouse lives.

Application for a review of the validity of the marriage can only be initiated in the US after a civil divorce has been finalized in court. Generally, you basically fill out a questionnaire, get contacted by your diocese’s marriage tribunal, and follow the instructions of the tribunal. Most (but not all) dioceses do charge a nominal fee (ours is $350) to help offset the expense of doing the paperwork. Most dioceses will waive the fee if financial hardship can be demonstrated. It doesn’t cost “thousands and thousands of dollars,” contrary to popular opinion, and it certainly costs less than a civil divorce.

If a marriage is found to be null, that means that although you went through a marriage ceremony in the Church, the sacrament itself didn’t “happen” because of some condition that existed at the time. If the sacrament didn’t happen, you had no sacramental marriage, although it was a valid civil marriage. Your children are not illegitimate.

Your husband may have had a pattern of abusiveness in previous relationships. I mention this because some of his relatives might be able and willing to confirm this in a brief letter to the tribunal. If you have witnesses to his behavior shortly before or at the time of the wedding, so much the better, in the eyes of the tribunal.

Your husband will be contacted that a tribunal investigation has been initiated. You will want to bring to the attention of the tribunal the fact that you have been battered when you first turn in your paperwork. You will not be required to meet your husband in court or conference. Your husband cannot stop the tribunal’s investigation and findings, in other words, he can’t stop an annulment if the tribunal finds that your marriage was null.

I would suggest that while you get your marriage issues sorted out and resolved that you educate yourself about domestic violence. Abusers rarely change their stripes, and there is a definite cycle of abuse. There are also definite warning signs of someone’s potential to abuse as well. Someone mentioned isolating the victim from family and friends–that’s an ominous sign. Monopolizing your time early on in a relationship is another one. Inordinately objecting to a “no” by the partner is yet another one.

And, unfortunately, abuse victims themselves frequently leave one abusive situation and find another one. This is a time for real, in-depth discernment and education. Even if something happened, like your husband dying in a car crash and you were to find yourself free to marry tomorrow, I urge you to take at least a couple of years and stay completely away from the dating game and all of that. A tremendous psychological and spiritual toll has been taken on battered women, and they need time, spiritual assistance, and frequently psychological help themselves to avoid repeating the cycle.

The last thing you need is another one of these people on your hands!

Thanks for the kind wishes, though it was more for me the realization that’s not my path in life! Best not to play marriage because my mother wants me to be called to it. :stuck_out_tongue:

the Church has repeatedly said that separation and divorce are permissible in such cases.

The Church definitely gives reasons for when a separation can be tolerated. However “divorce” is ALWAYS a “grave offense against the natural law.” Defining divorce properly is the key. The glossary of our Catechism does this. It is ALWAYS a “grave offense against the natural law” to “claim that the indissoluble bond of a valid marriage has been broken.”
A CIVIL divorce can be tolerated IF it remains “the only possible way” of providing the necessary civil protections.

This is plain in our Catechism. To make a blanket statement that a civil divorce is always okay in these types of situations is very misleading. If a legal separation alternative, for example, exists then a civil divorce cannot be tolerated and does constitute a moral offense. Faithful Catholics will obey the teaching of our Church laid out in the Catechism. Even if some priest tells them, “go ahead and divorce your spouse , it is only a sin if you marry someone else before you go get your annulment.”

Sweet heart, please consult with a priest on this matter.

Pray for your husband, prayer is so powerful and don’t forget the rosaries.

Blessings and love!

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