Rinnie, the annulment process is about examining in written format the whole failed relationship, from the families of origin to the point you met, your early dating, the preparation for marriage, the actual marriage, the beginning of the relationship falling apart, all the issues surrounding that, children, sexual history, drug or alcohol use…
That process, plus the testimony of witnesses is like a trial. It is submitted to the judges on the diocesan tribunal, who examine the evidence and decide if there was a real bond confected. They use many standards to examine the whole relationship. I liken it to the NTSB examining a plane crash to see why it didn’t complete the journey, finding where the fault was, and whether it was pilot error, sabotage or equipment failure.
Eventually, the couple is notified whether the original marriage was ever valid or not. If not, they are free to marry in the Church. It was as if they had never been sacramentally married.
It is a long and emotionally difficult process.
To those who are sorry they did it… don’t be. Yes, it stirs up all kinds of emotions. Stuff we may have ignored during the failure of the marriage. I liken it to a marriage dying is like a death. Some people kick the corpse into a shallow grave and move on quickly. But that body is still there and must be dealt with. Eventually, you must exhume it and dispose of it properly.
The same with the whole marriage failure. You cannot go through that without it leaving indelible scars. Sometimes we heal badly, and the annulment is like taking a broken bone that “healed” badly and rebreaking it and setting it properly. There is much self realization that goes on through this very thorough examination of who we are and what we did and how we got to where we are now.
That can be painful. But if done in the light of Christ’s teachings, it can be as merciful as Confession and Absolution.
And yes, it’s painful for the witnesses, for many reasons. Especially if they were family members who must face their own inaction in the face of disaster, or lack of looking out for a sibling or child’s welfare, or blindness to things, or their own role in raising someone who didn’t live by the light of Christ’s teachings. It requires soul searching for them. And they must be honest and sometimes they must say things that make them feel disloyal.
I would suggest you send a card to those who were your witnesses. Thank them for the difficult thing they did. Tell them their honesty is important to you in that the Truth will set you free, or lead you to live the rest of your life in the Truth. And that you don’t hold anything they said against them. That you have changed through all this and you ask their forgiveness in any way that you failed them as a friend.
That may lead to healing in the other relationships.
This is an important process. The self-examination you undergo can only lead you to a greater realization of the importance of prudence and fidelity to God in future relationships. My ex had NOTHING to do with the annulment process. He declined to participate. And he has learned nothing. Nothing. He’s going from one fiancee to another… one woman to another. He has learned nothing from a lifetime of relationship failures. He is scandalizing his children by his behavior.
I have become extremely cautious through it all. To the point I haven’t even dated. There is too much at stake. But the whole process was very healing, because in my instance, the Church was the only place that was interested in the truth of what happened. And it was the first time I was treated with any respect or compassion.
So mourn what was lost. You have had to deal with things you shovelled into a shallow grave. But that didn’t mean they weren’t buried away and festering. You are better off by having dealt with it sooner rather than later.
I knew someone who married someone who was divorced and he refused to go through the process. Within half a year she was complaining about his selfishness. Yep. There was someone who never faced and dealt with the things that doomed his first marriage. It’s only a matter of time before it crashes and burns a second time.