Marriage, Separation, and Divorce


#1

I have some serious issues to run by you all. I am not proud of much of what you are about to read, but here it is.

I was born Catholic and still am. I never really turned away from the Church. However, I don’t know that I could really say I was a true believer until relatively recently.

I am currently in my second marriage. My first marriage was to a Protestant. We were married in her church, but not in the Catholic Church. We divorced after four years.

Now, my second marriage is falling apart. I met my wife while still married to my ex-wife. My current wife became pregnant before we got married. We got married after our son was born. We were married by a judge. I am sickened by and ashamed of so much of what I have done in the past.

Right now, my wife wants a separation. If I do not agree to that, then she wants a divorce. I do not want either although we are both unhappy. I am trying to tough it out and to rehabilitate our marriage. We have both been mean and nasty to each other over the years (eight years). I have done some things that I am very ashamed of (no adultery). I have come to accept my Catholic faith to a much greater extent than I ever did before. She is a non-denominational Protestant who is sold on the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. I have told her I cannot agree to a separation or a divorce. It would be participating in an evil (1 Cor 7:10-11, Matthew 5:31-33). She says that she is okay with divorce because she knows she is saved no matter what and that God will forgive her. Further, she adds, I was married before, so it shouldn’t matter to me. I reply that two wrongs do not make a right. I also think that my wife may be mentally ill. She has done some extremely erratic, unstable things in the very recent past.

So, my question is, what do I do? Am I obligated to my former wife? Is it okay to agree to a separation with my current wife? There has been no adultery (that I know of), so divorce is certainly unjustified in this case. But, what do I do if she divorces me?

I’d really appreciate your advice and prayers!


#2

I won’t even try to give advice on the technical aspects, because I think you should seek the advice of a priest or someone from your diocesan tribunal on that. I will pray for you and I want you to know that I’m thinking of you and your wife and praying that things get better. Your comment about your wife’s behavior being erratic lately got my attention – I think you should try to sort out any issues surrounding depression or mental health before anything else. It would be terrible if your marriage ended because of that. I wish you the best.


#3

Go talk to your priest. Lay out all the facts, and he will guide you.


#4

Lots of stuff!!! I’m so sorry you are dealing with it, but I’m glad that you have found your faith.

I’m not a counselor, so I’m not going to give advice on what to do, but I’ll just lay out a few points. Also, my points are strictly on the information you have given, and nothing else. The best advice anyone can give is talk to a holy priest.

  • Because you are a Catholic and did not formally leave the Church, both of your civil “marriages” were defect of form. (This is assuming that you did not have a priest involved in the first marriage) This means that you didn’t even give it a chance to be sacramental by marrying within the church’s authority. Therefore, you have not received the grace that comes with a sacramental marriage. It was never a valid marriage.

-Normally, if you were in a sacramental marriage now, one would say that you took a vow, so you stick with it. There is one way to look at it that you could do LOTS of working on it, get the marriage validated, etc. (which you would have to get defect of form from your first marriage first anyway) However, the added point that she might be mentally ill could prohibit her from making such a vow. I think a lot of prayer needs to go into this decision.

  • Please give her soul consideration in your decision making. Whatever that means, I don’t know.

-Please give your children (s) lives and souls consideration. If you divorce, you lose a lot of control over what goes on in her house, and if your kids are there, that could be a problem.

-Divorce can be a necessity in some cases (even of sacramental marriages), for not only adultery, but abuse. This in itself won’t nullify the marriage, but its merely a survival situation. Your civil “marriages” however, if they happened the way you say they did, were not ever valid.


#5

dwc,

Thanks for the prayers.

Back in the Nov, Dec timeframe, she hosted a party for teenagers (with alcohol) while I was out town, did cocaine and immediately after got massaged with only her panties on by a neighbor of ours. She gave out her number to other men. All of that happened while I was out of town. She disappeared one night which triggered a search by myself and a few neighbors for several hours. She turned up drunk out of her mind trying to sneak into our garage.

Just a few minutes ago, she was absolutely screaming at me in front of our almost eight-year old son that I was “stupid”, that I “needed to shut up”, that she “can’t stand me”. All of this was over a scheduling conflict; we have only one car and I have to go to work at the same time she has an appointment. She was frustrated, which is understandable, but…she literally treats me worse than an animal. My work hours are variable so I don’t have a set schedule and we never know more than a few days ahead when I will have to work.One of the appointments that she can’t make because of my work schedule is with a pastor who was going to counsel her. They were going to meet at a mall food court about 30 min away. I suggested that I call him and ask if he could just come to the house. She dismissed that suggestion because it might suggest impropriety to our neighbors (seeing a man pull up to our house and go inside). I mean I understand where she might be coming from with that point but then to be able to talk to me at the same time with utter contempt, hostility, and disrespect is the picture of someone with some sort of internal schism. Are you beginning to get the picture when I say that I honestly think she might be mentally ill?

What to do?


#6

Are you beginning to get the picture when I say that I honestly think she might be mentally ill?

Absolutely. I am so sorry you are experiencing this, and I am even more sorry that your son is experiencing this. I hesitate to give advice, because I feel so out of my league … I will just say that, as a parent to a parent, you must put your child’s welfare first. Watching one parent be out of control, screaming at his other parent, must be very disturbing to him. Who was with him when you were out of town and your wife was engaging in these behaviors?

Maybe she needs a drug and alcohol assessment.

Again, I can only offer you my sympathy, prayers and best wishes. The only advice I feel confident giving is to make sure you do whatever is necessary to protect your son.


#7

Agapewolf,

Thanks for the comments. One question: when is divorce in cases of abuse okay? I understand what you’re saying from a humanistic and intellectual standpoint. However, I don’t see how that can be deduced from the Biblical teachings on divorce. Is there something in the Tradition of the Church that leads you to say that? It certainly makes a ton of practical sense when a spouse is literally in danger of losing their life from the other spouse. However, it would seem like virtually anyone could claim abuse in an attempt to rationalize divorce. Heck, my wife is fond of telling everyone she knows that I abuse her. I don’t. My wife spends a ton of money and she interprets my pleadings to reign in her spending as “abuse”. I currently work two jobs to support our family and have worked three jobs at times in the past couple of years to keep up with her spending. She is a stay-at-home mom.


#8

dwc,

Thanks again. I have suggested many times that she get an alcohol assessment. She refuses to do so. She does not think she has a problem. She drinks almost every night of the week. She usually is not stumbling-down drunk. However, it is enough that, most evenings, I smell it on her breath and can tell from her behavior that she has been drinking. A couple of months ago, I pulled seventeen bottles/boxes of wine and liquor from our recycling to document how much alcohol was being consumed. That was over a two week period. None of that was consumed by me. I rarely ever drink; perhaps a couple or three beers per month and usually when I am out of town during a dinner.

I have begun watering down her bottles of wine when I find them. She hides them.

Some more on the notion of mental illness: just last week, her idea of a joke was to tell me that she was pregnant. I asked her several times if she was serious (we virtually never have sex [not my choice]) and she persisted. She was telling me this on the phone while I was at work out of town. She finally let me in on the joke after about fifteen minutes. Funny.

Here’s another thing she thought was funny recently. Remember the whole cocaine thing I mentioned in a previous reply? Well, that hurt me deeply and she knew it. About two weeks ago, she announced to me that she was going out for some drinks with a friend. This bothered me and she knew it because of all the conflict and problems her drinking has caused. Well, she and her friend ended up sending me via cell phone a picture of my wife snorting a line of salt (cocaine) just to get a rise out of me. I knew it wasn’t really cocaine but I was blown away by the insensitivity of it all. The idea that they thought I would think that was funny is unbelievable.

We don’t even sleep together in the same room anymore. Again, not my choice. She sleeps downstairs. I sleep in “our” bedroom. She says she can’t stand being around me.

I don’t know what to do. Like I said, I’ve been far from perfect in our marriage and she has some legitimate resentments. However, I am not a monster. I’m a sinner like everyone else who needs Christs saving blood to wash me clean and sanctify me. I’m really lost on this issue. The only thing I can think to do is to offer it up to God and put my faith in Him. As long as I honor Him, he will guide me toward safe harbor eventually whether in this life or the life to come. I had a thought the other day related to the Biblical idea that husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church. Here it is: right now, my wife is my cross and I must pick her up and bear her; carry her as far as I can, all the way to the end of my years if that’s what God wills for me. God never promised me an easy go of it. Tonight, after all of the commotion I simply told her I forigve you for all that happened tonight, I love you, and I’m praying for you.


#9

Let’s keep the terminology straight.

Any sacramental marriage is impossible to seperate. There is nothing …including adultery…that can undo the marriage if the marriage was valid and sacramental.

Divorce in the case that we are talking about is merely a civil matter. It has no bearing on the sacramental nature of the “marriage”,.

The church doesn’t teach that “divorce is ok” in any circumstance.


#10

Agapewolf,

Oh, okay, you were talking about civil marriages when you said divorce for reasons of abuse was okay. Gotcha. Divorce is far too easy. My state, Washington, is like most others (I assume). It’s a no-fault state which means that you don’t even need a reason to file for divorce.


#11

dwc,

I’m sorry. I noticed I neglected to answer one of your questions regarding where my son was when all of this was going on with me out of town.

My son was in the house when my wife hosted the party for the teenagers. That’s how I found about it. I called to say good night to him and he told “something very bad is going on”. He told me that the teenagers were drinking banana rum, and that mommy was pouring them wine. He told me they were throwing wet spaghetti noodles on our walls and mommy was dancing with all of the teenagers and playing the music so loud that the walls were shaking (all the while screaming at him to “get to bed”). I had him get on the webcam so that I could see it for myself. Teenagers were jumping off our stairs from our top floor, there were kids making out in my bed. Unbelievable!!I eventually was able to get a neighbor to go over and break up the party. On the other occasions, my wife had my son go stay at neighbor’s houses. The stuff I found out about all came from neighbors and friends who saw different things happen. I can only imagine what happened that I don’t even know about.

Agapewolf,

Just wanted to say thanks for all of the good info on marriage and how the Church might view my marital history. I appreciate it!


#12

Okay, I’m not a canon lawyer and I repeat I’m not a canon lawyer. I’m however graduating in law this semester with a Master’s and I’ve done a course in marital cases under canon law, getting an A in it, so I guess I’m not entirely worthless. The advice agapewolf has given you is very sound and none of your marriages were sacramental unless there was a general dispensation from canonical form in place, which I seriously doubt. However, there have been such cases and people have probably even married sacramentally without knowing (you have specifically to exclude the sacrament for a religious marriage to be invalid). You need to talk to your priest and then the diocesan tribunal. Whatever marriage attempts you’ve made need to be investigated. In case of civil only marriages for Catholics, it’s a simple investigation from documents, so basically all the evidencing comes down to showing there was a civil marriage without a religious one, which is simple (a simplified procedure).

So, to me, given the facts as I see and understand them, it looks like neither of your marriages have been valid. And, which I’m very sorry to say and I hope I’m not hurting you by this, your current wife is not someone I would marry or suggest anyone to marry. Additionally, I suppose she’s unable to undertake or perform marital duties (not a euphemism for sex). See Canon 1095 and 1096, then Canon 1066. If a priest knew canon law, he would probably think 10 times before celebrating such a marriage. If I were a priest, I wouldn’t.

Additionally, if your wife wants to divorce, I don’t think there’s much of persisting consent, so while she probably wouldn’t agree to convalidation in the first place, I doubt it would be granted anyway.

I don’t want to try to convince you either way, whether to stay with your wife and try to get her to agree to convalidation, drop the idea of divorce or separation, go to therapy, or to divorce her civilly and look for a Catholic wife after settling the matters with the diocesan tribunal. But it’s important not to confuse a civil marriage with a sacramental one. You don’t have those obligations which come from the sacramental nature of marriage because your marriage is not sacramental for all it seems.

It’s easy to say if I were you, I would divorce her civilly, but if I were you or rather in your situation, I would be emotionally involved and probably acting and thinking the same way you do. However, without emotional involvement preventing me, I think I would part ways after giving her the chance to go to therapy and obtain convalidation with you, but in this case, her consent seems to be non-existent, her ability to give consent is doubtful anyway and her ability to persist in that consent and perform the duties is even more so, so I it might be the best decision to split up. But don’t be too inclined to take my advice on matters of life because I’m just a 24 years old student. Better listen to older people.


#13

chevalier,

Thanks for the advice and insight. You’re right; I am emotionally involved, so it’s not easy. I certainly would not marry her over again given what has happened. However, I have to think that our marriage is somehow sanctified by God through our child or in some other way. Any thoughts?


#14

I don’t feel competent to think about that. It appears to me that you don’t have to but rather want to or feel inclined to. I don’t know God’s plans with regard to you or your wife. But if you want to have that marriage valid and sacramental, you need to convalidate it and consider this:

Can. 1162 §1. A marriage cannot be radically sanated if consent is lacking in either or both of the parties, whether the consent was lacking from the beginning or, though present in the beginning, was revoked afterwards.

You really need to talk to your priest and preferably (also) to the church tribunal in your diocese.


#15

please see post # 14

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=138151


#16

I read #14 on the thread that is linked. I have to ask, would Retrouvaille (sorry if the spelling is off) encourage a weekend when one of the parites is an active alcoholic? It would seem to me that the issue of alcoholism would have to be addressed first, and that can’t be addressed if the alcoholic doesn’t want or see a need to address it.

SiriusX, if I were you I would be terrified for my son. God bless him for knowing something terrible was going on. How afraid he must have been. I hope you document what is going on, and ask your neighbors if they would support you in getting custody, if you can trust them not to discuss it with your wife. The divorce process and court proceedings are completely unpredictable so there is no saying what a judge might decide or what a law guardian might recommend, but you should keep evidence that you have about your wife’s behavior, and it is dangerous, illegal behavior, when your son is in her care. If this happens again while you are out of town, contact a family member to be at your house to get your son, and call the police. You are lucky she let your son use the phone and the webcam. She might not next time.

You may not want to hear it, but there is no valid marriage to save. Save your son. Seriously, make a plan to get out, which includes plans for the safe care of your son while you are at work. See a lawyer and find out what you can do, and do it as quickly as possible, without asking your wife’s opinion or advising her of your plans at any stage. You need to get custody of your son. Your wife obviously does not even want to be a real wife and mother at this point, but guilt, not to mention fear of having to give up the life situation that is enabling her behavior, may cause her to fight you over your plans for your child. Do not allow yourself to feel sorry for her except in the most detached way, as you would for a stranger. If you act as you should, you are giving her exactly what she needs to face what she is doing which is her only hope of changing anyhow. Be that as it may, she is not the priority here. Your innocent child is.

And before anything else, place your son under the care of the Blessed Mother. Pray for him all day long, asking his guardian angel and his patron saint to keep an eye on him, and no matter how ugly things get, believe that they are all watching over him.


#17

Sanctified by God? Your child is a blessing to be sure, but your marriage is definitely not sanctified by God. I don’t really see how you could possibly enter into a valid marriage with her right now. You would only be doing it out of some misguided sense of obligation for your son. Truthfully though, the best thing that you can do for your son is to get him out of this situation.

Momof8 has given you some very sound advice here. I think if you were to go and talk to your priest, he would likely agree. I know it is the same advice my priest gave me.

Without your wife being aware of it, I would also talk to a lawyer. I think you are going to need to at least file for a legal separation and seek full custody of your son with supervised visitation only for your wife until she seeks treatment for her problems. I think your lawyer could also advise you whether or not it would be best for you to move out or to seek a kick out order for your wife. One way or another, she needs a big dose of reality, that her actions have consequences. The path that she is on is one of destruction, and her bad choices are going to seriously impact your life as well as that of your son. She is not going to leave this path on her own. Your taking action is probably the only incentive that will get her to take a serious look at herself.

I know that leaving a marriage, especially when there is a child involved, is really tough. I’ve been there done that. Still, I’m not going to complain about the taste of the medicine, because it is a whole lot more preferable than the disease of allowing my children to grow up in an alcoholic and abusive home. I pray that you will find the strength to do what is right.


#18

Your primary obligation and responsibility is to your son, an innocent bystander in all this chaos. It should be obvious that your current marital and home environment–with the drinking, partying and utter moral recklessness–is no place for an impressionable, dependant child.

If it were me, I’d be gone–out of the house. Get an apartment, go home to your parents, anything to get some sanity and safety returned to your son’s daily life. It seems clear you are not involved in anything that could be considered a sacramental marital union. If you wish to pursue healing and help for your wife, it seems the decent thing to do. However, without some serious commitment to stop drinking and perhaps get some counseling, there may not be much to work with. You don’t have to have all the answers to your problems before you make some changes to improve your situation. In this case–whether or not the marriage survives–you and your boy need some separation from her unhealthy pursuits.

I would never again leave your son unattended with his mother. As the mom of an 8 y.o. myself, it breaks my heart to think of the fear, shock and anxiety to which he has been subjected. It is now time for you, the adult, to take on this burden, face the facts of this mistake you have made and try to create a more healthy home for you and your son.


#19

Hello,

At this point in time I believe your son’s physical, emotional and spiritual safety is of a higher priority then your marriage.

Left home alone with his mother is a very dangerous place for him to be. It is likely that the inappropriate and frightening things he has witnessed are far more then you saw that evening on the web cam. What is his life during the day? Is she taking care of him, feeding him properly? Does he see her getting drunk when he is at home? What kind of things is she saying to him that may be poisioning his mind? What kind of immoral people has he been around and what kind of immoral things has he been a witness to?

Please consider how you can remove your son as soon as possible from this environment. When you spoke of that party he saw I got a chill down my spine. Who knows what kind of language he heard or behavior he observed. I hope that his guardian angels were protecting him from all of that.

Do what you can. Please ask a priest for help for your son. I know you want your marriage to work…but you cannot sacrafice your son and let him stay there to try and keep your marriage together. Of course your relationship with your wife will take a turn for the worse when you remove your son from the home but as I see it you have no choice. I am so sorry that you are in this position. I will be praying for you that God will give you the courage and the strength to do what is right. God bless you.


#20

Please see these people at once:

  • a priest.
  • a good lawyer (Do not tell your wife, and it may take some time. Most lawyers will give the first interview free. If it helps, don’t go with the one who has the biggest ad or the most TV commericals advertising father’s rights. Go with the one who seems the most professional, and the one you feel you can trust with your son). Among the questions you ask, ask if there is sufficient proof regarding the teenagers at the party to go to the police. That was so wrong on so many levels, and in some places, you could have been repsonsible as well as the co-owner of your house.
  • an abuse counselor (Again, do not tell your wife, and you may have to find one at a shelter for abused women- ask the priest if he knows of any).
  • A trusted friend, if you have one.

I know you are stressed to the max right now, but it would not be a good idea to decide this “by consensus” on CAF, no matter how much pain you are shouldering at this time.

And you move to the #2 slot on my CAF prayer list.


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