Past sins and choosing a spouse


#1

When we marry, we have to expect a certain level of imperfections and a certain amount of history. However, at what point does a person’s past transgressions mean that they should no longer be considered as a possible spouse?

A few weeks ago, I posted on the forums saying that I would not marry a man who had fathered a child out of wedlock, no matter how good a person he became afterwards. To me, this is a non-negotiable. A few other non-negotiables are
1 Having spent time in jail or being convicted of a felony.
2 Having a previous marriage and divorce.
3 Coercing a former girlfriend to have an abortion.
4 A history of violent behavior.

To me, the presence of any of these things would cause me to immediatly break off the relationship and look for someone else. To me, even if the person repented of these sins and became a wonderful Catholic, the weight of these offenses would simply be overwhelming to a marriage. Jacob Marley said, “I wear the chain I made in life, I forged it link by link and yard by yard.” Even if a person repents of these sins, the stress that these offenses would put on a marriage would simply be too much to bear.

So, what do people think? Does anyone else have a point where a person’s past transgressions make them an unsuitable marriage partner, regardless of their current state of holiness?


#2

I’m sorry that you feel this way.

You have just excluded St. Augustine of Hippo.

I understand where you are coming from – but I feel that you are potentially being far more judgemental than Jesus would be.

No, I’m not condoning sin . . . but if Jesus can forgive past behavior – and even turn a profligate into a saint – how can you tell God “I will, or I won’t”.

Not judging – just wondering . . .

Blessings,


#3

I agree with all of those, I think, except for the fathered a child out of wedlock. At least he took responsibility for the child. Would you marry him if he’d had premarital sex that resulted in no child? I myself would agree with everything else you’d said, and also add anyone who drank regularly to any kind of excess, and anyone who used drugs. I may have to rule out anyone who’d ever been addicted to anything, just because I’d be too afraid they’d slip back into it. Anyone who had any history of molesting kids, of course, or anyone who didn’t like kids (they don’t have to be craving them, but they must be good with them.) Also, anyone who was overweight, because I would be too worried about their health and what habits they’d pass to the kids. And I would only marry someone who was a reasonably hard worker, who had an interest in intelligent things and world affairs, and wanted to pursue a career that they loved and worked hard at (it doesnt have to be a career that makes a lot of money.) And someone who loves to read and watch tv and listen to music in the car as I do. And, finally,they must not have a temper or be irresponsible with money.


#4

Of course. You should not marry someone you feel is not right for you. Their past sins are between them and God however, and He alone will determine if they are repentant and have turned their life around. I would never encourage a person to to marry someone they didn’t feel was right for them. You are entitled to marry only a person whom you can love. If this precludes those who have committed the afore mention sins above then so be it. However, I would ask that you look back on your own life and respect that there may be some out there that can’t accept some of the things that you have done in your past. HONESTY BEFORE marriage is the key. Marriage is NEVER something that should be rushed into. God bless.


#5

With respect, enjoy being single!

You have ruled out St. Augustine.

You have ruled out St. Francis of Assisi.

You have ruled out St. Mary Magdelene.

How many others have you ruled out?

No, I am not a “prude”.

Yes, I fully accept and embrace Catholic teaching on morality.

No, I do not condone any of the sins previously mentioned.

No, I am not perfect (by any stretch of the imagination).

Yes, I am happily married (17+ years; 8 kids).

Judge not, lest ye be judged!

Yes, you are more than entitled to ascertain repentance and amendment of life. Beyond that? It gets very problematic.

I have friends who are recovering/recovered substance abusers.

I have friends who have endured awful and violent relationships.

I have friends who have just downright been abused.

Again, I say – YES!!! – you are more than entitled to ascertain repentance and amendment of life. But given that repentance – AND – AMENDMENT OF LIFE – who are you to judge???


#6

AMEN and AMEN!!!


#7

They weren’t the marrying type them :stuck_out_tongue:


#8

They weren’t the marrying type anyway :stuck_out_tongue:


#9

True . . . but the point remains!!! :stuck_out_tongue: :stuck_out_tongue: :stuck_out_tongue:


#10

Loving someone and forgiving them their past sins doesn’t mean you have to marry them.

Marriage is not compulsory. It is also a very big commitment–one you should not enter into if you are not comfortable. It’s not something you should force yourself into.

Prayerfully discern the decision to marry. If you are not comfortable with someone for any reason, don’t marry them. You’ll both be better off. Judging that someone is not who you want to marry is not the judging Jesus condemns–you are not passing judgment on the destination of their soul.


#11

I think there are certain things that would indeed make a marriage difficult if not impossible - and the existence of a child of your partner may be one of them for you.

As for ruling them out so completely - that may be a problem.

You say someone who has been in jail? What if they got a parking ticket and didn’t have money to pay the fine, and therefore had to spend a few days in jail? Would you date someone who had had a parking fine but paid it?

Or what if someone took part in a protest against (say) abortion legislation, and were arbitrarily and wrongfully arrested and (again) had not enough money to pay a fine, and was required to spend a few days in jail?

I agree more so about things like habitual violence and addictions, which are extremely difficult habits to get rid of and can be disastrous in a partner.

Even so - I would always allow for at least the possibility of change and look at the circumstances of the addiction or jail time or what have you.


#12

I think there are certain things that would indeed make a marriage difficult if not impossible - and the existence of a child of your partner, or a criminal history or habitual violence, would certainly be one for me.

I think problems come with ruling anyone out so emphatically and completely though.

You say someone who has been in jail? What if they got a parking ticket and didn’t have money to pay the fine, and therefore had to spend a few days in jail? Would you date someone who had had a parking fine but paid it?

Or what if someone took part in a protest against (say) abortion legislation, and were arbitrarily and wrongfully arrested and (again) had not enough money to pay a fine, and was required to spend a few days in jail?

I agree more about things like habitual violence and addictions, which are extremely difficult habits to get rid of and can be disastrous in a partner.

Even so - I would always allow for at least the possibility of change over time and would look at the circumstances of the addiction or jail time or what have you.


#13

I guess you would have to call St Paul’s earlier years “violent.” so he’s out too.

But seriously, you can’t be a saint and forgive and accept everything, but, you also can’t expect that he must be a saint either.


#14

I think most of your requirements are wise.

But I don’t think it is so much an issue of “sin” as it is an issue of psychology and statistics. A man who has been violent in the past or committed a felony is–statistically speaking–extremely unlikely to cease such behavior (though some do, bless their hearts), and even more unlikely to gain both a Catholic worldview and a kind, gentle disposition. I think you’re wise to avoid pledging your entire being to someone who has displayed these tendencies in the past. Likewise, forcing a girlfriend to have an abortion reflects both a violent and a manipulative personality, along with a dose of misogyny–also traits that are unlikely to vanish.

I think you might have been a bit harsh about men who have fathered children out of wedlock. In this case your reservations are certainly not about sin. Would you still consider marrying a nice (repentant and presently chaste) Catholic man whose ex-girlfriend suffered a miscarriage? Or a man whose ex-girlfriend was on the pill so she didn’t conceive? I understand not wanting to enter a marriage with a guy who has children already. It would definitely be a less than ideal situation. But it is not a sinful offense to be a father, or to have obtained a decree of nullity for a previous marriage. It is a sin to have extra-marital sex, regardless of the results.

Every person is different. My previous marriage (which is null) was not salvageable because of my ex’s extreme violence toward me and our child. So I am both previously married and have a son, but I was not at all at fault for the breakdown of the marriage and I do not have to share custody or have my ex in my life at all.

Anyhow, I’m just sharing that with you as one example of the many unique situations that create single parents, or annullments. You might consider evaluating these people on a case-by-case basis, so you don’t miss a diamond in the rough. But I do see where you’re coming from and I think that it’s good that you are trying to evaluate what you can and cannot handle. Even in my imperfect situation I still would not marry a man with young kids if those kids have any visitation or residential time with their mother. I just do not feel called to carry the heavy cross of trying to raise a Catholic family in the context of shared custody.


#15

I was goint to say Jesus mgith be your only option but Jesus was convicted, though he was falsely accused.

I think it’s good to have some non-negotiables. May I suggest that you have focus on some positive non-negotiables such as: be a faithful Catholic, decent provider, kind, would be a good father, etc.


#16

Is this a theoretical situation, or have you turned down any men that you otherwise would have dated due to these criteria?


#17

Well, as long as you keep your mind open to the fact that the man God has for you may not necessarily comply with the list, I think you are fine.

With that said, I had a similar list (and in mine I added being a virgin!). I kept an open mind that maybe the one God had for me was not going to “comply” with the list, though. And I knew that if God had him picked out for me, there would be no problem if he didn’t. Nevertheless, it turned out that I met and fell in love with a man that “complied” with every part of that list (I don’t like how that sounds, but anyways you know what I mean) :slight_smile:

I do totally agree with not judging others ,“do not judge lest you be judged”, dont judge the sinner, but the sin, etc. but just like some people have preferences over other areas of life, I don’t see anything wrong with having the preferences you stated. Now, just because someone has any of these it certainly does not mean they are not “worthy” of you, or less “holy”, it may just mean that you don’t feel like you are equipped to deal with their situation (like I didn’t feel like I was).


#18

I think these are your set of standards and it’s up to you. I don’t think they’re unreasonable, at least on the surface, if that person is still the same as he was when these things occurred. However, with conversion, many of these things are exactly what you say - the past. If they have gone to confession for these sins (ie. having a child out of wedlock or assisting a previous girlfriend into getting an abortion), and have truly changed their ways, it’s the past - it’s between God and him. Other circumstances may have happened with other situations that, at first, appear to be horrible (ie landing in jail) but once the whole story comes out, he really isn’t a horrible person. But I think it’s a case by case set of standards. I made a list when I was in 8th grade and my mom read it and agreed that it was a good set of standards. I think there were about 30 qualities I wanted in a future spouse. When I told my friends about it in college, most of them laughed at many of these “qualities” because they were all things they just assumed (ie no physical abuse/violent behavior, no alcoholism or drug use).

My husband now has a past that I would rather him not have. I, too, have a past I’m not proud of. I didn’t murder anyone or wasn’t thrown in jail, nor was he, but still both have past sins we’re not proud of. Had I kept the same standards all the way through, I would not have married this man. He changed throughout his life and is still continuing to (as am I) and works daily on becoming a better person and the best spouse he can be. There were times up to getting married that he would be in the state of mortal sin (I knew b/c we went to daily mass together and he wouldn’t receive) and I didn’t know if I should ask him what was wrong. I had a friend, who was married, tell me that those sins are between him and God and to not act like his conscience because that would make him grow resentful towards me. So, I asked once if he felt comfortable with telling me and he said, “Not now, maybe later.” He never told me and I never asked again. It is between him and God and I know he’s doing his best and he appreciates me not prying or trying to “fix” him.

We’re all imperfect and many times appearances can be deceiving. So, I’d guess I’d say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” My uncle’s wife left him for another man - he is a previously married, now divorced man, but he is a good man and one who is trying to constantly be a better man of God. Who’s to say he doesn’t deserve someone who tries to put Christ first as well? :slight_smile:


#19

This is all theoretical.

Oh, the jail thing is more in the lines of a felony conviction, not simply spending a night in jail because of unpaid parking tickets. I’m talking about someone who was in jail for at least 10 years.

I guess people most strongly object to the child out of wedlock idea.

Part of the reason is not necessarily the sin, but the fact that, imo, having a child would be an added stress to marriage, which is already stressful.
I would like to marry someone who I could trust to be completly loyal to my children, and place their needs as among his highest priority. If a man has a child with another woman, that creates a bit of a conflict.
A man with a child out of wedlock is required to pay child support, which is very expensive. I’d be afraid that every time we’d have a period of financial hardship, I’d look at the bill for the child support and think, “If only he had controlled himself before, we wouldn’t be suffering like this!” I’d find it harder to trust him every time he left the house for a buisness trip, since he’s already proven that he could cheat on me. I’d be afraid of not only having to start out a marriage as a wife, but as a step-mother, if the child lived in the area. Being a step-mother is a very hard job, one that I don’t think I could handle. I’m afraid I would not be able to forgive my husband, if I’m constantly surrounded by evidence of his past transgressions (child support bills, pictures of the child, phone calls from the mother to arrange child visitation, etc.) And worst of all, I’m terrified that I would begin to hate that child, since he is an ever present reminder of my husband’s past.
Leo Tolstoy, before he was married, gave his wife his diary to read. In his diary, he had outlined all of his previous sexual escapades. He wanted to start out his marriage completly forgiven, with nothing hidden, and a clean slate. She was never able to forgive him, especially for one affair he had with a peasant woman who lived on their estate, who had his child. She remained jealous of that woman for the rest of her life, and her marriage was filled with bitterness. She ultimatly grew to hate her husband.
If I don’t want to marry a man with a child out of wedlock, it’s because I realize that I could easilly beome Mrs. Tolstoy.

Out of curiosity, how many men would be willing to marry a woman with a child out of wedlock?


#20

I’m not talking about people who WERE abused. I’m talking about people who abused others.
I’m assuming you have daughters. If one of your daughters wanted to marry a man who was arrested 5 years ago for beating a former girlfriend so badly that he broke her arm and three ribs, would you give your consent to the marriage?

A woman places her physical security in the hands of her husband. In fact, not only her own security, but that of her future children! Men don’t face that danger quite as frequently as women do, or at least, it’s not something that they think about as much.
It’s one thing for me to put my own physical safety on the line. It’s quite another to put an innocent child in that situation. I could never forgive myself if my husband started beating my children.


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