Which is more important? The sacrament of marriage or a child, a gift from God?


I’m just watching the Pope speak in Ireland about marriage.

If a marriage with children is unhappy and it impacts on the mental health of the progeny, which takes priority? The sacrament or God’s gift?


You did realize that separation and even civil divorce is a way to go when there’s harm for a spouse and children?
Such questions won’t occur in reality often. In most cases it’s clear one needs to leave when we talk about protecting children.


Both take priority. Marriages don’t just get unhappy. Two people in them make them that way.
Kids like to have a mom and dad and a happy home.

The only time you should end a marriage for the children’s sake is when one parent is directly harming the kids and you need to protect them from harm by taking them away from that person. This could also include one spouse harming the other, as it’s harmful to kids to see their dad abuse their mom or vice versa. Otherwise you should try to fix your marriage.


And while you are trying to fix your marriage, what happens with the kids? Do they just grin and bear it, regardless of age? Do parents arguing provide a good environment for six year-olds?

People fall out of love. It’s a fact. A mother never stops loving her child.

Doesn’t Love have a say?


There’s a lot of gray area here.

A lot of people nowadays think that they must end their marriage if they are not completely and utterly blissful 24/7/365.

And then to justify the upheaval of divorce, they tell people that the children will be so much happier if mommy or daddy is happier.

BS. Children want their parents together. They want the security that their parents’ marriage represents. Survival instincts are stronger that philosophical reasoning with children. Survival of the parents’ marriage means greater physical security in most cases.

In cases where continuing the marriage would be a danger to the children or one of the spouses, the Church actually does allow for separation or divorce.

But let’s be honest. Nowadays, most people aren’t getting divorced because of abuse – physical, emotional, sexual, etc. – or addiction. They divorce because they didn’t do the day-in and day-out work or making a strong marriage, and it was easier to leave than to get to work on it.

And yeah, I’m saying all this as a divorced woman… and we did not divorce because of abuse or addiction.


Did you divorce for yourself or for the kids?


Oh give me a break! :roll_eyes:

Do people honestly expect to feel all fluttery for the rest of their lives? What about the lessons you teach your children about integrity, about commitment, about love being stronger than feelings?

Don’t you think children can learn from parents not getting along, but who stick it out anyway and try to resolve their problems?

And parents who fight all the time, and who never can come to resolution, are probably so immature that they’re just gonna keep screwing up their kids whether married or hopping from one argument partner to the next.

Love is a day-in-day-out choice to seek out the good for another. Love is sacrifice. And making those sacrifices can reap a lifetimes of benefits, including the warm fuzzies every now and then. :two_hearts:


What are you claiming? That children are better off with a single mother than with two parents?


No fault divorce – my husband wanted out because being married wasn’t “being in integrity” for him. I asked if we could please stay married for the sake of our two-year-old son. He said no. I had no legal recourse. Spouse wants out, divorce granted.

Incidentally, I have learned more about the true nature of love by being divorced than I ever did by being married to this man. For the sake of our son, I have laid aside my feelings and done interior violence to my natural inclinations and never said a single negative word about my ex in front or to my son.

I have encouraged him to have a close relationship with his father, always pointing out the good qualities in his dad. I have cried for hours on holidays, knowing (and dreading) I would have to spend them with my ex (so our son could have both his parents for these special days) and then pulled myself together to be cheerful and light-hearted and (by God’s grace) even gracious at these events. I have encouraged my ex in his endeavors and offered support when I could.

Believe me, there were no warm fuzzies in this. For love of my son, the sacrifices were made. And for love of my son, I could also love my ex, in the non-romantic-lay-down-your-life kind of love asked of us as Christians.


Marriage isn’t about falling in love or falling out of love. That’s secular baloney. Marriage is about lifetime commitment. If you can’t handle that, you have no business marrying and you certainly shouldn’t be having kids.


Or maybe they learn how not to get along first and foremost. Arguments between parents are more visible and audible than peace. Children are driven by sensory stimulus. The louder, the brighter, the more colourful the stimulus, the more they take notice. Why do kids love loud, bright cartoons and puppets?

Do you have much contact with children?


I draw an analogy. Marriage is like the perfect cruise until you realise you get seasick. Once you are on board, there is no getting off unless the boat sinks.

The same goes with having children. But, if the boat sinks, who gets in the lifeboat first? The married couple or the children? Secular baloney says the latter.


I am a public school music teacher. I have about 550 students that I teach. I watch them grow up from kindergarten through fifth grade. In over 20 years of teaching, I have gotten to know thousands of children and their families.

Pretty much seen it all with regards to children and families and effects of divorce, stepparents and step-siblings, homelessness, addiction, violence, teen pregnancy, death, disease, murder, suicide, poverty, mental illness, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and on and on and on.

Not saying there’s never a cause for separation or divorce. Just saying that “falling out of love” and “not being happy” are used way too frequently to mask a defense of one’s own immaturity, selfishness, etc.

And now, I must leave the last word to you. I have put off my chores for far too long… speaking of immaturity :roll_eyes:

Thanks for the dialogue! I don’t feel I’ve done your questions justice, just rambled off my own thoughts and experiences. If I’m around later, I’ll check back in.


Yes. Maybe. To some extent.
My late parents were not what I would call happily married.

I don’t think I learned to try to resolve problems from their experiences, because they never really did resolve their problems, and never, ever discussed anything about their relationship with us children. Instead, I saw two people who were usually unhappy with each other and stayed together because…the cruise ship hadn’t sunk.

I’m sticking in my marriage for better and for worse not because of my parents’ example, but because that’s who I am by nature.

But that’s not to say that other people can’t learn from their parents’ commitment to one another. The important part is probably for the parents to demonstrate how to resolve problems, which mine never did. They’d simply stop talking to one another.


It must be tough having such a close a relationship with so many children but feeling helpless when they are hurting. I don’t envy you. You must feel, at times, you are letting them down. I am sure there must be many occasions when you have wanted to take a hurt child in and smother it in comfort but you’ve not been able to.

I see where you are coming from. You see divorce and the like as the root, the reason why a child is unhappy and ultimately the reason for your own empathetic pain. Teaching and empathy go hand-in-hand. You need to go a step back to the root of the root. Unhappy parents lead to unhappy kids lead to unhappy you. Unhappy parents are typically the product of their own unhappy parents. Like a genetic condition, unhappiness can be and is inherited. Prevention is better than cure.

As a music teacher, you foster creativity in the kids. You foster imagination. You demonstrate the wild variety of music from Bach to Stravinsky. You give them the freedom to express themselves as loud as they like when they need to, but you also teach them measure and control. You can’t rush the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata! In fact, keeping those triplets even, all the way through, requires a great deal of concentration, concentration that might lapse if a kid is not ‘at peace’.

Music comes from the soul. A child with a troubled soul can only produce noise or uneven triplets. You have to grit your teeth through that noise while they are wailing and gnashing internally.

Music is also food for the soul. Continue making sure they don’t go hungry on your watch.


May I ask, how old are you? Your questions aren’t reflecting a mature view of what marriage is. It’s kind of hard to have a discussion with somebody who is viewing this whole thing through some romantic lens.

Edited to add, I think I’m just going to mute this thread because we have a failure to communicate, and I honesly don’t see it getting any better the more you post. God bless


Love isn’t something you fall in and out of.

People decide to stop loving. That’s the fact.


When my parents argued it was frightening, depressing and confusing. I didn’t care what they were arguing about, I didn’t understand why they were arguing. Sometimes I wanted to die.
I think that i felt I had two parents, the child of two parents, I didn’t want them to part, just stop arguing.
So as an adult now I see the other side of the coin, a far more complex picture and as a Christian and perhaps especially as a Catholic I can see the benefits of persisting with an unstable relationship for spiritual reasons. Those reasons however would not impress your average six year old.
If two people can’t supress their egos, subjugate their personalities and recognise the weighty responsibility which they have as guardians, teachers and benevolent nurturers of a young impressionable child then they should part, gently and with compassion for each other and the child or children.
This will be very upsetting for the child but if frequent contact is kept up then perhaps this is the better of two evils, ie staying put and arguing or leaving and maintaining contact. If my parents had split up I, as a boy would’ve run riot! I have no doubt at all that I would have mercilessly manipulated my mother and eventually become a delinquent. As it was my parents stayed together and it took me far longer to become a delinquent!

There is no perfect answer to the problem of two married people being incompatible and having a fractious relationship unless they become compatible and substantially reduce the friction. I’m sure few marriages are perfect.


They see their parents working through rough times, they see that the marriage bond is for life, they learn not to give up.


Marriage counseling through the Church teaches that an individual needs to prioritize relationships in this order:

  1. God
  2. Spouse
  3. Children
  4. Other relatives and friends

Children need loving care in their upbringing, but the focal point of the marriage vocation is the spouse. A Lutheran minister once advised a couple during their wedding: “Love will not sustain your marriage, but if you allow it, your marriage can sustain your love for one another.”

Edit to add: logically, when this love between spouses is established, the love of their children is a natural progression (almost analogous to the Creed, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the love of Father and Son… these things aren’t accidental or coincidental). If the love (not the Hollywood version but the real, messy, chaotic, and challenging version) between spouses breaks down, the poor kids are up a creek regardless of what either parent does until that gets sorted out. And on this latter point, I only speak from witnessing children growing up in a variety of homes struggling with a variety of issues as a teacher in small communities.

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