Thursday, 09 June 2016 18:33

When Friends Divorce

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IMAGE Woman looking at Man leaving

In Australia, like in most Western countries, one in every three marriages ends up in divorce.1 This is a sad reality in our present world. During the past ten years, my husband and I have witnessed six couples go their separate ways. They were all part of our social and church network. Almost all of the couples were too far from getting reconciled when we knew about their deep marital problems. We thought they were having simple couple misunderstandings. Two couples were part of our small social group, another two couples were part of our covenanted community and the other two couples attended the Adult Altar Servers training with us.

For half of them, we suggested that they attend a Catholic Christian program that aims to rekindle their marriages. However, none of them were interested in attending. We were extremely impressed with this program as it was able to reconcile and save the marriage of one of our very close relatives.

All these couples are our friends. When the first of the six couples divorced, I was truly sad. I witnessed a happy and fulfilled (I thought) family. They had three beautiful and intelligent young adult children, had a successful business, were involved in the parish and had a beautiful house on five acres of land. They had very supportive siblings around them. I was there when they celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. They seemed like a perfect couple. It took me years to truly accept that our friends were no longer together. And we lost a friend (the husband).

My husband and I have been married for almost twenty five years. I am truly grateful that we have been together this long. Like many other marriages, we have had our share of challenges and obstacles as we tried to become the best spouse for each other.

Our chance meeting was beautiful and unique. However, many aspects of our partnership – financial, biological, physical, emotional, social and spiritual – faced several road blocks.

Each day we have to be conscious in putting in some effort to make our relationship work. We aim to have a better and stronger marriage. We cannot afford to take each other for granted.

There were a few times when I almost gave up because I thought my husband had enough of my actions and weaknesses. Fortunately, he did not just give up on me easily. There were also times when I was furious with some of his decisions. But, we ultimately managed to resolve the issues. After all, marriages are meant to be tried, tested, strengthened and blessed.

Although I cannot foresee the future and predict that our marriage will last, all I know is that we have some basic tools or strategies that I believe will continue to help us during good and bad times. These are:

1. Pray
We pray each morning – individually when we wake up and together as we travel to work. We pray again as a couple at night in bed before going to sleep. We pray for each other when we attend Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist.

2. Communicate
We communicate even when it is difficult to talk because we do not want to hurt the other person. We have to speak up and be open to listen and discuss even painful truths and topics.

3. Adjust
We adjust and implement whatever we have decided upon. When there is something that we find unsupportive or not life giving in the relationship, we strive to adjust.

4. Forgive
We forgive each other’s wrongdoing and mistakes. We approach the Sacrament of Confession.

5. Accept
We accept that we are not perfect. So we find ways and means to show each other that we care and that we are blessed by God to be together each day.

6. Celebrate
We celebrate with our family and extended family every wedding anniversary. Every five years, we recommit and renew our wedding vows at Mass at our local parish, usually with the congregation.

In these challenging times for married couples, we have to pray for each other and for all married couples around the world. We need to help each other. Although the decision to part ways comes from the couple, we have to continue to support those who are troubled, especially if they are part of our circle or community. And whatever happens to their marriage, we have to be there to continue to support (even just one of them) and avoid judging them.

And even as a friend, I can never really fully comprehend the whole situation that my friends have gone through. I also understand that there are partnerships that could not or should never be allowed to continue. And as each partner moves on with their lives, they may meet someone able to help them rediscover their purpose and find new joy in their lives.

As Pope Francis stated in Amoris Laetitia,2 “It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. ‘They are not excommunicated’ and they should not be treated as such, since they remain part of the ecclesial community. These situations require careful discernment and respectful accompaniment.”

So, I continue to hope and pray that couples, especially our friends and those close to us, be spiritually and mentally focused in building and strengthening their blessed unions as they are the pillars of the basic unit of our society.

 

 

1 McCrindle Research, http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/marriages-in-australia
2 Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the family, #243.