Being a Catholic in Limbo awaiting divorce and annulment can be treacherous. I’ve walked through the minefield in this emotional wasteland, not unscathed. With hope, I choose to learn from my missteps and persevere, navigating this dangerous territory, Catholic Compass in-hand. I want to share some of my experience with other women and men who may be stumbling through this strange land trying to find their way. It is absolutely a lonely place to be, especially for a devout Catholic. It’s so important to realize we aren’t alone and connect with one another, offering each other support that those outside our situation can’t possibly offer.
There is a strong tendency to isolate in my situation. I often avoid conversations because my life doesn’t fit a neat little timeline and my current situation can’t be summed up in a few pleasant words. Meeting new people is something I dread. The small-talk questions I can’t seem to satisfy with simple, small-talk answers. Somehow I find myself either over-simplifying (which makes me feel like a liar) to avoid awkward over-sharing, or eventually giving in-depth explanations to my brief answers which, as they add up, seem inconsistent and confuse the unsuspecting listener. Their distorted faces often betray their regret for asking me about myself at all. I never will and have no desire to master constructing the facade that is small-talk. However, explaining myself to people is wrought with pain in remembrance of my past. But that is just me, and I may be totally alone in this regard, so moving on…
When I talk to non-Catholics, there’s a complete inability to truly comprehend my current state. Often, there’s an attempt by many to spin it positively by exulting my newfound “freedom” with the obligatory question: “so… are you dating yet?” When interacting with fellow Catholics, I frequently feel the need to be defensive—explaining how I’m not like all those secularists out there who just cop out of marriage due to some lack of personal fulfillment. I felt ashamed that I had failed and had been thrust into this circle, which to outsiders appears to have been simply a personal choice. When the truth is I felt there was no real choice to be had. In reality, it was more of a final acceptance of what our “marriage” really was (or rather wasn’t) and prayerfully looking at the path forward. Accepting the worldly attitude and abandoning Christ, whom I know to be Truth, just to fit in somewhere simply was not an option. Yet, an unintended consequence of my choice seemed to be that a wall was unwittingly erected between myself and Catholicism. I felt as if I didn’t belong anywhere. At other points in my life when these feelings crept up, the Church was always the place I knew I belonged. But I was not even convinced of that anymore. I could now join the chorus of other outcasts, my only solace being that Christ too bore this burden: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58).
Now, If there’s any advice I could give someone on the outside of this circle: don’t try and understand the why’s or how’s or when’s of the divorce. Most likely, we ourselves aren’t exactly crystal clear on the matter, and unless we come to you, don’t prod. Above all, no one, and I mean NO ONE, knows what went on in that marriage except the spouses, and you must assume that there is a whole lot you don’t understand, and perhaps never will. If we need your opinion on something concerning the divorce, we will ask for it. Clearly, a decision has been reached, painstakingly so, and we don’t need to be talked into or out of anything. We just need to be accepted and prayed for and with. If we are wading into some kind of “grey area,” be supportive and listen before offering words of caution. We need to be reminded of Truth but in a loving, not condemning way. Realize that we may have to make stupid mistakes before we can grow, and love anyway, letting us know all the while that you are there regardless.
For all of those inside this seemingly dreadful circle, I will try and compact my story and share what I’ve learned so that you might have a chance at avoiding the same painful land-mines that I didn’t have the wherewithal to avoid. Join me next week as I reveal a portion of my tumultuous journey, and how it has brought me to rest in the bosom of the Church, who never turns Her back on Her beloved children.