Theme: Marriage: For Better, For Worse
Friday, May 13, 2011 by Ruth McDonnell

Dear Alphie,
My question is simple: When I have been doing for my ex-husband threw out our entire relationship of 7 years, and he took and never gave anything in return. Is it selfish of me to turn my back on him and find out how to love myself and find out who I am and get away from his drinking and manipulation?
Seeking to love myself

Dear Seeking to love myself,

In your letter you describe the very bad experience you’ve had with your marriage. This is a hard thing. No doubt you thought on the day of your wedding that you had found the love of your life. That has all turned sour now. Your questions is a natural one: “Now what?”

You know that our Catholic Church teaches that marriage is for life. This reflects Jesus’ own teaching. Catholics in your situation who sincerely want to follow Jesus ask, as you do, “Does this mean I’m stuck in this for life? Am I being selfish by getting out of this bad situation?”

My quick answer would be, “No. You are not necessarily selfish by leaving this relationship. You may not be stuck with this for life.” Let me explain why I say this.

When the priest prepares a couple for marriage, he asks a number of questions of the bride- and groom-to-be. Among those questions, he asks each of them if they have ever had serious emotional problems or difficulties with addictions. The Church requires the priest to ask these questions because for a marriage really to take place, the man and woman involved must want to make a complete gift of themselves to one another. They must want to, and they must be able to make that kind of complete gift to each other. Experience shows that people with some kinds of serious emotional difficulties and people with addictions (for instance, alcohol addictions) may be unable to make that gift of their heart and soul to another person. They may want to marry, but they can’t break out of their own shell enough to truly love and honour someone else. They are not emotionally capable of marrying at that point of their life. If this can be show, the Church may grant a declaration that from the start no marriage took place. (This is what is called an “annulment”.)

It’s not a ceremony that makes a marriage: it’s a lifetime commitment to love and honour that makes a marriage.

The alcoholic can be caught up in his or her own world. Their world revolves around themselves. They often abuse others; they cannot really give their heart to another person. This may be what happened with your husband.

What should you do? You mention that you need to find out who you are. I’m not sure any of us can know the full story of who we are. But we can take time to look at what makes us unique persons. We can do our own reflecting, and we can get trusted friends to help us. I hope that you will find time to know yourself better, to do some things you really love to do, and to be glad to be the person you are.

You also need to find some peace for yourself. You do need to come to love yourself. God loves you, and you should love yourself just as God loves you. Do what you need to find some peace in your life. Then you will start to rediscover that you are lovable. That won’t happen living with someone who does not love and respect you.

All that I’ve said is just a short answer to some of your questions. At some point you may want to talk over with a priest or a counselor the direction your future life should take. Right now the most important thing for you is to find some peace and joy in your day-to-day life. Take time for yourself, find time to spend with good friends, and find time to speak to God and to let God speak to you.

God will surely guide you on a good path.


aka. Fr. Bill, C.Ss.R.