Catholic Guilt Erased by N.W.
"Yes," I heard myself saying.
In the next seven years, my husband’s inability to get along with co-workers and to accept authority led to twenty-one jobs lost. The name calling and degradation escalated. When he became angry, I became a “slut.” He seemed to favor putting me down when other people were present, even passing people on the street whom we’d never met. Did he think this made him a man? When our first child cried, he told me to shut her up or he would give her something to cry about.
There were several significant events that ultimately forced me to realize that I had to escape for my sake, and that of my child. I will never forget the day my three-year-old daughter asked me “How come my daddy isn’t like other daddies?” When I asked her what she meant, her response was simple, showing her awareness of what I had failed to admit to myself: “My daddy is angry all the time.”
Eventually we separated and I began divorce proceedings. These moves forced my husband to seek help, and a psychiatrist prescribed Lithium. My husband moved back in with me and things seemed normal for a while. I got pregnant again. But after six months he decided he didn’t like the side effects of the Lithium and quit taking it. When I was several months pregnant, something set him off and he began punching my stomach. The next morning, I had bleeding. This scared me to death.
Right then and there, I said one more prayer. “Please, God, show me what I should do. I promise this time I will hear you. I will listen.” I went home from church and almost immediately, some minor thing set off my husband in a lamp-flying, dish-throwing tirade. The answer was clear.
I scheduled an appointment with the priest who had given the sermon. He was kind and non-judgmental. He explained what the church’s position on marriage was. The church considers a marriage a union of two people who love each other and treat each other with respect, he told me. The church does not believe someone should suffer at the hands of an abuser. The degrading abusive, relationship I was in was not a marriage in the eyes of the church. This man of the cloth erased any Catholic guilt.
By now, I was near term with my pregnancy. The stress was nearly unbearable, but I wanted to hang on until the baby was born. When my daughter was two months old, the final straw broke. After another tantrum, my husband called my father and told him he had better come and pick me up. He told my dad to hurry, or he wouldn’t recognize me when he got there. That night I called the police, had them stand outside while I gathered my children and a few things, and left for my parent’s house.
Linda’s note: N.H. tells me this marriage was annulled and she later married a non-Catholic in the church.
I advocate for healing of divorced people within the church by gathering stories of Christians who chose divorce because of abuse, and the response of their churches to that decision. (I'm interested in both helpful and hurtful experiences.) I also include those who have divorced because of their spouse's infidelity but have nevertheless been blamed by their church for the divorce.
If you’re interested in having your voice heard by contributing your divorce story in relationship to the church, please email me at LindaMKurthBlog@gmail.com for guidelines. I’ll be happy to help you share your story.
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