Marriage, Divorce, Catholicism and the Heart

If you read on, I’ll explain why I’m writing about this in a bit…. bear with me.

I’m pretty sure that many of you don’t know that Michelle and I almost divorced. But it’s true – we were very, very close. Close as in we both had paid retainers for divorce lawyers (over $24,000 spent on them!), the divorce papers were served, and we had begun discussions with our lawyers about who would get the kids and when.

This whole deal was tremendously shameful and humiliating; we’re both serious, committed, devout, orthodox Catholics who don’t believe in “divorce”. But there we were, doing it anyway. How in the world did we get to the point where we were willing to do something so opposed to our faith? It’s hard to explain, and I can’t do it fully here andnow. Let me just say that the vulnerability of marriage can expose the two married hearts to wounding so deep and profound that the pain can become too great to bear. Argue all you want about how God never gives you more than you can bear and will never cause you to sin (and this is very true). Nonetheless, we felt isolated, hurt, ashamed and lost. We felt like we were drowning, and no one was there to help, not even God. And, as far as I can tell, I was following the rules; Mass, confession, all my Catholic duties fulfilled. It was hell.

Today — over three years later — I’m delighted to say that we’re still married, and we’re actually quite happily married. All this despite the fact that my lawyer assured me that couples in our condition always get divorced (he assured me it was just a matter of time). He wasn’t counting on the grace of God, our willingness to participate in God’s painful rescue of our hearts, and our dogged pursuit of each other’s broken hearts!

We’ve spent the last few years in serious, serious pursuit of our hearts. I took on my wife’s heart as my mission — she the damsel in distress, me the knight in shining armor. To become the knight, I had to first go after and rescue my own heart. To be more precise, God had to rescue my heart, but He’d be waiting for my willingness, courage and participation. But He promised that if we ask, we will receive, and I asked – over and over and over again, by my prayers and my willingness to go deep. As He rescued my heart, He gave me the grace and strength to fight for my wife’s heart. It’s been worth every bit of the massive, crushing effort. Every bit. Our Lord promised freedom, joy, peace, gratitude… He promised life, LIFE, and that to the fullest. I just knew it was out there to be had, I just knew He wasn’t lying. And I believe this is a matter of the heart, that the heart is at the center of the Christian life, the life of Christ.

Why am I telling you this? Let me explain.

We’re surrounded by good, sincere Catholic friends who are getting “taken out” by the enemy of their hearts (that’s Satan, by the way). And — like us — they don’t know what to do. They’ve been doing their duty, following the rules, and getting their asses handed to them. They’re embarrassed, humiliated and confused. They don’t know who to go to. Like us, they talk to their relatives and friends, and they’re each building up a case against their spouses, justified by their allies. Each judging and blaming each other, and then hurting each other more deeply out of their own wounds, and justifying it. It’s vicious and just gets worse. Marital chicken, we call it.

Lately, we’ve discovered that we really, truly have valuable experience that we can share with Catholic couples (and non-Catholic couples, for that matter). We’ve worked our way back from the depths of hell to something genuinely great. We’ve grown a lot, and we’re amazed and delighted that we have gained an ability to help other couples through some of this stuff. We really, really like doing this.

I’m putting this out there because if you are in this situation, we’re available — email or call us. We’d be more than happy to talk to you individually or as a couple – really. There is hope. There is a way out. And not only a way to get rid of the pain. No, there’s so much more than “no pain” – there’s real joy available. Free-hearted, happy, giddy, passionate love is available. It what we had dreamed of when we got into this mess!

We love you,

– Adam (and Michelle)

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3 Responses to Marriage, Divorce, Catholicism and the Heart

  1. Leannder says:

    There are some of us devout Catholics that are divorced through no fault of our own. My marriage was legally taken care of and dissolved official by the church. The church ‘divorce’ was not an easy task as it involved interviews of everyone concerned. Now, I am happily remarried. What you don’t talk about is getting counselling. I would find it scary if you plan to help others if you have never addressed any of your issues. Communication is the key in marriage and identifying your background as a factor to who you are now. You sound very arrogant in this article. I am glad that you want to help others but how? I have found society wants to support marriage generally. People don’t like a breakdown of a marriage. Moreover, it is very hard on the children of the marriage. I hope if you really do want to help others, you are equipped to do so. Marriage is about dying to self, compromises and listening to the will of God for both of you. There are no knights in shining armour. There is men that are willing to change a diaper, do the dishes, give that extra bit of time. For women, there is the thing out there to ‘find’ themselves. If a woman choses marriage, she has found herself and she needs to be everything for her children and husband. Marriage is not for the selfish of heart. It is also certainly not about running to each other in a field of flowers.

    • Gardiner Family Blog says:

      Leannder,

      Thank you for your reply.

      Your points are good, valid and worth addressing. I will try to respond as soon as I can (we’re in the middle of moving right now, and we’re very busy).

      Thanks again!

      – Adam

  2. margaretmary says:

    Bravo!! Bravo Adam and Michelle!!
    I know you from years ago… little sister to Fr. Anthony.
    I can’t tell you how my heart is happy with the miracle God has worked in your marriage… and how you both cooperated with that grace. My husband and I have experienced and continue to experience this same miracle from disaster. Satan indeed wants to sift. NOPE!
    Praise to Our Living and Good God!!!
    Your family is added to my prayer list! Please pray for us… The Hiser Fam
    In Christ,
    Peggy

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