So many of my Catholic readers are struggling with the possible end of their relationship and wondering about divorce and annulment. Because I've received so many requests about divorce vs. annulment, I thought I’d let an expert answer some of your questions.
I’m honoured that Msgr. Charles Pope has given me permission to re-print his article, “What is an Annulment and How Does it Differ From Divorce?”
Love is often misunderstood -- and over-used -- in today's world. It's not unusual for people to declare that they love chocolate, or a sunny day after a long winter of storms and snow. But what does love mean when it comes to another person, and how can we love authentically?
Without engaging in a discussion on the various types philosophical of love -- eros (romantic), phileo (friendship),
and agapé (spiritual, sacrificial) — I wish to focus in this post on our most intimate relationships in regards to the necessity of detached love.
What does “detached love” mean? Aren’t we supposed to be emotionally bonded to our loved ones?
Marriage--as God intended--is about mutual self-giving. It's a waltz between partners, the balancing of strengths and opposites, weaknesses and complementariness. Sure, partners might step on each other's toes during the decades of this loving dance, yet all issues are resolved with authentic apology and open communication.
At least this is how marriage should be.
Yet when self-giving is one-sided—as it is in all abusive relationships—a corruption of God’s intentions takes place. This is a form of evil, a desecration of the gift of self. How can we heal from this trauma? How can we move forward?
I feel so blessed when my readers contact me with questions, concerns and comments.
However, since I now receive so many messages, I’ve decided to begin featuring Q&A as a regular feature of my articles. If you have any topics you’d like addressed, please let me know. And don’t worry—I won’t ever use your real name or identifying information.
I’m thrilled to have Fr. Henry Ogbuji as a guest blogger speaking about domestic violence from a ministerial perspective. Fr. Henry is one of the Church’s brave priests who isn’t shy about speaking out against domestic violence, and is the author of From Where Shall Come Our Help: The Lament of Abused Persons.
A priest from Nigeria, Fr. Henry writes about his own personal experience, which led to being a primary domestic violence advocate within the Church. He now guides clergy, lay ministers, and others to become aware of domestic abuse and how the Catholic Church can help victims protect themselves, and heal.
Love Is Not a Competition
Competitions are supposed to be fun. They're designed to challenge the stamina, talent and determination of those participating, and they should encourage strong camaraderie and social engagement.
Unfortunately there any situations in which competition gets out of control. It can become a manipulative power play, a one-upmanship, a display of vulgar and unwholesome opposition.
Abusive and narcissistic individuals tend to view all of life as a competition. They always have to be the winner. If they aren't—if they feel they’ve lost, or someone might be better at something than they are—then all hell breaks loose.
And that’s putting it mildly.
Sadly, love is no exception.
I was recently interviewed by Dr. Cynthia Toolin-Wilson of WCAT TV about my upcoming book, Don’t Plant Your Seeds Among Thorns: A Catholic’s Guide to Domestic Abuse. I took the title of my book from Jeremiah 4:3 because reflects the truth of abusive relationships; where love is neglected, fruitfulness is impossible unless real change and healing is achieved.
“The Catholic Church defines marriage as a continuous act of mutual self-giving,” I point out in the interview. “That's what marriage should be—a beautiful giving of self because you can be vulnerable. In a marriage you have to be vulnerable; if you can't be vulnerable you don't really have a marriage, and certainly self-giving is impossible. Mutual self-giving is giving your strengths to your partner, and your partner giving his strengths to you; likewise you give your weaknesses so you can share in both. In an abusive relationship you can't give your vulnerability because it will be taken advantage of. You can't show your weaknesses because they will get thrown back in your face. The ability to mutually self-give as the Catholic Church defines marriage is impossible.”
Yet there is hope, there is healing, and change is possible. What does change look like? For a victim of abuse, it’s a metamorphosis from victim to survivor, a renewal of self and soul.
I invite you to listen to my interview with Dr. Cynthia Toolin-Wilson, where we discuss various aspects of domestic abuse and healing.
Love in a Horse Chestnut
Nestled deep within my pocket, or sometimes clutched in the palm of my hand, I carry a horse chestnut. It's plain, it's simple, it's ordinary--at least to anyone who might see it. But to me, it’s a sacred object.
It’s easy to feel unloved when struggling through an abusive relationship. Victims are either blatantly told that they aren’t worthy of being loved, or sometimes the attack may come in different words but with the same meaning. Verbal abuse is just another way of being told we’re not cherished by our partner. An individual with covert tendencies will often say things such as “you hate me,” or play the victim in order to guilt their target into submission.
These words and actions also show a lack of empathy and love.
That’s why—for the sake of our mental health and emotional well-being—a group of understanding, supportive loved ones is so important. There’s a reason the LORD declares in Genesis 2:18, “it's not good that man should be alone.” He created us as social beings, living in a social world. Isolation is a detriment to health and healing.
And here's where my horse chestnut enters the story.
Most of us suffer from a variety of fears, both big and small. Fear seems to permeate this fallen world, yet what is this fear all about? One thing I’ve come to realize is that fear has, as its source, a single foundation:
A threat to safety.
My sense of safety has been destroyed. The reasons for this would be too long to describe, and they hardly matter. It’s the resulting emotion—fear—that’s the important point.
I have no safety, no place I can truly feel at ease or at home, and this creates a tremendous amount of inner turmoil and anxiety.
I have no safe place any longer—or do I?
How to Change Your Relationship
Marriage is sacred—yet so are we.
We're all cherished children of the God the Father. We've all been blessedly and graciously called to an intimate relationship with Jesus, our divine Bridegroom. We're desired and cherished by none other than the Creator Himself. Our bodies are all temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).
These are certainties I’ve always known within my mind, yet I wasn’t able to fully understand them within my heart until I began to heal from my struggle with domestic abuse. Because I’d been focused for so many years on my relationship, I hadn’t cleared the space in my soul to allow such divine truths to enter. I’d been trying to survive heartbreak for so long that my mind had become shrouded in sorrow and even despair.
In order to heal I needed to step back from my rationalizing thoughts and heavy emotions so I could release it all. That was difficult to do, because releasing all meant releasing my sacramental marriage, and I didn’t feel strong enough to do that. I was scared, I was trauma bonded, I was adrift and afloat. Yet I knew releasing my marriage was exactly I needed to do.
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.