In a world where many people seem to have the mentality, "If it doesn't work out, we'll just get a divorce," the concept of marriage is changing. Instead of "until death do us part," marriage vows are becoming, "until it's no longer going well." My husband and I are still in the former camp. As Catholics, divorce just isn't an option.
A Permanent Union
In fact, we actually believe that marriage is a permanent spiritual transformation that happens between two people, in which, upon their freely given consent, God binds their souls together. Simply deciding to go their own separate ways doesn't change the fact that a married man and woman are "one flesh." This is at the core of the Catholic Church's teachings about divorce: we believe it's impossible for two married people to become un-married. (Yes, we believe in annulment, but that is a declaration that the two people didn't enter into marriage freely to begin with and therefore it was never valid in the first place - not a "Catholic divorce.")
The Choice to Make it Work
As for my husband and me, we knew exactly what we were getting into when we got married, and so we are fully culpable for that un-doable decision. Is that a little scary? Yes, it can be. It opens up the possibility that we could take advantage of one another because we know the other is not going anywhere. We could feel trapped or question our decision to get married. Thankfully, those thoughts don't prevail in our case. On the contrary, the attitude that divorce is not an option ultimately creates a healthy, empowering, and reassuring atmosphere in our marriage.
Knowing that we will be together for life means that if something isn't going well, we have two options: we can either be miserable, or we can work through our problems. I feel such relief when my husband says, "Talk to me," when I seem to be struggling with something. When we've gotten into an argument, we come out on the other side with an apology, a conversation, and a plan of attack to keep it from happening next time. Knowing that we can't just escape our problems through a divorce keeps us constantly working on our marriage to make it happy and healthy.
It seems that the reasons most people divorce stem from some form of "irreconcilable differences." Sure, there are some things that are irreconcilable, such as what form of family planning to use or whether or not to combine checking accounts, but we worked those sorts of issues out long before we got married. As a married couple, I've yet to come across a difference that is actually irreconcilable. Most issues require good communication skills, a positive attitude, perseverance, discipline, and the desire on both sides to make it work. A happy marriage is something you make; it doesn't just happen to you. For some reason, our culture has begun to encourage couples to throw in the towel rather than working to honor the commitment they've made.
I guess in the end, our success in a marriage where divorce isn't an option comes down to a joint feeling of responsibility for - well - the success of the marriage. We spent a lot of time talking about the meaning of marriage before our wedding, and we knew we were both on the same page when we exchanged vows. Our marriage is anything but smooth sailing all the time, but since we both know we're committed to making it work rather than living in misery, we always come out of rough patches as a stronger couple, better equipped to face the rest of our unified life.
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