Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Marital Regret

In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till regret do us part.

Thirty years of life affords one to see a fair number of weddings, to know friends' parents and to see friends themselves wed, which in our secular days means I have also been given the chance to see many of those unions fall apart. The reasons are only occasionally infidelity. More often than not they are people who did not grasp the gravity of what they were doing in the first place.

We blame the sexual revolution for destabilizing marriage. It certainly destabilized meaningful acts of intimacy between two people and made them into objects of their own value, but Al Bundy, Ray Romano, Sam Kinison, and '90s chick shows did more damage to marriage by presenting the institution either as an apotheosis of perfect romantic sentiment for women and as a quotidian trap to bore men.

Why marriages fail are unique to each one, but what is strange among people are the tales they tell themselves to exempt themselves from the voice of their own consciences. Some people are simply ill-suited for marriage. Idealists belong either in monasteries or universities. Fathers, either of families or parishes, must be grounded people with firm backing of principles. However, some divorcees do not wish to learn this about themselves and move on. 

And then there are the mental and religious calisthenics that follow. Most recently I witnessed a 25 year union that produced three children end. The father was an atheist, the mother a daily Mass Catholic. He remarried to a woman he does not like. She decided she did not have the proper mindset to contract a marriage and filed for an annulment which was declined four times. She then considered becoming Orthodox simply to get a divorce in a apostolic church in good conscience despite never having seen a Divine Liturgy, read page of the Philokalia, or even knowing anything more than that they are generally like us except permitting some manner of ecclesiastically sanctioned divorce.

I have two protestant coworkers who are both on their second marriage and in both cases it looks to be built for the long haul. What of their first unions? They had something called "Biblical divorce". Divorce according to the Old Testament and the Mosaic Law? No. They both read Our Lord's words to the Samaritan woman that "But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery" as really meaning "If one of you cheats, then you can part." The word porneia, often translated into other languages as "adultery" or "fornication", makes little sense even in its original context. In vernacular it could be read as a permission for divorce, but in the original it is hard to see what it might mean without the lens of Tradition. Porneia, from which we derive "pornography", can mean adultery, fornication, pre-marital sex, sodomy, and, most commonly at the time, prostitution. Greek speakers went centuries reading this passage before instituting ecclesiastical divorce, and when they did so they grounded it on their understanding of ekonomia rather than this passage.

Despite people's good intentions and outward love of God, understanding of God and His commandments often becomes fungible to one's own desires. Saint Paul admonished the Corinthians that those loosed from a wife ought not seek one so as not to be solicitous to terrestrial thing things. Marriage confirms one's place in the natural order and while certainly not disconnecting one from the supernatural order, it does mean one has to balance the world of man and the City of God. The world of man is where we spend most of our time, even the most devout of us, and it rarely preaches in our faces. It whispers in our ears and accustoms us to its wants. In this world, the Word of God is bent to us rather when we should be lifted to it. 

Having failed in marriage need not mean one's eternal damnation or even consignment to temporal unhappiness if one heeds the vows of marriage and seeks not another union. Those who fall can find consolation in penance, joy in friendship, and stability in the Church. Following God's commandments need not be miserable, it just may not mean always having what one wants. Is that not the message of the Cross and Resurrection?


  1. To one on the inside of any Tradistani community, marriage is seen as disparaged by the secular world and then hyper-glorified for "us elect" who aren't worthy candidates for priestly or religious life. It is an institution and a sacrament which is simultaneously undervalued and overvalued in the aftermath of the sexual revolution and the more recent iterations of the same. Tradistani culture is hell bent on being the agents of the "biological solution" and pushes marriage and fecundity accordingly, yet many a young person, especially nowadays and in those enclaves, are not emotionally mature to contract marriage these days.

    I have pondered many a day that part about whether an idealist is suitable for marriage at all, and hence do belong as celibate academics or clergy. I recall a quote from Dr. Zhivago in which Kamarovsky talks to Lara of two kinds of men; the first is the "high-minded type who are idealists and will make women miserable.

  2. What helped me understand an extremely unpopular opinion amongst trad-Catholics was,
    the Novus Ordo
    counseling and preparation."
    This consisted of,
    20 Y/N questions day before wedding with a presbyter we didn't know,
    2 hour bizarre group meet-up of engaged couples at local church gymnasium.(me and her ALREADY arguing/hating/sitting away from each other at table with 3 other couples)
    Said meet-up had us watching clips of Bruce Willis movie about marriage which used the Lord's Holy name in vain,
    and finally paying church rental to aforementioned presbyter.
    Other than this,absolutely nothing else took place.
    We lived together for 2 years before getting "married" and she was married before in a civil
    Me & her had no business being together let alone being married to each other for Life.
    We were young & living in
    unspeakably bad personal situations.
    Due to many factors we were clueless lost blind and
    needed guidance which neither of us never received.
    This was 15 years ago and it's been a slow boil nightmare living Hell ever since.
    Ok,you tell me we should
    "value this suffering,love this never ending living Hell,
    your suffering will bring you joy."
    I'm on the fast track to Hell due to being in a relationship that is a dead cold ugly lie full of despair longing regret and misery.
    The Catholic church with a holy mandate from Heaven would
    NEVER even have allowed such
    a catastrophe to occur.
    We were living in Sin and the NOVUS ORDO presbyter was fine with the arrangement.
    It's so far gone now the best years of our lives are over yet we have 7 or 8 decent years left.
    Situations like ours is one example among many why young people have no interest in marriage.
    Please pray for the 2 of us.
    God bless.

  3. Marriage rule #1: first of all - don't, then maybe.

    Marriage is primordial, biological, strategic, social, the merger of peer clan structures to further their survival. If marriage does not come via Providence, drop the idea.