Marriage and Divorce
The Young and The Old Talk
What is your thoughts on bad Marriages and Divorce?
From Therese (College student):
Hey! What do you think I am? An encyclopedia??? You know, I believe that you have been making me actually think a little bit. And here I'm supposedly on vacation!
Anyway, despite my grumbling, I have been thinking of the topics you brought up. Esp. since today I was talking for a while with a security guard who divorced twice and lost his son to a heart condition. He was/is desperately lonely and is working two jobs to fill the void and he seems to have nebulous ideas about God although he is a believer of some kind. His choice of wives was disastrous. The sort who got into drugs, bars and men... Well, he was telling us (I was walking with Maria) this, and I could barely restrain my tears it was such a sad story. The poor man is around fifty although he doesn't look it, and his self esteem has gone to nothing because he doesn't know how to find a good wife. The girls he has gone out with since reject him because he doesn't make enough money for their taste or whatever. I have been sheltered long in the convent and at TAC. Things like not having altar-rails or not knowing the basics of choosing a good spouse just don't come up in daily life at school. So I find it sad to be reminded that things are not so rosy elsewhere.
I am taking this e-mail easy. My brothers have given me a tiny window of time today so I'll see what I can write.
Keeping husbands happy.
Perhaps I'm entirely naive on this topic and others since I obviously have little experience... But what I am going to write is based on hearsay and observation.
Substantial and tasty meals. I wonder how many divorces there are out there because a wife is a miserable cook or just hasn't been able to gear meals to a man's satisfaction. There is a saying that a woman gets to a man's heart through the stomach. P.G. Wodehouse often wrote in his stories about fad diets the women forced their men to follow. A lot of unhappiness ensued, not surprisingly.
Adjusted levels of cleanliness. Some women spend too much time cleaning, and others too little. A husband needs to feel comfortable. That doesn't usually mean a mess nor does it mean fluffing a cushion after he sits down on it ten seconds after he's up.
Respect for his position. My guess is that when men are not expected to be men, and are not respected for their manliness, they become effeminate. I know how to do basic woodworking and can usually find a way of fixing stuff. But I'd rather hand screwing in door hinges to a man and let him do the rough stuff he's proud of and which is more fitting to his nature. Gentlemen have only limited ways of expressing their love, and I wouldn't recommend slimming those acceptable ways even more by having women branch out and thin themselves too much. But I digress. I have heard it said by some that men need to prove themselves. Women don't. To my mind, it is difficult for a man to "prove" himself and provide for his wife and family if he is in fact dependent on his wife for sustenence. Even if the wife can bring in more money, there is something to be said for the role of God-given satisfaction a man has in providing by the sweat of his brow and he deserves it.
I wonder if the dependence a wife and child brings out something really noble in men. There seems to be some kind of special bond that occurs when a woman shows real but not inferior style dependence. I remember a time when a young man killed a rattlesnake that I might pass without fear (I am deathly scared of snakes and the girl with a pet snake on campus keeps it out of my sight because I automatically scream). He was so considerate that I felt cared for, and relieved that he didn't try to show off his own stuff by handling it after it was dead. But this other young man laughed at me for screaming at a snake and I knew that he was the type who would just show off his own indifference to the presence of snakes and who would be just the type who would try to force a girl to pet one.
Freedom is necessary to some extent in men. Men are not naturally homebodies as far as I can make out. If a husband is reliable, I see no reason for wives to be so jealous of their husband's presence that they keep him tied to themselves at all hours. To tie up a husband that way seems a sure-fire way of encouraging unfaithfulness.
Companionship. A man needs a wife who will give him sufficient companionship. When women are too frivolous or whatever, and pay no attention to their husbands' need for understanding, I'm sure men tire of such a situation. Same goes for keeping women happy.
Plain speaking. I have noticed that guys like getting to the point. They don't like word games or hints. At school they go and wrestle when they get into disagreements.
I am not a man. No doubt you would find it easier to think of things that keep husbands happy in marriage.
Keeping Wives Happy
Stability and security. Women want that.
Love. More specifically, vocal expressions of love and little gifts or notes. (Men, don't forget your romantic diddlings after courtship, keep it up!)
Strong but gentle leader.
Enough on that for now. I want to move on in this particular e-mail to something else.
Marriage, the spiritual aspects.
This is coming from a former novice, so don't be surprised if I'm off track. I was talking to a guy about marriage. He was really impressed with what he called a "Josephite" marriage picture. Two people kneeling by a bed, praying, but never consummating. It was the praying together that caught his attention. Husbands and wives are two in one flesh. They are fellow travelers to Heaven.
Your e-mail The Old and New Talk just arrived. I will break to read it.
I think this subject of bad marriages and divorces is not your cup of tea, since you have no concept of the problem. You think from a woman's point of view and from a background of a very loving mother and father who also kept you in the company of good people. I, on the other hand, am divorced, my father and mother were divorced, my brother and sister were divorced and almost everyone I knew in the States was divorced at least once.
What you do not seem to know is that 99.9% of divorces are done by women and not men. It may be true that in all most all cases it can be claimed that the men are at fault, but almost never is it the men who want the divorce. From the perspective of a man 64 years of age, who has made the mistakes I will talk about, I will try to give both the man's faults and the woman's faults in a failed marriage. But first I want to say that divorce is too easy and that is the reason that there are too many divorces.
My father is dead now so I can tell this story without offending him. His mother and father (my grandparents) had nine boys on a farm when his father ran away with another woman. He left his wife and nine children and crossed the border from Colorado to New Mexico. The neighbors in the little farm town saw that they would have to take care of this woman and her nine children so they got together and talked about it. They made a majority ruling and sent four men across the border to see my grandfather. They stuck a gun to his head and said he was going back to take care of his wife and children or they were going to blow his head off. He did. Not only did he re-fall in love with her but 50 years later when she died, he died a week later. He could no longer live without her.
It takes a long time before men grow up and in the first 10 to 20 years of a marriage they really are not good husbands. There are many reasons for this, which I will get into. However, most divorces happen in this time when the man is still trying to become a man. Women, on the other hand, grow up sooner. A woman is about 10 years more mature than a man at the same age. A man does not catch up with the woman's maturity until he is about 35 to 40 and this is usually because a good woman helped him get there. As you have rightly pointed out a woman does not have to prove herself but a man does, not so much to the woman (although he thinks he does) but to himself. He has to make it in the job world which in the young years is very trying. While this is his major psychological problem in these years, his wife does not see this as a problem. She sees that he does not pay attention to her and the children the way he should.
It is true that in most cases it is a man who is unfaithful in a marriage and not the woman. This does not have to be an affair, it can just be some woman at work he spends too much time with or someone at a coffee shop he flirts with. My interest here is why does this happen. I am convinced that girls do not understand boys and boys do not understand girls. I say girls and boys, because if they were women and men they would understand these things. They say of a man's sexuality that all a woman has to do is show up and in some ways this is true. But a woman must be treated like a lady from the time she wakes up in the morning or the man will not find the sexuality of a woman.
During courtship and the first year of a marriage the man treats the girl like a lady, waking up with a smile for her, saying nice things at breakfast, calling her from work to tell her that he misses her, greeting her with a kiss when he comes home. She in turn reacts to this with love and affection. To him this is natural at first but he does not realize how necessary it is. His job does not go the way he wants and he become pre-occupied with it. She does not realize how important her being well groomed is to him. In the second year he starts failing to do this little things, and she fails to keep up herself the way she did the first year.
The woman does not need someone saying "Wow" to her but she does need someone at least looking at her with that look, so when she does not get it from her husband, she dresses up to go to the store or shopping and enjoys the fact that some man turned his head as she passes by. For her that is enough. But she is not getting it a home. In time she is dressing up to go to the grocery store but not for her husband when he comes home. He may not even realize this in his active mind, but he does notice it and he does not see it as his fault. Things start drifting as he does not understand what he did wrong and seeks attention at work and she does not see it as her fault and seeks the look out of the house. She feels neglected and used. He looses his manhood and seeks ego-support elsewhere. This is the period of growth in a marriage that ends the marriage too soon, because if two people could get through this period, the marriage would be good.
Not taught that sacrifice is love, she sees that she has nothing to loose in a divorce, but he has a great deal to loose. I am speaking here of the assets and financial considerations. She will get the children, the house and part of his income. He will get almost nothing. If she then has a boyfriend or a second husband, she pays nothing for the boyfriend and continues to get money from the first husband even when she marries the second time. All this is pointed out to her by her friends who she complains to about her marriage problems and this is why 99.9% of divorces are by woman.
What she does not realize or even care is that every divorce destroys children no matter what the reason. This comes as a shock to you but most people are not very holy at a young age as you are. They are selfish and insecure. When we reach the stage of seeing ourselves as God sees us, our security does not depend on an outside ego-support, but that usually does not happen at an early age. In the beginning we are (in our own minds) what others think of us. Why we see this in our own children but not in our husbands and wives I do not know. We know the children need ego support and we say to them how much we love them, how good they are doing in this or that, but we do not do the same for our husbands and wives. Here lies the root of all divorces or failed marriages that stay together.
Bringing baggage to a Marriage
It is amazing to me the amount of people who complain to me about their marriage. But when I ask them if their husband or wife was this way before the marriage the answer is always "Yes!" Did she drink a lot before you married her? "Yes!" Was he taking drugs before you married him? "Yes!" Did he sleep around before you got married? "Yes!" Well! What then do you expect? You got what you married. You got what you wanted. Now you no longer want this so you are going to make your children suffer.
Personally I do not believe in divorce for any reason if there are children, but I do think sometimes a separation can make one or the other of the marriage partners grow up quickly. In the case of an abusive husband I think the law should step in quickly and enforce her safely or put him in jail. Drugs or alcohol are other reasons for separation if the children's safely is at stake.
Divorce, when children are involved, I am against even if it can be proven that there was not a Catholic marriage in the first place unless, as in my case, marriage prevented you from practicing your faith. Even though I had no Catholic marriage, I would have stayed married except for the birth control problem. The other consideration would be if the children would be better off in a divorce and the answer to that is almost always "No!" even if the problems are drugs or alcohol. The only time that answer could be "Yes!" is if the children, wife or husband are abused. Even if this is the case, separation is a better solution than divorce because it holds the hope of a solution. The only real reason for a divorce is the right to get married again and this will almost always harm the children.
Three to get Married
Of course we all know that without God there is no marriage. What God puts together, let no man put asunder, Christ and His Church or man and woman. For this reason I call my company Unity Publishing. One family, the Church and smaller little families in the big family, all making up the cells of the Body of Christ. And I am sure on this point you have a lot to say so I will leave it to you.
I had intended on eventually discussing bad marriages and what I think about divorce, but I feel that you have touched on the major points and I don't feel like duplicating what you've written. Too much waste of words. But I would like to focus on two things that caught my fancy because I was thinking of them in another context. That is selfishness and ignorance of the other sex. The reason I was waiting on giving you part 2 of my other reply is that I was pondering the best way of presenting what I am now writing. I will just plunge into it and then perhaps edit it later.
Here are some of my thoughts, disorderly though they may be. St. Augustine tells us that to enjoy else but God is to commit idolatry. And the Christ gives us the two greatest commandments of love. Love of God and of neighbor. How do we reconcile enjoying the friendship and love of friends with what St. Augustine has to say?
The answer is love of neighbor in Christ. Love implies self giving, self sacrifice. I love you, my spouse or next door neighbor, in Christ. At times we are obliged to exercise this love for neighbor in a greater degree than just a habitual good will towards all. Your aunt needs money to keep afloat or somebody is starving in front of you. These call for action. Charitable actions towards our neighbors are summarized in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
I propose that you could think of your marriage vows in the following light.
"I am giving myself to you, my beloved as the ultimate expression of love possible other than physically dying for you. But I shall really die for you. I will die to my self centeredness.
"I will care for you as I care for myself. That means that in every little thing that I can lawfully make you a happy and better person I will try to do. God has given you to me.
"I will do what it takes to make sure both of us shall go hand in hand to Heaven.
"Every day is an opportunity for me to show the depth of affection I have for you. I love you and so I want your good. If you need the sweet smile and cheerful welcome, though I be tired and worn out I will try to give it to you. If you want what is wrong I will do my best to lovingly show you how it is only an apparent good, and not what will make you happy. While I have good intentions, I shall slip and fail. I may get grumpy if the baby wails in the night and take it out on you. But know that I will seek your forgiveness.
"When we unite as man and wife are permitted to do by the good God, I renew my gift of self to you. You are my darling and I shall love you in Him who raised matrimony to a sacrament. I thank God for giving me my companion for life. "
To really live a life of love, one must not be in ignorance about the other sex. Men and Women are truly different. Thus knowing what it takes for a husband or wife to blossom and to see what their true good consists of will allow one to really exercise charity. And this, by the way, is why I am writing my thesis. To help explore in what areas men and women differ and complement each other.
Some of the differences you have brought up. Men mature more slowly. Women are ready for a commitment much sooner than men are. One young man in my former class told me that he thinks that men should be thirty or thirty five before they propose. I disagree. They need the civilized influence of a mature woman to grow up. But where are the mature women to be found? The girls of 18 and older are frequently unable to realize that life is not all fun and games. Marriage is not a perpetual dress up party. It isn't just having justifiable sex. It isn't simply a way of assuring up-to-date clothes. Marriage is also not to flaunt a handsome man or a popular one. The idea isn't what can I get out of this deal, but what can I give... Infatuation is mistaken for love. Real preparation isn't made to be a responsible spouse and possible parent.
They are shooing me off the computer. Will chat with you later. Therese
We must cut this short now because school will take most of your free time. I know a great deal of what you say since it was my marriage, but there are times when it seems to work OK. Here in Fatima, I know a man who goes to Church on Sunday only and seldom more. His wife, however, spends four hours a day in Church. Because they do not pressure each other about it, it seems to work fine. This priest I just spent the last 7 hours with is an example of when it does not work. He is so preoccupied with his self, his wants, his needs, he does not even think what another person might need or want even in a conversation. Sister Isabelle is the opposite, she never thinks of herself, and is always looking at you as though you were the only important thing in the world. This is what a husband and wife must do at all times. They must just pay attention with eyes that say:
"You are more important than anything else in my life, even myself. I will watch you so that I can know what you need before you know it. I will listen to your every word so that I can know you better and love you more."
This is why little children (1-10) and I get along so well. I do not talk with them or play with them. I just pay attention to them. I watch them and smile at them and they want people to pay attention to what they do and who they are. If there is a conversation I just listen. In some ways this is good advise to married people. Pay attention.
I have a very close friend here in Portugal named Colette. She does not know her faith well and she does not go to Mass everyday like I do. She does not spend a lot of time in prayer even. But this woman knows more about living the Catholic faith than I do. She is always doing some good for someone and I mean always. Every hour of every day she is thinking or doing something good for someone in need, with words, with money, with hard work, with love. She knows how to love. She drives me crazy sometimes in that she believes every mystic in the world and thinks that if someone says, "God loves you." That has to be a good person. She gets hurt a lot because she never sees the bad in anyone. She does lack prudence sometimes, but she does not lack love. She is an example of someone who would be abused in a marriage if she did not marry the right person.
This brings up the topic again of abuse of authority. Authority or the God made chain of command is for the benefit of the lowest people in the chain and not the highest. When authority is used for the gain of the highest it is abusive. I have a very close friend who has such a marriage. I see her almost everyday but am very careful to not go near her unless there are many other people around her. She has a top job and yet her husband tells her what she can do and what she cannot do, where she can go and where she cannot go, what she can have and what she cannot have, and in fact controls all her live without consideration of anything but himself. This is a case, if she wants the marriage to continue, he must be educated by a separation for a time and then rules made before reconciliation. A man or a woman must be taught that they cannot control other people by force only by love. Sometimes as in children this teaching is hard and sometimes this teaching must be hard in so-called adults.
My father was this way. Although soft spoken and never angry he never did anything for his family. My mother had to go to work for the food on the table and pay all the bills when in fact he had thousands of dollars in his pocket at all times. Her mistake was never confronting him until she just left for good. If she had stood up to him in the beginning with some consequences the marriage might have survived. By failing to give consequences to bad actions they continue and in time there is no correction.
Of course picking the right person in the first place would be better but that is not so easy. In America I see some good women but very few good men. You are in a college where there are a few good men, but how many colleges like that are there in the world. In America maybe two or three. When you leave that college (and if you have not chosen a way of life by then and/or a man) where will you find a good man? I have always said that if I find the right woman it will be in Church. It has never happened but no other woman would work for me.
Hello. School does not start for another week or so. I have been busy visiting older relatives down in L.A. While they are as kind as can be, I cannot relate very well to them as I would like to. The funny thing is that it is the people I dislike most that often are the most enamored of me and think me the sweetest thing on earth. But tomorrow I shall be going down to see the Getty museum with friends and to high tea. It sounds like it will be a lot of fun. I don't know, though. My heart is torn between enjoying fine things and seeing the emptiness of it all. I am responding to your latest in another e-mail because I do not want to sort things out right now.
We must cut this short now because school will take most of your free time. I know a great deal of what you say since it was my marriage, but there are times when it seems to work OK. Here in Fatima, I know a man who goes to Church on Sunday only and seldom more. His wife, however, spends four hours a day in Church. Because they do not pressure each other about it, it seems to work fine.
Yes, it is the pressure I am talking about. It is fine if someone gets converted and starts paying more attention to God. But he must not make life unbearable for his spouse, if at all possible. I see people walk out of marriages because they see too many eccentricities in their partners who are not prudent about the way they practice the faith.
People were surprised that I roomed for so long with an atheist roommate. But I was very clear with her that I loved her and wanted her to be a Catholic. I didn't want her to get the tremendous pressure that everyone else was exerting, though from me. So I told her that I wasn't going to talk about religion unless she brought it up. We became as good friends as the circs allowed and she is now popping into RCIA class.
"You are more important than anything else in my life, even myself. I will watch you so that I can know what you need before you know it. I will listen to your every word so that I can know you better and love you more." This is why little children (1-10) and I get along so well. I do not talk with them or play with them. I just pay attention to them. I watch them and smile at them and they want people to pay attention to what they do and who they are. If there is a conversation I just listen. In some ways this is good advise to married people. Pay attention.
Of course. That can be one of the most difficult things to do, though. That is why a person must develop self-discipline before marriage. He should learn how to not focus 100% of the time on himself but think of others and give them your true attention. It is easy enough to listen half-heartedly but to give some real attention can be a cross. Yet that is the love we are to give to Christ in our neighbor. When people are in such close proximity as in marriage, it is extremely important that they be very good at listening to what the other is saying, but also saying what is needed. To let some things slide by and then blow up after years indicates a certain type of selfishness. It is better to show in a nice way what bothers you. Of course, showing your love by giving good attention is necessary to smooth daily friction and strengthen charity.
I have a very close friend here in Portugal named Colette. She does not know her faith well and she does not go to Mass everyday like I do. She does not spend a lot of time in prayer even. But this woman knows more about living the Catholic faith than I do. She is always doing some good for someone and I mean always. Every hour of every day she is thinking or doing something good for someone in need, with words, with money, with hard work, with love. She knows how to love. She drives me crazy sometimes in that she believes every mystic in the world and thinks that if someone says, "God loves you." That has to be a good person. She gets hurt a lot because she never sees the bad in anyone. She does lack prudence sometimes, but she does not lack love.
While it is foolish to believe every mystic in town, still, simple and good people may be able to profit from them and give God glory the devil didn't intend. St. Augustine allows us to interpret Scripture the way we like, only stipulating that our interpretation not be against the truths of the Faith and provided that it allows us to grow in the love and service of God. Our interpretations may be foolish, but they might help us love Him better. And so it might be foolish to really believe in false apparitions, but if they are fairly decent, one might be able to get closer to God.
She is an example of someone who would be abused in a marriage if she did not marry the right person. This brings up the topic again of abuse of authority. Authority or the God made chain of command is for the benefit of the lowest people in the chain and not the highest. When authority is used for the gain of the highest it is abusive. I have a very close friend who has such a marriage. I see her almost everyday but am very careful to not go near her unless there are many other people around her. She has a top job and yet her husband tells her what she can do and what she cannot do, where she can go and where she cannot go, what she can have and what she cannot have, and it fact controls all her live without consideration of anything but himself. This is a case, if she wants the marriage to continue, that he must be educated by a separation for a time and then rules made before reconciliation.
Ouch. I agree that a separation might be the best solution provided that the children are treated carefully in this. Husbands must not be tyrants! (Nor the other way around, which is happening in this effeminate world.) I have wondered what I would do in such a case. One thing I would try to do is observe the relations of the parents of the man I am interested in. If a young man is used to the idea of fathers being tyrannical, then he will probably be that himself. This is one area where I will stand no nonsense.
Of course picking the right person in the first place would be better but that is not so easy. In America I see some good women but very few good men. You are in a college where there are a few good men, but how many colleges like that are there in the world. In America maybe two or three. When you leave that college (and if you have not chosen a way of life by then and a man) where will you find a good man? I have always said that if I find the right woman it will be in Church. It has never happened but no other woman would work for me.
As for finding good men, that is in the Lord's hands. I am extremely difficult to please. Last year there was one person whom everyone thought I would be the type to marry. He was one of my favorite "knights" on campus. Not only was he a perfect gentleman, but he was a very good guy. But although I thought he was a great person, he didn't attract me. And I felt no stirrings of jealousy when he married my classmate last week.
I search my conscience in this, but I cannot stand boring men. And I hate college because 99% of the students cannot hold the conversations I desire to have. That is one reason I will not go to graduate school unless I need it for my job. I can learn a lot more on my own than in twiddling my fingers or reading novels during silly lectures. TAC is known for its rigorous intellectual formation. To my knowledge, it is the top in the nation for teaching people to think by the discussion/socratic method. We have no lecture classes, so we must read our books and defend our positions. Yet I am not impressed with my fellow seniors. I have no desire to go into teaching because I teach every day in class and I am sick of not being understood because I forget the baby steps. This is all to say that a man has to captivate my intellectual respect if I am to consider matrimony, and there might be a grand total of one person on campus that I'd even think of going out with.
One of my aunts who graduated from TAC (I had seven uncles and aunts who went before me) married eight years after getting her degree to some one she worked with at her parish. If God wants me to get married, He will not only find me the right guy, but He will indicate that it is actually His will. I do not know His will right now. All I know is that I am to be like St. Therese before her profession. I am to prepare my bridal gown of virtues and talents for God.
While I am happily planning life after graduation (I will be moving to the East Coast because I do not fit at home), I realize that my life will no doubt continue to be fraught with loneliness. I feel very, very isolated because there are few I can actually talk to comfortably. Yet I trust that God knows what He is doing. Who can comprehend His ways?
Well, I am off to Mass and to sightseeing and stuff. God bless.
I think Alice Von Hildebrand and Dietrick von Hildebrand were much like you. She teaches back east and you should think of working with her. I can see you taking her place when she dies.