Catholic Couple Reconciles after Separation
- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On September 30, 2016
Joe and Marie looked like they had everything a good Catholic couple could hope for when they entered marriage. However,19 years into their marriage, Joe revealed he was frustrated and felt their marriage was in trouble. Despite marital counseling after this revelation, he entered into an extramarital affair. Had it not been for the support of good priests and the non-Catholic “Rejoice Marriage Ministries,” Marie says they could be permanently separated and perhaps civilly divorced.
During the roughest time Marie says “I was disappointed that most people I confided in were not telling me to stick it out, but rather they would support me no matter what I decided.” Finding Rejoice Marriage Ministries, “was like a breath of fresh air,” relays Marie. “I had no idea there were people standing for their marriage ten and twenty years after their marital break-up, praying for the restoration of their relationship. This gave me a lot of peace. I knew I should hang in there, and now I had company.”
Rejoice Marriage Ministries is a Biblically based, non-profit organization encouraging men and women in troubled and broken marriages. Their message is that God heals hurting marriages. The fact that reconciliation is possible, even after one spouse adamantly want’s out is demonstrated by the many restored marriage testimonies publicized on their website.
Prior to dating, Marie and Joe had been close friends in college and Joe converted to Catholicism. The two started dating and were married in 1991. Joe had a successful career and Marie was able to be a stay-at- home mom when their children were young.
Marie relays, “In 2010, Joe announced that he was done. He couldn’t take it anymore and he wanted out of our marriage.” They attended marriage therapy together which Marie explains, “was ineffective because Joe had already checked out of our marriage.”
The following year, Joe started his secret double life (having an affair) when Marie and their children took a pilgrimage. Marie says, “I was praying for our marriage and felt I was given the gift of grace to view Joe through new eyes. I began seeing Joe without a litany of expectations beside his face. God allowed me to see Joe like He saw him. I experienced truly loving Joe unconditionally no matter what. I saw Joe and loved him whether he changed or not.”
Joe says in an e-mail interview, “Marie was working on herself. Unfortunately, my perspective was ‘it’s great that you are working on yourself because I really don’t care and I’m not coming back to the relationship.’ I was very selfish during this time.”
They attended a Retrouvaille program, at Joe’s suggestion. Despite this, Joe’s affair had continued off and on for 18-months before being discovered by Marie. Thereafter, Joe agreed to attempt marriage therapy again. Marie explains that a counselor described Joe as living the double life of someone in a marriage and in an affair at the same time–unable to make a decision. Later, when Marie learned the affair was ongoing, she filed for civil separation. Joe voluntarily agreed to move out of the house and lived with relatives, not with the women with whom he was having the affair.
As a Catholic, Marie knew that adultery was a legitimate reason for separation of spouses and Marie explained her motive. “I filed for civil separation because I felt like I had no other choice. I was hoping this was a wakeup call. He had to leave the house. This is not a game. He said he didn’t want a divorce but didn’t know how we were going to stay married.”
Marie never gave up on her marriage, despite being separated. “Rejoice Marriage Ministries gave me a vision of what my life would be like walking with the Lord, because He’s first. The Lord is my spouse. No matter what happens, I’m always married to Joe on earth, but spiritually, the Lord is my Spouse.” They had teenage children and Marie says, “My kids were watching me like a hawk. If I’m saying I’m a Catholic, I have to live the faith and be authentic, which included sticking with my marriage.”
In January of 2015, Joe took an out-of-town consulting job to get away from the adulterous partner and he also hoped to determine if he wanted to continue being married. During this time, he was soul searching. Joe said, “My issue was that I needed to trust God. I didn’t think God could fix this or fix how I felt toward Marie. I didn’t believe he could change my heart.”
While they were separated, they attended an intense week of marriage therapy and Marie says, “thereafter, things began to change. Joe began to accept love from God and love from me. He dealt with childhood trauma and past experiences with women.”
Joe returned home in January of 2016 and, to their surprise, he was unemployed for the next six months. Joe says, “I looked at Marie as my girlfriend that I’ve known for 30 years. The time that we had together while I was unemployed was a gift from God, that helped us restore our marriage. You think spending 6 months straight with the same person with no breaks and trying to get a job would be stressful. It was actually so nice being together and spending time with my best friend. God always knows what we need.“
The couple agrees that there were many instances when they hurt each other. Marie learned to lean on our Lord for her ultimate fulfillment rather than her husband. Joe learned to trust God to restore their marriage and equip Joe to love Marie. Joe says, “God gave me this beautiful woman as gift and I needed to love and cherish her for the rest of my life.”
Joe and Marie believe, more than ever, in the permanence of marriage. Joe says, “I believe that everyone chooses a path for their own life. Some choose God which at times is a difficult road while others try to make it by themselves. We choose God. Although difficult we choose to follow Him and trust in His plan for us. He has never let us down when we fully commit to Him.”
Marie and Joe can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]