thinking and thanking and dating

questions for the [annulment] questionnaire

If you looked into the windows of our first Thanksgiving you’d see us laughing. 

About the turkey I let rot on the counter for a week. About what No-Shave-November had done to his face. About the fish at the restaurant with eyeballs.

Sweet, at first glance. 

Look closer.

You’d see me panicking in the bathroom thinking I’d tracked my cycle wrong and we were going to be pregnant.

You’d see me praying at mass that I wouldn’t be, that it’d all be okay, that he’d be okay, that he’d still love me.

You’d see me leaving for Kroger, telling my parents I needed Midol, buying First Response. Hiding in the bathroom by the check-out, heart pounding in my ears watching the timer tick down.

A negative test washing the anxiety off.

Back to laughing.

I’m sorting through my life again, turning stories into essays for the never-ending ever-involved annulment questionnaire. 

I put down paragraphs on the tangled mess of my marriage; it’s winding the strand of anxiety back around my heart.

Why was I so stupid

Why couldn’t I see

Why did I stay

I was young

So dumb

In love

Maybe love is just as blind as they say. Maybe it shouldn’t have been.

I read a book on annulment the other day, and as I type along I wonder why the author said I’d get through this process and see how I’d contributed to the divorce. 

I certainly contributed the lawyer, so I guess there’s that. 

I look again, but still, no, it wasn’t my flaws that fueled our demise. My error wasn’t in the end, but in the beginning. I’ll take responsibility for that- I knew what marriage was. I knew what marriage should be. I didn’t know enough about what it would be with him, and maybe I should have.

The rest is on him.

Leaving was the bravest thing I’d ever done, and that is the only part of this story I will take ownership of. Aside from picking poorly- I did not deserve the hell he put me through. I did not deserve the callous cold, the manipulation, the fear, the anxiety, the neglect, the rage. Those were not my mistakes. 

I continue narrating my story, the list of questions stretching on like a bad dream.

I wonder why the process wasn’t this thorough before our wedding day.

I wonder how to explain the bits that need explaining without scandalizing the readers.

I wonder what to call it when you’ve been fighting with your husband because he’d lied about the strippers and later when you’d asked him what to do about the day you’d had sex – should you drink at the wedding in case you’d be pregnant in two weeks – his response was a laughing, “Better drink up!” 

What do you call it when you’re so mad you make him a bed on the couch but he’s drunk and wakes you up from sleeping to have awkward clumsy uncomfortable sex you weren’t interested in and you were angry and it didn’t feel good but you don’t tell him to stop because good wives don’t deny their husbands?

What do I call that?

I’m writing it up for a committee to review and I’m not quite sure what else to say.

This whole thing sucks.

Except, a little bit, it doesn’t.

Begrudgingly, after my fuss about the Church’s encouragement to avoid dating, I find it’s possible the advice might be valid. I feel a bit like a harrumphing teenager, skulking off, too moody to admit she was wrong. 

Eventually, though, I stop worrying about finding new men and start worrying about finding myself.

I suppose if I spent last year heart-broken this is a good a time as any for re-building. 

Makes enough sense, so I reinvest in the things I used to love. Ever-so-gently my heart starts putting itself back together.

Instead of men, I’m dating words. I’m writing. I’m reading. I’m soaking up stories. Book after book, I’m eating them up, finishing the ones that’ve been half-done for years. I’m choosing a life of expansion over life with a man who thought he was good enough, who scoffed at self-improvement. 

I date music. I realize this year alone I’ve been to more concerts than I’d gone to in years. I play classical at dinner, pop in the car, country in the shower; I soak in new albums and genres and pianos breath over me like a balm.

I plan to date the world. He didn’t want to travel. Didn’t like it, didn’t want it, angrily planted in America, uninterested in cultures or places or people or putting his feelings aside to invest time in his wife. To that I say – I’m going to Ireland this winter. To Italy this summer. To France next fall. I will see the world, I will see it’s people, and I will learn. I will explore. I will adventure. I will be a student of all this earth has to offer.

Most importantly, I spend time dating God. Where my husband made me choose between love of God and him, where he yelled when I chose God and put a hole in our bedroom wall, where he told me I was selfish for choosing my faith, I was uncompromising and hateful and made him feel unloved because I wanted a life with children in it- 

Now I pray. And I pray and pray and pray. I go to holy hours without sneaking out of the house. I go to church events and confession and mass. I play Lauren Daigle and Audrey Assad and hymns and podcasts and there is no shame. I read about saints and philosophers and Scripture and faith. I rest. 

There is no more fear. 

I am free.

I am me. 

I am thankful. 

4 thoughts on “thinking and thanking and dating”

  1. For those of us who were/are very devout in our faith, I think it could be said that our inflexibility on religious matters contributed to problems in our marriages. We believe God is above all things and use that to justify our rigid beliefs and behaviors…and the more devout we are, the higher the hill we expect our spouses to climb.

    Not everyone is blessed with the same amount of faith. There are more strict and less strict ways to interpret the Word of God…and the most faithful of us tend to choose the stricter route. Did my abundance of faith and insistence on strict rule following cause my husband to drift away from God (thus affecting our marriage even further)? When dealing with a spouse who wasn’t blessed with our same level of conviction, did you and I expect too much? Would God have wanted you and I to follow Him so strictly that we ended up divorced (a thing He hates), or would He have valued us bringing our husbands closer to Him by us being more accommodating to our less devout partners?

    These questions are all just food for thought. I often ponder the answers to them myself.


    1. Interesting thoughts- I’ve had the same before. Yes, I do think that my “strict” approach to living out my faith did contribute to some of our difficulties. When dating I leaned more towards the “accommodating” direction, giving lots of grace and patience for behaviors that I now recognize as purely dysfunctional and should have been warning signs we were not suited for marriage. Into our marriage I continued to not hold him to the standard of faith I chose to practice- never forcing him to prayer or mass or participation or conversation on any level. While I think I’d like to choose more wisely in the future (if given the opportunity) I did always try my best to be respectful of his journey, and expected the same respect in return.

      In the end, I truly don’t think changing my positions or choices would have actually solved any of the issues- I think the problem lay more in his lack of respect for me and my boundaries and his need for control.

      I also believe that it would have been unhealthy for me to bend my “rules” to meet him- true love is honest and authentic, and compromising my foundational beliefs would not have been for the best.

      Yes, it is true that God hates divorce. I think what He hates more is us living inauthentically, leaning away from Him to suit the desires of others, and marriages that were broken and abusive from the beginning.


      1. Once the relationship tips into abuse, as yours did, there really is no choice but to end it.

        Going forward, perhaps you would only find happiness in partner as devout as you are, which might be a hard thing to find in a man. It is my experience that even good men (who are moderately to above average religious) will attempt to please the devout partner and put up with the “rules” in the beginning…and then become more and more intolerant of them as time goes on. Which makes for lots of problems. So be careful. I wish you only the best of luck. 🙂


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