Divorce is Not an Option

As of writing, my wife Jackie and I have been married for 8 years, 7 months, 12 days, 20 hours, and 48 minutes. Before you rush to commend me on my mushiness, know that I installed a “Countdown” app on my phone leading up to our wedding and then I never deleted it. It now counts backward from the wedding date, so while I can brag about how attentive I am to our anniversary, the machine does the work for me. 

Going on “autopilot” for some components of our lives is nice, but marriage isn’t something you can just “phone in.” Like a shark, once we go stagnant and stop moving forward, our relationships start dying. That applies to friendships, our prayer life, and indeed our marriages. 

But it’s certainly easy to coast. When the demands of work, finances, and children start pulling us in every direction, the “primary vocation” of marriage often takes the backseat. Sometimes a season of “busyness” just doesn’t end (it never will), and we forget to nourish the human person who should receive our best, not our leftovers. 

My wife often asserts that “Divorce is not an option.” That expression might instill confidence in you, dear reader. Or it might strike you as fanciful, absurd, and wishful thinking.  Many of us have been wounded by divorce, either from the witness of our own parents or people close with us. Rather than risk the unrealistic expectation of a marriage that lasts until “death do us part,” we’re a generation that prefers self-preservation. “How about we live together? That way we can play marriage, but always have an escape route” (we never say that second part out loud).  

I hold that some of our generation’s hesitancy to enter into marriage is actually an implicit sign of respect for the lofty demands of marriage. Marriage is indeed not something to be taken lightly, and our own personal wounds of dysfunctional marriage or fear of the divorce statistics might stop us before we even consider trying. 

But you can break the cycle. You’re not doomed to repeat the same mistakes of your parents; you can have a healthy marriage. As Catholics, we just don’t “muscle through” marriage on our own strength and willpower—marriage is a sacrament, a sign of God’s love, and the power of his grace is being offered to every marriage every single day. We who are called to this lofty vocation have to take seriously the call to love that’s been asked of us. Every day we can start anew. What’s more, when we bring our wounds and addictions into Christ’s healing light, we can finally start the journey of wholeness (holiness) and be spouses that are truly free to love.  

If you’re an athlete, consider how often we discipline ourselves and take zero excuses:  “I’m not quitting.” “I am finishing this 5k, no matter what.”  “I will train so that I can finally bench this bloody weight.” Apply that same determination and focus that you would to an athletic endeavor towards your marriage. “How can I improve today? How can I do a bit better than yesterday?” 

If you’re already married, examine where you might be coasting in your relationship. What’s your spouse’s “love language”? How can you make an extra effort to be attentive to what they need or might appreciate? When was the last time you went out on a date night proper? When was the last time we prayed together? 

Sometimes we need help from a spotter, a coach, or a running partner.  Great!  We are communal beings and aren’t meant to run the races of our life alone. In your marriage, don’t be afraid to ask for help—there are many trustworthy counselors, priests and spiritual directors, and mentor couples out there who would be happy to run alongside you. 

Lastly, we take this example of radical fidelity from God himself.  Over and over again, when the people of Israel turned away towards foreign gods or gave up the fight, God was steadfastly faithful to the covenant he made. “Know, then, that the LORD, your God, is God: the faithful God who keeps covenant mercy to the thousandth generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deut. 7:9). And Christ himself, abandoned by his followers, gave up himself whole and without reservation on the Cross that redeemed us all. 

Jackie and I began a marriage many years after our individual conversions and study of  St. John Paul II’s great teaching of the Theology of the Body. It’s was a blessed foundation to start a relationship upon, yet also a high bar with which to begin our marriage. But in every moment of conflict, conversation, tears, and laughs, God has been in the thick of it with us, even when we need to be shaken off of autopilot.  

The road might get rocky and the storms might blow, but quitting is not an option on the table. 

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By

Bobby Angel is a campus minister and theology teacher at an all-boy Catholic high school in California. He and his wife, Jackie, travel often to share the gospel and the call to a life of chastity. Bobby and Jackie also have recently begun a video ministry through Ascension Press’s YouTube channel. They have three beautiful children who won’t let them sleep. Connect with Bobby at jackieandbobby.com.

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