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Healing a marriage

From infidelity to faithfulness

It had been quite a week. In the matter of just a few days, no fewer than five married couples had been in touch with me to let me know that they were having difficulty in their marriages. The differences, they said, were irreconcilable, and all of them seemed to be headed at one speed or another, toward separation and divorce. There had been no infidelity, no physical, emotional or psychological abuse, no problems related to abuse of drugs or alcohol. They had, as one couple put it, “grown apart from one another.”

These were couples who, at least from external appearances, seemed to have good marriages that included the usual balancing act of children, family, work and marriage. Had they sought marriage counseling together and individually? In most instances, yes. Had they looked for opportunities to grow or strengthen their marriages – through a Marriage Encounter weekend, Retrouvaille, a weekend retreat for couples, a marriage enrichment workshop, the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist – prior to their current difficulties? Some had, others had not. My heart ached for them and for their families – especially their children.

I wanted to share with them the story of a couple I had worked with a number of years ago. They were an older couple who seemed to have a rock-solid marriage, until one day they called me, asking if I could stop by their home that afternoon – they had some “news” to share with me. As we sat in the living room, they shared with me that all was not well in their relationship – there had been infidelity. One was feeling deeply hurt and betrayed, the other, guilty and ashamed.

After listening to them pour out their hearts and hurts, I asked them what they wanted to do about the situation. They shared that they had decided to work to save their marriage. From the outset they knew this would not be an easy task. I assured them that I and their parish community would do whatever we could to support them. They also knew that God would be with them to love and support them as they walked a very rocky path that would hopefully lead them toward reconciliation and renewed trust and love. Their respective families, also wounded and hurting, pledged to stand by them and to love them equally.

With time, hard work, prayer, and God’s grace in the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, there came healing and forgiveness. What had started as an experience of infidelity became a beautiful work of faithfulness – a reflection of God’s faithfulness to them and their own faithfulness in seeking to renew the vows that form their covenant of marriage.

In the face of what seems to be a creeping poison that is slowly and systematically destroying marriages, we need to know that it is possible – not easy, but possible – to allow God’s faithfulness and love to carry a hurting couple through reconciliation to renewed faithfulness. Honesty, hard work and time are also a part of that process, as is deep trust that God – who is loving, kind and forgiving – will never abandon us. And so our journey in FAITH continues.