Life Story

Divorced Catholic Dads

My name is Dave and I am a Catholic single father of 3 living children (one deceased). I have a married daughter with two beautiful grandchildren. In January of 2007, my wife of 34 years, also Catholic, walked out on me and my 2 handicapped sons and filed for divorce 4 months later. To this day, I am not sure I know why – there was never any meaningful discussion, though I attempted many times, and every sort of reconciliation I could think of. But she is not the point of this web site anyway. I mentioned we were Catholic – but we were involved Catholics – daily Mass as often as circumstance allowed, involved in parish life extensively our whole lives and even led both pre-marriage and marriage courses.

So what happened? I suppose the root of it goes back to two things. Our home lives were drastically different. Hers was from alcoholic abusive parents who apparently hated other from the way they abused each other – despite being ‘devout Catholics’. And mine from parents who were far from perfect, but were known for their love and affection for each other – not overt physical affection, but love that showed itself in a thousand ways. And never ever were they known to complain about each other in gatherings with their peers. Outsiders knew better to than to say anything that would imply coming between them. The second thing was that we knew each other for only 4 months before we got married ‘on the spur of the moment’ – and only being able to see each other some weekends during that time. We did not really know each other and had no business getting married.

From my perspective, staying married for 34 years was just what I did because I gave my word to God. It was a stormy 34 years. She left me at least 5 other times for as much as a year and a half. I tried to do everything I could think of to make it better including marriage counseling, spiritual counseling, and therapy and on and on. I even gave up my fundamental values and sense of right and wrong (not in a sinful way) to please her and keep the peace. In the end, nothing worked. It was all about her issues – from childhood.

So I was faced with divorce that I did not want and did not believe in. I am convinced that abortion is the worst scourge on the earth and second to that is divorce. Divorce creates a devastation that touches to the root of the persons intimately involved – the immediate family – and deeply to all those who know the couple in proportion to the depth that others know them. And the devastation is in all aspects of the person and the family.

In my helplessness, the only recourse I had was to call on Jesus Christ for the strength to walk down a path that revolted me and every inch of my person wanted to resist. I felt that I was headed to my own type of crucifixion. I desperately wished that I could have blamed the divorce on something, anything, like being an alcoholic, or abusive or cheating on her, or a financial scandal, or something, anything that I could ‘fix’ or be forgiven of. But to go down this path for no apparent reason was something I could not understand or comprehend. In the end, the divorce complaint said I made faces at her when I disagreed with her. But that was it?!!

Like every man who has ever faced divorce, I was angry, resentful, bitter, confused and so on. I committed those sins and more many times over. Thank God for the Sacrament of Confession, because I used it a lot – and still do – of necessity.

Where Jesus took me was His Passion – His Way of the Cross – from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross. What I came to see was the great gulf between the way I handled a little trial and the way He handled unspeakable abuse by His creatures to the Creator. And it was not just the abuse of those present, but the sins of all mankind for all of history, past, present and future. The gravity of the abuse and sin was infinitesimally large and yet, how did He respond? And to the little trial I have endured, how did I / am I responding? What a gulf! And yet, He encourages me to follow His example of humility and love and irresistibly, I find myself draw to try again and again. His example is a challenge and a hope for me to draw me to a higher level than I would otherwise be.

I thought along the way – His and mine – Jesus did not even once become bitter, angry, hateful, resentful or anything but humble, forgiving and loving. He was and is asking me to pick up my cross, deny my very self, and follow Him. He IS the Way, the Truth and the Life. So that is what I am trying to do – deny my emotions and psyche their desire to run my behaviors, and turn over my will to Jesus Christ to let Him give me the grace to walk this path after his example. I think my ex would laugh to read this as it has not shown much fruit exteriorly, but I am trying and to all those who are around me and know me well, I do believe they see at least some of the fruits. I AM peaceful and happy and OK with all that has happened. If Jesus allowed it and is allowing it, then His hand is in it and all I can do is to do what He asks me to do today and not worry about tomorrow.

And that is a big challenge for me. I live in a socially repressive state – with no fault shown, my ex was to get 40% of my income for life or something on that order since she was essentially a stay at home mom she contended. (forget the real details, it is not important)   The only way out of that turned out for me to give her all of my retirement savings and she had already taken all of our other cash and equivalents – she got all the equity out of our home to pay for some of the most expensive therapy treatment centers in the US – resorts that purport to treat the likes of Hollywood and rock stars. So I am left broke, with huge debts that I cannot hope to ever pay. I cannot even pay off the HELOC so I can sell our house at a loss just to get out of a huge mortgage payment. And the same situation with another residential property we own. I could not be in a worse situation at almost 60 years of age.

I commute to a job 60 miles away that takes 3-4 hours round trip every day. So that requires that I am up at 4.30 a.m. daily and typically do not get to be until 10.30 – 11.00 every evening. I spend the weekends doing house and yard chores and cooking for the week, Mass with the boys on Saturday at noon and Sunday morning, shopping and then back at it Monday morning. Some days I want to stay in bed so bad, I can’t stand it. But the Lord calls me to my duties, and so I roll over, try cheerily to greet Him and all of Heaven, and then joyfully begin my day. That first movement of the day, no matter how tired I am, no matter what has gone on the day before, or even whether or not I was able to sleep – and many nights I did not – I believe to be critically important for my own spiritual well being, but also for my boys.


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