A lot of people started telling me to leave Mr. N but my biggest surprise came when I met with Father A (not my parish priest – I wanted a more anonymous experience). Frankly I went to him for spiritual and not marital advice and so you can imagine what I was thinking when the first words out of his mouth were, “I can start your annulment right now”.
“I thought you guys were supposed to encourage people not to get divorced,” I looked suspiciously at him from over the wad of Kleenex I’d been crying into. Had I wandered into an Episcopalian church by mistake?
“Not necessarily”, he said, “Years ago maybe, but not today. Your marriage is not a holy one and you should leave this man.”
At this point I thought I should be fair and state Jim Jr.'s case, even though he said he’d never get counseling with me. I told Father all of my faults that I could think of and all the things that Jim Jr. had ever complained about me. Like that I was cold. That I didn’t want to have sex enough. I didn’t appreciate how hard he worked for the things we had. I didn’t pause to defend myself as I would have liked to and explain why I am not totally at fault in these accusations. I just said them. I said, “I have faults too and they are A, B, C, D, E etc.”. Saying them out loud made me start feeling pretty bad about myself and I was ready for Father to let me have it, but he didn’t. He just kept rifling through his desk for the annulment papers.
“Nobody’s perfect in a marriage”, he was saying. “But what your husband is doing breaks the covenant of marriage.”
“But I don’t even know if he is actually sleeping with any of these women.” For some reason I suddenly felt the need to defend Jim Jr. and blame myself for everything.
He swiveled his desk chair around to face me and gave me this kind of, “You poor delusional woman” look. “OK, let’s pretend he’s not. He’s still lying to you and doing some pretty inappropriate things with women. You need to stop letting him get away with it.”
“How am I supposed to do that? I’ve talked to him a million times about it and he just keeps lying.” For a minute there I thought Father was going to tell me something helpful.
“You need to give him a deadline. Make it a month. Tell him that if he doesn’t cut it out in one month you want him to move out. You need to create consequences for this behavior and stick to them. And in the meantime, you need to get tested for STDs.”
I wonder if he could tell by looking at me that I wasn’t going to do any of this stuff. I was still glad that I had come, though. I mean, if I had been wondering if I was overreacting to my situation I could stop. The Catholic Church was telling me that Jim Jr. was bad – how could I argue with the church?
As I left, I handed Father some money and he protested, saying that was what he was there for and all that, but I made him take it. I didn’t know what I was going to do with his advice, but I knew that it had helped me. I thanked him and walked out the door, and as I left I could hear him calling after me, “Don’t forget to get tested for those STDs!”