​The world is lying to us and to our children,  says Dr. Hahn

3 09 2017

“Just recently I was listening to this expert therapist on radio,  Dr. Ruth telling a 15yrs old boy who had called in to tell her that he was having sex with his 14 yrs old girlfriend and all she could ask him was, ‘is it safe sex? ‘” 
” I felt like shouting,’ Woman,  tell him to save sex for marriage!!'”

“When he told her that he was using some kind of contraception and she crackled , ” Oh that is so good ‘” 

 “I was like, ‘Woman,  he is a 15yrs old fornicating with a 14 yrs old.” 

“When I was 15,” continued Dr Hahn, “Canbery soup was  good,  not fornication!”   

“When he told her, he was using contraception,  she said that was great!”

” No it’s not, “said Dr. Hahn,  “When I was 14, flakes were great,  not contracepted fornication.” 

“Our kids are being lied to.  Sex isn’t good,  it’s not even great.  IT IS SACRED.” 

With these and many more stories,  Dr. Scott Hahn inspires  us  on how to  build  successful families. 


 “World Congress of Families, 2015”





 About to End  My Marriage,  I discovered How to Make my Husband Love me by  Kathy Murray 

6 07 2017


Californian Kathy Murray says she saved her marriage by giving up trying to control her husband. Despite considering herself a feminist, she follows – and now teaches others – the approach of a controversial book called The Surrendered Wife, which tells women to stop nagging their partners and start treating them with more respect.

The first time I married I was divorced by 26. I married for the second time at 32 but soon found myself sleeping in the guest room. My husband and I fought all the time.

Much of our fighting stemmed from the fact I thought my husband was clueless when it came to raising the children (we had four children between us aged from four to nine years old). We also quarrelled about how to manage our finances, and how often we made love.

I was working full-time as chief finance officer for a private school and also volunteered at my kids’ school and in my community. My husband was a sales rep for a construction company but I was the breadwinner and acted like I was in charge.

I didn’t tell anyone I was in constant conflict with my husband. I was embarrassed, angry and resentful.

The six principles of being a ‘Surrendered Wife’

Relinquishes inappropriate control of her husband. Respects her husband’s thinking. Receives his gifts graciously and expresses gratitude for him. Expresses what she wants without trying to control him. Relies on him to handle household finances. Focuses on her own self-care and fulfilment

My husband often resorted to watching TV and snuggling with our pets as I’d rage at him over ignoring my needs. I mean all men want sex right? Not my husband. He wanted nothing to do with me. It was awful.

The more I told my husband how he should be, the less he’d try. I couldn’t figure it out so I dragged him to marriage counselling. But that only made things worse, so we sent our children to counselling since they too bore the brunt of so much of our conflict. That didn’t work either.

So I went to counselling by myself and complained about my husband for more than a year. Spending thousands of dollars, only to find myself nearer divorce than when I started.

I’d cry, fight, yell and pout, thinking he would eventually come around, but he didn’t. I lost weight, went to the gym and started getting attention from men which was tempting to act on, but I knew I couldn’t do that, so I’d play the victim card and sulk. That didn’t work either.

I was about to end my marriage when I picked up a book called The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. I mean, they don’t teach us how to be successful in marriage in school and the women in my life didn’t share the secrets either.

It was incredibly humbling to recognise that I had something to do with why my marriage was failing and perhaps even why my first marriage failed. But it was also empowering.

I didn’t know I’d been disrespectful to my husband or even that I’d been controlling and critical.

I thought I was being helpful and logical. I just didn’t know that respect for men is like oxygen, so no wonder my husband was no longer interested in me sexually.

I’ll never forget the day I first apologised to my husband for being rude for correcting him in front of the children, or the day I said “whatever you think” when I’d previously been extremely opinionated about what he should do.

I had trained my husband to ask my permission for everything. And then complained about it for a year in counselling that he couldn’t make simple decisions!

I relinquished control of my husband’s life, choices and decisions and instead I focused on my own happiness. I was no longer acting like his mother and started acting like his lover.

We were fighting less and less and my husband started reaching out to hold my hand or pull me in for a kiss.

I had no idea that I was responsible for my own happiness. I thought my husband should make me happy.

I’ve now found subtle ways of getting my husband in the mood for sex, which is far more effective than the days of begging, crying or yelling about wanting it. Even if I’m not in the mood and he is, I often find myself getting in the mood just by being open to receiving pleasure.

My kids began to notice the change in our relationship too, and as a result, their behaviour improved and our home became peaceful and fun again.

Women often ask me if my approach is about dumbing myself down or becoming a submissive wife. I tell them I am a feminist. Surrendering is acknowledging you can’t change or control anyone but yourself. That’s empowering!

​http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37861459





My Advice to Every Married Woman to avoid Divorcing her Husband by Joyce Meyer

17 03 2017

A GOOD WOMAN, MAKES A GOOD WIFE AND A GOOD WIFE BECOMES A GOOD MOTHER.

A GOOD MOTHER GIVES BIRTH TO A GOOD CHILD. IF YOU WANT TO BE ONE EMULATE THESE STEPS BELLOW:
1). Never raise your voice for any reason to your husband. Its a sign of disrespect.
2). Don’t expose your husband’s weaknesses to your family and friends. It will bounce back at you. You are each other’s keeper.
3). Never use attitudes and moods to communicate to your husband, you never know how your husband will interpret

them. Defensive women don’t have a happy home.
4). Never compare your husband to other men, you’ve no idea what their life is all about. If you attack his Ego, his Love for you will diminish.
5). Never ill treat your husband’s friends because you don’t like them, the person who’s supposed to get rid of them is your husband.
6). Never forget that your husband married you, not your maid or anyone else. Do your duties.
7). Never assign anyone to give attention to your husband, people may do everything else but your husband is your own responsibility.
8). Never blame your husband if he comes back home empty handed. Rather encourage him.
9). Never be a wasteful wife, your husband’s sweat is too precious to be wasted.
10). Never pretend to be sick for the purpose of denying your husband’s right. You must give it to him how he wants it. It’s very important to Men, if you keep denying him, it is a matter of time before another woman takes over that duty. No man can withstand on starvation for too long (even the anointed

ones)
11). Never compare your husband to your one time Ex-lover. Your home may Never recover from it if you do.
12). Never answer for your husband in public opinion polls, let him handle what is directed to him although he may answer for you in public opinion polls.
13). Never shout or challenge your husband in front of children. Wise Women don’t do that.
14). Don’t forget to check the smartness of your husband before he checks out.
15). Never allow your friends to be too close to your husband.
16). Never be in a hurry in the bathroom and on the dressing table. Out there your husband is always surrounded by women who took their time on their looks.
17). Your parents or family or friends do not have the final say in your marriage. Don’t waste your time looking up to them for a final word. You must Leave if you want to Cleave.
18). Never base your love on monetary things. Will you still submit to him even if you earn more money than him?
19). Don’t forget that husbands want attention and good listeners, never be too busy for him. Good communication is the bed rock of every happy home.
20). If your idea worked better than his, never compare yourself to him. Its always team work.
21). Don’t be too judgmental to your husband. No man wants a Nagging wife.
22). A lazy wife is a careless wife. She doesn’t even know that her body needs a bath.
23). Does your husband like a kind of cooked food? Try to change your cooking. No man jokes with food.
24). Never be too demanding to your husband, enjoy every moment, resource as it comes.
25). Make a glass of water the very first welcome to your husband and everyone entering your home. Sweetness of attitude is true beauty.
26). Don’t associate with women who have a wrong mental attitude about marriage.
27). Your marriage is as valuable to you as the value that you give it. Recklessness is unacceptable.
28) A confrontational wife, can never keep a good husband and her home, she will be grooming irresponsible daughters without manners.
29) A woman who cannot manage her children, home and  husband is a complete failure in life no matter her achievements.
30) A wise woman honors her husband, and respect him, in turn the husband will cherish her and love her dearly – it will be natural. Husband is a beautiful gift from God, no woman can stay without a husband. No good man on earth can tolerate a confrontational and argumentative wife except they have lost their value and become less of a real man.
31). Fruit of the womb is a blessing from the Lord, love your children and teach them well.
32). You are never too old to influence your home. Never reduce your care for your family for any reason.
33). A prayerful wife is very wise and intelligent and she  is a  better equipped wife, pray always for your husband and family. Conquer all your challenges and problems with prayers, only God can solve our problems – not parent, not pastors, not imams or alfas, not anybody but, only you and God.
Send it to every woman you know. You never know whose marriage you are about to save. And to every man so that the women in their lives can be better guided.





13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married By ELEANOR STANFORD

4 07 2016

Man Consoling Girlfriend

When it comes to marriage, what you don’t know really can hurt you.

Whether because of shyness, lack of interest or a desire to preserve romantic mystery, many couples do not ask each other the difficult questions that can help build the foundation for a stable marriage, according to relationship experts.

In addition to wanting someone with whom they can raise children and build a secure life, those considering marriage now expect their spouses to be both best friend and confidant. These romantic-comedy expectations, in part thanks to Hollywood, can be difficult to live up to.

Sure, there are plenty of questions couples can ask of each other early in the relationship to help ensure a good fit, but let’s face it: most don’t.

“If you don’t deal with an issue before marriage, you deal with it while you’re married,” said Robert Scuka, the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. It can be hard to keep secrets decade after decade, and reticence before the wedding can lead to disappointments down the line.

The following questions, intimate and sometimes awkward, are designed to spark honest discussions and possibly give couples a chance to spill secrets before it’s too late.

1. Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose?
A relationship’s success is based on how differences are dealt with, said Peter Pearson, a founder of the Couples Institute. As we are all shaped by our family’s dynamic, he said, this question will give you insight into whether your partner will come to mimic the conflict resolution patterns of his or her parents or avoid them.

2. Will we have children, and if we do, will you change diapers?
With the question of children, it is important to not just say what you think your partner wants to hear, according to Debbie Martinez, a divorce and relationship coach. Before marrying, couples should honestly discuss if they want children. How many do they want? At what point do they want to have them? And how do they imagine their roles as parents?

3. Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us?
Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, pointed to research his organization has sponsored that indicated that having had many serious relationships can pose a risk for divorce and lower marital quality. (This can be because of a person having more experience with serious breakups and potentially comparing a current partner unfavorably with past ones.) Raising these issues early on can help, Dr. Wilcox said. Dr. Klein said people are “hesitant to explicitly talk about their past” and can feel retroactively jealous or judgmental. “The only real way to have those conversations in an intimate and productive way and loving way is to agree to accept that the other person had a life before the couple,” he said.

4. How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all?
If two people come from different religious backgrounds, is each going to pursue his or her own religious affiliation? Dr. Scuka has worked with couples on encouraging honest discussion around this issue as the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. What is more, spouses are especially likely to experience conflict over religious traditions when children are added to the mix, according to Dr. Wilcox. If the couple decide to have children, they must ask how the children’s religious education will be handled. It is better to have a plan, he said.

5. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out?
It’s important to know how your partner feels about financial self-sufficiency and whether he or she expects you to keep your resources separate, said Frederick Hertz, a divorce lawyer. Disclosing debts is very important. Equally, if there is a serious discrepancy between your income and your partner’s, Dr. Scuka recommended creating a basic budget according to proportional incomes. Many couples fail to discuss sharing finances, though it is crucial, he said.

6. What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes?
Couples should make sure they are on the same page in terms of financial caution or recklessness. Buying a car is a great indicator, according to Mr. Hertz. Couples can also frame this question around what they spend reckless amounts of money on, he said.
7. Can you deal with my doing things without you?

Going into marriage, many people hope to keep their autonomy in certain areas of their life at the same time they are building a partnership with their spouse, according to Seth Eisenberg, the president of Pairs (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills). This means they may be unwilling to share hobbies or friends, and this can lead to tension and feelings of rejection if it isn’t discussed. Couples may also have different expectations as to what “privacy” means, added Dr. Klein, and that should be discussed, too. Dr. Wilcox suggested asking your partner when he or she most needs to be alone.

8. Do we like each other’s parents?
As long as you and your partner present a united front, having a bad relationship with your in-laws can be manageable, Dr. Scuka said. But if a spouse is not willing to address the issue with his or her parents, it can bode very poorly for the long-term health of the relationship, he said. At the same time, Dr. Pearson said, considering the strengths and weaknesses of your parents can illuminate future patterns of attachment or distancing in your own relationship.

9. How important is sex to you?
Couples today expect to remain sexually excited by their spouse, an expectation that did not exist in the past, according to Mr. Eisenberg. A healthy relationship will include discussion of what partners enjoy about sex as well as how often they expect to have it, Dr. Klein said. If people are looking to experience different things through sex — pleasure versus feeling young, for example — some negotiation may be required to ensure both partners remain satisfied.

10. How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching pornography O.K.?
Dr. Klein said couples should discuss their attitudes about pornography, flirting and expectations for sexual exclusivity. A couple’s agreement on behavior in this area can, and most likely will, change down the line, he said, but it is good to set the tone early on so both partners are comfortable discussing it. Ideally, sexual exclusivity should be talked about in the same way as other day-to-day concerns, so that problems can be dealt with before a partner becomes angry, he said. Dr. Pearson suggested asking your partner outright for his or her views on pornography. Couples are often too scared to ask about this early in the relationship, but he has frequently seen it become a point of tension down the line, he said.

11. Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”?
Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, “The 5 Love Languages,” introduced this means of categorizing expressions of love to strengthen a marriage. Ms. Martinez hands her premarriage clients a list of the five love languages: affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. She asks them to mark their primary and secondary languages and what they think is their partner’s, and discuss them. Mr. Eisenberg said that a couple needs to work out how to nurture the relationship, in a way specific to them.

12. What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves?
Can you imagine the challenges ever outweighing the admiration? If so, what would you do? Anne Klaeysen, a leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, said that couples rarely consider that second question. Ideally, marriage is a life commitment, she said, and it’s not enough to just “click together,” as many couples describe their relationship. A marriage must go deeper than that original “click.”

13. How do you see us 10 years from now?
Keeping the answer to this question in mind can help a couple deal with current conflict as they work toward their ultimate relationship goals, according to Mr. Eisenberg.

Dr. Wilcox said this discussion could also be an opportunity to raise the question of whether each partner will consider divorce if the relationship deteriorates, or whether they expect marriage to be for life, come what may.

Credit The NewYorkTimes





Saving Your Marriage by Healing Selfishness

23 06 2016

Saving marriage by healing selfishness

Recently the New York Times ran an opinion piece by popular philosopher Alain de Botton, Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. It was widely shared and sat at the top of  The Times’ “most viewed” list for nearly two weeks. De Botton argued that the solution to marital unhappiness and divorce is to expect less happiness from marriage. In other words, swapping romanticism for pessimism can save marriages.

In a follow-up debate this week six pundits opine on Knowing When a Marriage Is Over – a pessimistic premise to be sure, and all of them accept that there will be circumstances (other than abuse) where it will be reasonable to say, “It’s over.” It comes down to “what you want”. Significantly, children are barely mentioned.

But as psychiatrist Dr Richard Fitzgibbons notes below, the welfare of children is a key reason for trying to save marriages. And this is possible because the underlying causes of conflict between spouses can be brought to light and healed – again, if “you want”. Not all optimism is merely romantic, just as pessimism is not necessarily realistic.

* * * * *

Today marriage and family life are being severely traumatized by the divorce epidemic, the explosion of selfishness which is the major enemy of marital love, and failure to understand and address serious emotional conflicts. Around one million children a year in the United States are victimised by divorce. (See my chapter, “Children of Divorce: Conflicts and Healing” in M. McCarthy (ed) Torn Asunder: Children, the Myth of Good Divorce, and the Recovery of Origins – due out in August).

The toll from marital conflicts can be severe and debilitating.  Selfishness, excessive anger and behaviours that are controlling, emotionally distant and mistrustful cause grave harm to spouses and children. The loyal spouses who are victimized are often incorrectly blamed as being the primary cause of the marital conflict. These conflicts and their resolution through growth in virtues are rarely addressed in the mental health literature on marriage.

Origins of serious emotional conflicts

In my experience the spouse that initiates divorce often has the most serious psychological difficulties.  These are often unconscious wounds they have brought into the marriage.  They arise primarily from hurts in the father relationship and secondarily from hurts in the mother relationship, or from giving into selfishness.

These unresolved are on the periphery of the deep goodness in each spouse, the goodness that led to strong love, commitment and marital vows.  When they are resolved, trust grows and love is regularly rediscovered.

Confusion about the nature of marriage

An understanding of the nature of marriage is also essential to safeguarding marital love. At the present time, there are two markedly different views on the marriage. Sociologist Dr Brad Wilcox refers to them as the traditional Judeo-Christian view of marriage and the more prevalent psychological view. (Wilcox, B. (2009). The Evolution of Divorce)

In the latter, the primary obligation is not to one’s spouse and family but to one’s self and one’s own happiness and sense of fulfillment.  Hence, marital success is defined not by successfully fulfilling one’s responsibilities to a spouse and children.  It is characterized by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage, usually to be found in material comfort and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse and others.

Virtues, anger and forgiveness

The role of virtues has been viewed in Western Civilization as being essential in the development of a healthy personality.  The mental health field has grown recently to appreciate this approach and a new field, positive psychology, has developed – notably by Dr Martin Seligman and colleagues. (Seligman, M. & Peterson, C. 2004.Character Strengths and Virtues) Positive psychology promotes the development of virtues to address and resolve cognitive, emotional, behavioural and personality conflicts, including those in marriage.

My own particular contribution to this new field is in the use of forgiveness in treating the excessive anger that is present in most psychiatric disorders and in marital conflicts. This subject is treated in detail in a book I co-authored with Dr Robert Enright, Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, published by the American Psychological Association in 2000. (A second edition was published in 2014 with the title, Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.)

Uncovering conflicts

The first challenge in the healing process is to acquire self-knowledge about one’s weaknesses, most often unconscious and hidden, so that they can be addressed. My own clinical experience is supported by research that demonstrates that 70 percent of adult psychological conflicts are the result of unresolved issues from childhood.

Most spouses do not deliberately set out to hurt the person they have vowed to honor and love all the days of their lives. Instead, they inflict painful wounds and even divorce because of their “baggage”/family of origin conflicts, giving in to selfishness or loss of faith.

The good news is that selfishness, excessive anger; mistrustful, controlling and emotionally distant behaviors, loneliness and insecurity, and the poor communication patterns that harm many marriages can be correctly identified and in many marriages resolved, especially if there is a faith component in the healing process.

Starting with singles

But we also have to prevent marital conflict and divorce by educating young adults about how the most common relationship stresses can be uncovered and resolved. Singles can then be more hopeful about having a successful marriage, and the retreat from marriage – itself partly attributable to the experience of divorce in families – can be reversed.

In particular young adults need to become more aware of selfishness, because it is of epidemic proportions in today’s culture and is a major reason for the retreat from marriage. This is a task awaiting parents, pastors and others involved in the education and formation of young people.

Dr Richard Fitzgibbons is the director of Comprehensive Counselling Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. He has practiced psychiatry for 40 years with a specialty in the treatment of excessive anger. Further information at: Institute for Marital Healing





Sexual Chemistry by Janet Smith

1 06 2016

sexual chemistry

This blurb from Elle, a woman’s fashion magazine, advises that “For years Prozac and the pill have given women emotional stability and sexual freedom, but new research suggests that these drugs can negatively affect everything from our sex drive to our choice of a mate.” This article reports that contraceptives and antidepressants both reduce a woman’s sex drive and also change their perception of males.
Why are women taking these antidepressants? One of the side effects of the pill is depression. So doctors try to combat the effects of the pill by prescribing antidepressant. But antidepressants also reduce a woman’s sex drive. So a woman is taking the contraceptive pill to help her have sex and supposedly be happier and then taking an antidepressant because she’s taking a pill that causes depression. And she’s not any happier and she doesn’t even want to have sex.
What they’re also discovering is that when women go off of the pill, they’re no longer interested in the man that they’re with. They picked him when they were in the state of pseudo-pregnancy. There was another video featured on NBC10.com called “The Divorce Pill”. It reported that women who go off the pill have a higher sex drive than they had when they were on the pill, but they’re no longer interested in the man they are with; they chose him under the influence of the pseudo pregnancy hormones in their bodies. I suspect there is more to the story than that. I suspect that many of these women are going off the pill because they want to have a baby. When a woman decides to have a baby she starts looking at guys with a whole different set of eyes. Is this man going to be a good father to my children?
As a matter of fact, don’t be too impressed if someone comes up to you and says I want to have sex with you. That’s a saying that’s not particularly flattering. But if someone comes up to you and says I want you to be the parent of my children, fall over. That’s a marriage proposal. And a marriage proposal is one of the most incredible things that anybody’s ever said to another person. A marriage proposal means, I want someone with your eyes, your laugh, the way you walk and most importantly your values. I’m going to trust my children to you. A lot of people have sex with people, but they won’t entrust their children to them.
How many people in our culture court and get married with the view towards having a child? How many choose a spouse because that spouse will be a good parent? I tell my students when dating to consider whether the person they are interested in would be a good parent; that person will also make a good spouse, for good parents are generous and responsible and hardworking, and such are the qualities that make for a good spouse.
One of my former students who had been a good Catholic went off to graduate school, became completely infatuated with a young man and started having sex with him. She realized that she was very confused and it wasn’t right. She stopped have sex with him but was still crazy about him. It was an incredibly passionate relationship, though not sexual. He was a very lapsed Catholic and in fact, hated the church. She remained in the relationship for about five or six years. At one point I said either you have to marry him or you have to break up. She said she was still crazy about him and didn’t think she could imagine finding another man that fascinates her as much as he did. But, she said, “I don’t want him to be the father of my children. I want to raise my kids catholic. He hates the church. I can’t have children with him.” I recommended that she write those words down and look at them and see what conclusions she ought to draw. She soon broke up with him and a few years later met and married a wonderful, fascinating man and started a family.





Culture of Divorce, Culture of Death by Anthony Esolen

21 05 2016

Divorce

It was a quiet room in a hospice, the only sounds the muffled pumping of oxygen, and the softer and slower breathing of my mother-in-law, Esther, as she lay a few hours before her death. Her husband, Herb, stood by the bedside, stroking the gray curls on her forehead, a slight gesture. It seemed to wave away 50 years of sorrow and disappointment and strife, leaving only the love he felt for her in the beginning, like a seedling under the ruins of a city.

 

He could have abandoned her years before — not for another woman, but for what the world calls peace. Dad is not a Catholic, so he had no Church precept to warn him against divorce. He didn’t need any. “You never know what you’ll get in life,” he put it to me once. “You have to do the right thing, because if you don’t, you’ll probably make things worse.” So he never left, and at the last moment of Esther’s life he was there, fulfilling a patient vigil, his eyes red with weariness and loss.

“Moses allowed our forefathers to present their wives with a bill of divorce,” said the Pharisees to Jesus. “For what cause do you think a man may put away his woman?”

 

Consider them the pundits of that time, eager to learn whether on this matter of public policy the preacher from Galilee would position himself on the left or the right. Would he agree that you could divorce your wife for burning the soup, or would he hold out for a far narrower range of grounds — adultery, for instance?

 

But Jesus rejected the terms of the question. “Moses permitted you to divorce,” he said, “because of the hardness of your hearts; but it was not so from the beginning. Therefore you have heard it said that a man should leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife, and they two shall become one flesh. So I say to you that any man who puts away his woman — I am not talking about fornication here — and marries another, commits adultery.” He concludes with a stern admonition: “What God has joined together, let no mere man put asunder.”

 

We may be too familiar with these words. They should strike us with the same shock that once silenced the Pharisees, or enraged them, when the Lord reached back behind all the history of the Israelites, behind the Temple and the kings and the judges and the tribes, behind even creation itself, as He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Here alone, in this discussion of marriage, does Jesus answer a question about good and evil and human life by appealing to the time before the Fall. “It was not so,” he says, “from the beginning.” It was no part of God’s plan for innocent mankind. It can be no part of God’s plan for man regenerate in Christ.

 

Jesus has presented to us two potent truths, each unbearably alive and full of import for fallen man, yet leaving it to us to connect them. The first has been celebrated joyfully by Pope John Paul II: Man and woman are made for one another. Our bodies, our very souls are stamped with a nuptial meaning, and in the embrace of man and woman, an embrace that in God’s providence can bring into being a living soul, we recall our innocence in the Garden, and we share in and anticipate the wedding feast of the Lord. The second? We were not made for sin and death, for alienation from one another and from God, our life. That too was not so from the beginning.

 

Make the connection. Culture of divorce, culture of death.

If any man had cause for procuring a divorce, short of adultery and mayhem, my father-in-law had it. Esther was a difficult woman to live with. Over a trifle, as when we should leave for the diner, she could go into a towering rage, then storm off to her bedroom, her face set like flint, certain that she was right, that she was ill-used by everyone, and woe to my wife if she tried to reason with her. “Gram’s on the warpath,” she’d say. She could jest about it then, nervously, but when she was a girl she didn’t dare bring any of her friends to the house, for fear that her mother would cause a scene. Hers was a lonely childhood.

 

What caused this habitual anger, I can’t say. Perhaps a deep insecurity, a hunger to be loved; her own mother was by all accounts a tyrant in the household. When Esther returned home with Herb from their elopement, her father said to him, “If you can live with her, more power to you.” And she was her father’s favorite.

 

For a few years they lived together happily, in unlikely conditions: quarters for married midshipmen at a naval base in the Bahamas. They always spoke about that time with wistful humor. The poverty was something they shared and couldn’t help, so they took it in stride, and made jokes about how much they grew to hate bananas. Esther was also one of those women who genuinely enjoys the company of men, and whom men will treat with a big-brother jocularity and kindness. Those years were good for them.

 

Then they settled down in New Jersey, where they would live most of their lives. Dad is a sharp man and a hard worker, holding down two and three jobs all his life before he retired. But for a while money was tight, and though Esther grew up with eleven other children in a rented house with an earthen floor, or maybe because she grew up in such straits, she never learned any measure in her spending. She was one of the most generous people I’ve known, lavishing my children with Christmas presents, but she spent on herself, too. She wanted nice things they could not afford. So she upbraided her husband about his pay, and went to work herself.

 

My wife was born then, and maybe all would have been well had Esther been able to trust her husband’s industry and thrift, and had she not been afflicted by a painful condition that compelled her to have a hysterectomy. It was a severe loss. In her frustration she took a job at a monstrous candy mill, working at rotating shifts, two weeks in the day, two weeks in the evening, two weeks in the dead of night. The body never accustoms itself to that; it is always sleep-deprived. So she took to having a nightcap before bed. Then she fell in with some cynical companions at work who also liked to drink. Soon she was an alcoholic.

 

Many readers will be able to fill in the details. She was impossible to predict; sometimes ingratiating, sometimes as unappeasable as rock. She would throw cups and dishes about the kitchen. Her fists were not idle. She’d shut herself in her room for days of terrible silence. She insisted on separate bank accounts, throwing it in Dad’s teeth that it was her money, that she made more than he did (for a year or so this was true), and that she could spend it as she pleased. My wife cannot remember when they shared the same bed.

 

But to her credit, Esther recognized that Dad was a terrific father, and in her own way she was true to him. Nobody else dared criticize him — but she would humiliate him publicly. He didn’t care, or didn’t let on. They could unite only in their love for their daughter, whom they showered with gifts, partly to compensate for their inability to give her what she wanted more than anything, namely love for one another. Finally, when she was 15 and presumably capable of surviving the blow, her mother approached her with bad news.

 

“I can’t take it anymore! Your father and I are getting a divorce.”

 

But divorce was still rare in those days, and my wife hadn’t entertained the possibility. It was as if someone had told her that her little world, so fraught with suffering, so fragile, yet so beloved, would be smashed to bits. She broke down in bitter tears. Her mother backed away, and God would bless her for it. The word “divorce” was never uttered again.

Divorce destroys a world; it smothers an echo of Eden. What was the Fall, if not man’s first attempt to divorce? “Where are you, Adam?” calls God in the cool of the evening. “You haven’t come out to meet me as you used to do.” Adam is steeped in shame. He doesn’t want to be seen. Consider the unselfconsciousness of little children who parade naked in front of their parents, because they sense no separation; they feel themselves to be at one with mother and father. Only later, with a growing sense of separate identity, and a growing loneliness, does the child wish to hide. Adam is hiding not because he is naked, but because he is alienated from God, and it is that separation that causes him to look upon his nakedness, an emblem of his own being, with shame.

 

But the severance could not end there. When Adam and Eve admit their guilt — a graceless and skulking admission — they chisel the fissure more deeply, divorcing themselves from one another and from creation. “It was this woman you gave to be my help,” says Adam. “She gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Eve passes the blame in turn. “It was this serpent you created! He tricked me, and I ate the fruit.”

 

What can we expect should follow? The very earth shuns us. The ground shall bear thorns and thistles, and in the sweat of his brow must man eat his bread; the woman will bear children in pain, and will have to submit to the domination, not the loving headship, of her husband. Their children grow up in separate pursuits — Abel a shepherd, Cain a farmer — and in envy for a blessing he lacks and does not sincerely desire, Cain slays Abel, not in rage, but in cold malice. When God accosts him, as he once accosted Adam, we see in Cain’s reply that the fissure has widened into a chasm. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he sneers.

 

There you have the motto for a culture of divorce. Cain’s words assume that the brother, the parent, the spouse, the neighbor is not worth keeping. What to do with one who obstructs my will, or casts a pall over my daydreams? If I can get away with it, and if I am angry enough, I put him away. No matter. Around any house or barn there’s plenty of noisome matter to be buried, shoveled over, cast into a pit, or burnt. We rid ourselves of the sights and smells.

 

Cain begins in Genesis a saga of family strife, occasioned by lust or greed or envy. Lamech is a multiple murderer, and proud of it. Men begin to take several wives. Lot listens to his grumbling men and separates from Abram, taking that fateful left turn toward Sodom. After Sarah finally conceives a child, she cannot bear the sight of the woman she had encouraged to become Abraham’s concubine, so she forces her husband to send Hagar and Ishmael away into the desert. Though God would bring forth good from her guile, Rebecca causes deadly enmity between her sons when she tricks Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob and not Esau. Jacob’s uncle Laban tricks him into marrying Leah, whom he does not love, and then extorts seven additional years of work from him in exchange for Rachel, whom he does love. The intense rivalry between the two sister-wives causes a rift in the family between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, whom old Jacob favors. One of those sons, Joseph, is hurled down a well by his brothers, then sold into slavery.

 

If heaven is filled with life and light, a wedding feast to celebrate the marriage of the Lamb to his bride the Church, then hell, as C. S. Lewis imagined it, may be the Great Divorce, a realm of alienation, whose “citizens” detest even the thought of a city, and who wish, in an endlessly fissiparous parody of the Heavenly Jerusalem, to move further and further away into the outskirts, to put as much distance between themselves and God (and their neighbors in damnation) as possible. Dante saw it too: One of the traitors in his Inferno, fixed in ice up to his head along with all the others of his ilk, defines his neighbor simply as that one “with his head in my way to block my sight” — a head that will annoy him for all eternity, and that he would gladly lop off if he could, with no more compunction than if he should swat a fly.

But Herb and Esther never departed for that gray city that promises much and delivers nothing. They stayed with one another; they endured. They kept their vows. “Son of Man,” said the Lord God to Ezekiel as he stood before a valley of dry bones bleaching in the desert sun, “tell these bones to rise.” And from those vast dead sands they did arise.

 

Not immediately. They sent their daughter to college, and after years of wandering in the academic wasteland, joining a tent revival, falling away, brought closer to the Lord by a rabbi, a musician or two out at heels, a good old girl from Tennessee, a motorcycling professor of Milton, and a lover of Crashaw, she ended up in North Carolina, where we met; and I had left my own footprints over many a desert mile. Each of us became the instrument by which the Lord brought the other one home. We fell in love; we worshiped together at Mass. At our wedding, our priest delivered a sermon on the Song of Songs, and on the righteous souls in Revelation, the communion of saints whose robes have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

 

I have a picture of Herb walking down the aisle with my wife. He looks embarrassed, as if he couldn’t tell how he had come to be there. He had been raised in an evangelical church. His father, a sternly righteous man, took the faith seriously, but imparted little of the joy of it to his children. Herb’s churchgoing did not survive the Navy. Esther, meanwhile, had been raised with hardly any religion at all. She may have attended a Dutch Reformed church for a few years as a child, but her parents paid so little attention to it that they failed to have her baptized. By the time we were married she had given up drink for good, and the AA meetings she attended may have turned her toward the Bible; or maybe she had turned on her own. In any case, though she was ashamed to be found in a church on Sunday, she read a little of the Bible every night, in secret.

 

I don’t know if, except for marriages and funerals and an occasional Easter long ago, Herb and Esther had ever been in a church together. I do know that our marriage, and our increasing steadfastness in the Faith, made them happy. They suddenly had something new to unite them. If they could not love one another, or at least not admit to it, they could together love my wife and me, and then the little girl and the little boy we brought them — the only grandchildren they would ever have. Esther was a hard woman, but she had also the corresponding virtue of loyalty. If you hurt someone she loved, she might never forgive you, but if you loved the one she loved, her heart would swell in gratitude. Now she and Herb had unexpected reasons to be grateful to one another. They could tattoo their house with pictures of the toddlers, who adored them in their turn, as was just.

“God is not the God of the dead,” said Jesus to the Sadducees, whose hearts were too cramped to believe in any resurrection, “but of the living.” To accept divorce as a way of death — no way of life — is to deny the very being of God as revealed by Jesus. It is to say that love can, or should sometimes be permitted to, die utterly. But had God so acted toward us, all this universe would have winked out of existence at the first sin of Adam. With every sin we commit, we pretend to sever ourselves from the fount of our being, as if we were lords of life and death; yet should God respond to us in kind, we would find the divorce complete, and would fall into the nothingness of everlasting loss. But He does not do so, and at the last moment, like the thief on the cross who joined the others in their jeering, but who then thought better of it — and maybe it took the torment of crucifixion to wake him — we may turn to Christ and hear him say, “This day you shall be with me in Paradise.” Christ did not put away that dying criminal. So much the better for us, who are all criminals, dying.

Esther too was dying, though nobody but my wife noticed it. “Something’s wrong with Gram. She remembers things that never happened.” Old age, I supposed. Esther did not look like she was about to depart. She still fought mercilessly with her husband. She still squandered her money, though it had been many years since illness had forced her to retire from the factory. She still raged against how badly everyone treated her. She still slammed the door to her room, to hide, to be miserable; and, at night, to open her Bible, though she never talked about it.

 

But she was suffering a series of small strokes, as we learned much later. These strokes compromised her memory and her ability to get things done around the house. Herb never complained. He’d always been handy, and now he began, unobtrusively, to take on chores she could no longer perform, sweeping and vacuuming, loading the washer, tending the garden, along with all his old chores and his hard work, post-retirement, at his auto junkyard. The strange thing was that as Esther’s memory faded, so did her rumination upon all the wrongs she thought people had done to her. Weakness wore away the edges of her anger.

 

All this took more than ten years. It was punctuated by times of madness, when she would storm out in the dead of night and pound on a neighbor’s door, because a “strange man” was in her house — her husband; or when on a snowy Christmas night she forgot that she was visiting us 250 miles away, and insisted that she was going to walk home. I had to sleep in front of the door to bar her way. But in general she was softening, mellowing. When, after his open-heart surgery, Herb could no longer take care of her and she had to move to the county home, she was pleasant to the nurses and the beauticians, and would brighten up whenever anybody came to see her. Herb visited her three or four times every week, which was as often as her condition could bear, wheeling her down to the solarium where they would talk with other patients and visitors for the whole afternoon.

 

Esther could be most kind when she wanted to be, and could accept kindness too, but for much of her married life she would not accept it from her husband. Now, as she grew more helpless, she was glad to accept it from him, and he gave it without stint. She called him, in a moment of tenderness and lucidity, her “savior.” She was not far wrong. His most important act of kindness he performed just before his operation and her entering the nursing home. He’d become friends with a local Presbyterian minister, a genuine believer in Christ. Now he knew that Esther was too ashamed to admit that she hadn’t been baptized. He also knew that if he were to suggest a baptism, she would reject it in anger and hurt, and that would be the end of that. So he told everything to Pastor Forbes, and invited him to visit now and then, so that Esther would get to know him. Then the subject might come up unbidden, or certain suggestions might be made. So he did; and, not long before the time would pass when she could reasonably make any decisions she would remember, without any prompting she asked to be baptized. A few days later, Pastor Forbes baptized my mother-in-law, a frail old woman but at last a daughter of God, in her own kitchen, christening her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

We in a culture of death hunger after life, but on our own terms, and at the expense of others, even at the expense of their lives. But some of us will only begin really to live when we have lost all capacity to pretend that we are our own. That is one of the meanings of Jesus’ mysterious saying, that unless we become like little children, we shall not enter the kingdom of God. Esther now entered that childhood, and Herb was there, to feed her, to wheel her about when she could no longer walk, to talk to her even toward the end, when a massive stroke had left her still wishing to speak, but unable to form more than one or two intelligible words.

 

And he was beside her those last few days, making sure, if by some miracle she regained the ability to swallow, that the hospital staff would not abandon her to starvation. He would not allow them to hasten her death with morphine, prescribed less often to alleviate pain than to soothe the onlookers and free the doctors and nurses from the ennui of a natural death. We watched by turns at the bed of the dying woman, not because we believed there was something magical about squeezing out each breath from the clamp of death, but because it was the right thing to do. She was going to die, but we didn’t want her to die alone. The dying life was a mystery. It was not our place to abandon it, to cast it away as inconvenient, as trash, as we are urged to do to so much else in our barren lives.

 

How can we know what fleeting notes of grace came to her in those last hours? If God wills, who can obstruct Him? After nearly 53 years of struggle and disappointment, yet 53 years of faithfulness and duty, Herb stood by, never divorced. The Lord God, against whom she had sinned the more mightily, never turned from calling her back to Him, and as a child of over 70 years she finally answered that call.

 

What keeps people from believing that a good God loves them and desires never to be parted from them, unless they themselves should flee that love? Look in the mirror, and see the cause of despair in others. Do not repeat the words of the great divorcer at the bottom of hell, who says in his loneliness and misery, “I am my own, I am my own.” Say rather, “I am a wayward child, and the one I am called to stand beside is a wayward child.” Do not dare mull over your “quality of life” and your “fulfillment” — wrapped in a shroud of deadly self-regard, while the Lord of life, who dies to bring you to life, gasps for His last breath on the cross above. If anyone had grounds for divorce, He had; no one ever loved as deeply as He, and no one was ever betrayed as He. You, reader, have betrayed Him shamelessly, as have I. Yet He remains faithful, and waits for us, to bring us life:

 

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

 

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

 

And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

 

Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College and a contributing editor for Touchstone magazine. He has translated and edited Dante’s Divine Comedy, in three volumes, for Modern Library (Random House). This article originally appeared on January 15, 2008.








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