Recently I have had more than a few husbands and wives ask a similar question. It basically boils down to this:
“He/She was great before we got married but now that the honeymoon is over I feel like I don’t even know this man or woman sharing my life, my home, my bed. This isn’t the person I thought I was marrying, what recourse do I have?”
“He/She isn’t the person, I married and I don’t even know them anymore – much less love them. I’m unhappy, this is not what I signed up for and I want out!”
I have some feelings many would consider unduly harsh about breaking a sacramental vow. Unless the persons discovered flaws are serious enough to warrant an annulment, I tend to believe they should let duty, honor, loyalty, and sacrifice carry them until they establish the intimacy from which love is born. People change every day, they will never be static and we have to make a decision to love them as they are every morning. I can attest that the love of a good woman will change a man in ways he cannot imagine, and the inverse is true as well. However, people seem to be making a veiled request for absolution or an excuse to break a holy vow because is inconvenient. I wish people took their vows more seriously.
That said, this article is not intended to address issues involving violence, spousal abuse, and any circumstances which constitute grounds for the annulment of the marriage.
Now to actually deal with the situation. I know this is not what you want to hear, I can almost see you putting your fingers in your ears and singing at the top of your lungs, but here it is. When you married in the Catholic church you made a gift of yourself and your service to your spouse for life before God, and they did the same for you. It’s not a you do for me, and I’ll do for you agreement. Your obligation to your spouse nor to God is abrogated because they are not keeping their vow. Every marriage has ups and downs. I recall time when my wife told me “I still love you, but I don’t like you very much right now”.
Love is a choice. What most think of as love are the heady feelings that are a just a symptom of true love and not love itself. If you don’t know you spouse anymore, make it a point to get to know them. Take the time to talk, touch, and bond anew. Make a choice to adapt and grow together. This is what you promised on your wedding day. People will grow and change; and just as your spouse has changed, so have you. Accept them as they are. Make a choice to love and serve them each morning, put their needs before your own, and do whatever is in your power to brighten their day or bring them a moment of happiness. If your spouse isn’t coming around then pray for them. Recriminations and fighting simply tear you apart, and words blurted out in anger are the leading cause of broken and wounded hearts and marriages. Act toward your spouse with the love and compassion of Christ in all things, and leave room for God to work in both your lives – if you do so, He will.
Marriage is only a rose garden if you make it so. It is a consecrated life of service to your spouse. That service can be joyful or miserable, the choice is made by your attitude, your thoughts, your actions – all things you have control over. Your service to your spouse is consecrated to God, as is theirs. Never forget that in serving your spouse you are serving God in a Holy calling, a calling harder than it is given credit for.
Choose your thoughts, words, and actions carefully to cultivate friendship, intimacy, and love (in that order) with your spouse. Always remember that your spouse is a consecrated servant and not a slave, and never forget that you are as well – neither of you are slaves to the other. Every day make a decision to serve joyfully, enjoy their companionship, abide in friendship, find comfort in intimacy, and joy in love. Just as you expect God to love you in spite of your faults, so he expects you to love your spouse in spite of theirs.
Yours in Christ,