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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 21 Jan 2002

annulment QUESTION from Mrs. HELP! March 24, 2000 I am hoping that you can give me some insight to a very painful problem. I've read the reasons the Church accepts for annulment, but I am not sure if mine fits into the list somewhere. I wanted to start here in an anonymous environment, because I am so embarrassed and ashamed of what I have done.
I married out of fear of loneliness, fear of my parents, and fear of rejection. I cared about my fiance, but our relationship has never been healthy. He was emotionally abusive to me, and I let him make me feel worthless. I was afraid to stand up for myself. I was afraid to call the wedding off because my parents spent a bunch of money, his relatives spent a lot of money, guests flew in from everywhere, and I was afraid of the embarrassment. I had given up on a previous relationship, but did not allow time for my heart to heal. I was afraid of being alone. In retrospect, I was more in love with the idea of him and where he came from that who he really was.
I ignored red flags in his personality and how he made me feel. I ignored the advice of good friends; I was afraid they'd say, I told you so. I found out after we were married that our pastor didn't think we should get married ( I wish he would have talked to me about it! ) I was so scared and afraid of many things, I felt paralyzed. I had no emotional support; no close friends to bounce ideas/thoughts/fears off of. My identity was in him; I felt as if I would have no worth or value apart from him.
At our wedding, I was alone before the ceremony. I was so scared and unsure of what to do. I wanted to run out of that church but I felt like I would let my family down if I didn't go through with it. On our honeymoon, I cried and cried. All I wanted to do was sleep or hide.
For over 2 years now, I have tried to push my feelings aside and move on, but I can no longer. I am tired of being bossed around and made to feel subhuman. I find myself being mean to him, too. I feel like a failure. I know that God loves me, and I want to do his will. I feel like I need a second chance. I have made a HUGE mistake, and don't know what is right. Does this description meet the requirements of an annulment? Or must I endure my stupid mistake for the rest of my life?
Thank you so much for your help.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on March 26, 2000 Dear Mrs. Help:
I am so sorry that your situation is what it is. In fact the reasons you got married are remarkably similar to the reasons I got married at 17 years of age.
Since you appear to still be married, I must say off the bat that there is no way that I can recommend divorce. Though in some circumstances divorce may be the only course for the safety of the persons, and the protection of property rights and such.
You must do all that is possible to do to make the marriage work -- this is a billion-times more the case if you have children. Children thrive better when the parents stay together, even when the parents have bad marriages, under most circumstances.
It is possible to make a marriage work in the Long-haul even though it started out so miserably.
With that said, should you be divorced, confess that sin in the Sacrament of Confession and then apply for a decree of nullity.
The circumstances you describe is nearly a nearly textbook example of an marriage that never happened sacramentally. I CANNOT speak for the Church or the Marriage Tribunal, but I think you case, as you have described it, is clearly eligible for annulment.
But, I must urge you to try to make the marriage work somehow, no matter how terrible it may seem to be today. I have personally seen marriages like yours turn into wonderful marriages later on. It might take 20-30 years, but it can happen if one sticks in there. And as I mentioned, if children are part of the picture then it is even more compelling to stick together.
This is general advice, but as to what you do specifically, the choice is up to you. You need to pray about it, seek counseling with your pastor and perhaps a loyal Catholic who is a professional marriage counselor, and maybe even discuss this with your bishop.
But to your direct question of whether the circumstances you describe are the type of circumstances that permits annulments? The answer, in my opinion, is yes.
By the way, my annulment was granted.
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