All of these things are my own personal observation based on my personal experience, so I am not expert on anything other than my own screwed up first marriage.
Yesterday I was just innocently scrolling down my Facebook feed and I came across a story of a man who killed his wife and then posted the picture of her dead body on his Facebook wall. I thought it was only the story so I clicked on the link only to find that it was the actual picture of her lying dead on her kitchen floor and links to their Facebook pages. It really was shocking and disturbing to me in so many ways and I couldn’t sleep.
My first thoughts are not that this man has to be a monster. Most people’s thoughts are just that, but not me. My personal experience is that any married couple could end up being this couple. What motivated him to post that picture on Facebook is up in the air, but my first thoughts are that it was the last way to prove his point in the middle of his anger. Something about our internet emerged culture almost makes us forget reality and we post things in the heat of anger that we can never take back. We use our Facebook pages and Twitter to get back at people who make us angry. Most of the time, that person is our spouse. Hallie Lord wrote a post about how we shouldn’t do that. Now, she was talking about posting rude memes about men, not about shooting your spouse and posting a picture of that, but I can’t help but see a connection between the two.
The reason that I think any couple can end up being a tragic story on the evening news is because I’ve been in that kind of fight with my spouse. My ex-husband and I used to have these fights; fights that could have easily ended up with one of us dead and our kids being without parents. It is almost traumatizing for me to read these stories, so to click on a link that shows a picture like this linked to real people’s Facebook walls is even more disturbing. I just sat there staring at it thinking about how that could have been me. How does a happy couple end up in that place? Then I replay my eight year marriage in my head answering that question, and it’s not pretty.
I don’t think people really realize that the definition of marriage has been changing for a very long time now. It has almost nothing to do with the same-sex marriage debate. That debate is the result of that fact, but it isn’t where the problem started. I guess maybe in a way, the problem started in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Eve, and God has been trying to help us get back to what marriage is since then.
I would say that most people who get married do not know what marriage is. They think that being married is about having the warm and fuzzies forever about the person you marry. Couples tend to think that you will live a long and happy life, never fighting and always laughing, which is false. Even if you take the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage out of it, that is not realistic. You will hate your spouse sometimes, no matter how awesome they are or how much you love them. It happens. Anger happens in all marriages.
I also have a strong opinion that most people who fight for traditional marriage have no idea why they are fighting for it. Most people I talk to don’t know how to define love, marriage or why birth control is immoral. But they will stand in line at Chik-fil-a for hours to stand up for “traditional marriage”. I really wanted to go and ask them how many of them are divorced. I’m divorced. Why? Because I didn’t have the tiniest clue about what marriage was. I think that people who defend marriage need to know what they are defending, and that begins with understanding why divorce is wrong. Even now, I can’t figure out how to refer to my ex-husband because he wasn’t my husband, that wasn’t a marriage and we aren’t divorced because we had a lack of form since I was baptized Catholic and I wasn’t married to him in the Church. But how do you talk about that? Our words have been hijacked and reality was changed a long time ago.
When my first husband and I got married I was looking for someone to be on my team, which is kind of what marriage is about, but what I didn’t know is that that team’s goal is to get to heaven. My first husband was an atheist. Or agnostic; I’m not really sure because every time we talked about religion we would end up in a fight. That kind of made it kind of hard to work together to become saints. I didn’t even know that I was called, by my baptism, to be a Saint.
I had no clue how to be a wife. None. I thought that being a wife meant making sure your husband liked having sex with you so he wouldn’t cheat on you. He had no clue how to be a husband either. And so the fights began and he started throwing me around. Instead of being scared about that, I would fight back. So began the eight years of screaming matches that sometimes ended with one of us in jail or our kids witnessing things that no child should have to witness. We would get back together and repeat. It was a horrible cycle that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy; much less one I should have put my kids through.
The only person who even began to talk to me about what marriage was during that time was a Catholic marriage counselor who did pro bono work for uninsured people.
It was weird that I always ended up at some Catholic parish when things got crazy in my life. This time was no different. I had left my kids at a bar with their dad and walked away. I left them for three days and when he finally found me, they took me to the crazy hospital to try and have me committed. The intake lady told everyone that I wasn’t crazy, but I was tired. I had a miscarriage (at 16 weeks) and then had two babies 14 months apart right after that, all while my husband at the time was on drugs and not working. For the first time someone heard me and tried to help; the help was just for me though. Nobody tried to help my marriage. Finally after eight years I made the hardest choice that I ever had to make; I filed for divorce. I knew that my kids would be devastated. Even after everything they had gone through, they loved their dad and they loved me. But I had to do it. I still feel like I left my ex-husband behind. Our family motto was that we never would leave anyone behind…
Now I know what marriage is. When Stacey and I decided to get married we knew exactly what we were doing. We knew why we were doing it and we knew that the goal of marriage was to get our family to heaven. Even knowing all of that we found ourselves in the middle of heated arguments where we say and do things out of anger that we later regret. I have used Facebook as a way to get back at him. The difference is that in this marriage forgiveness, mercy, conversion and grace are present. We have a Church that tells us what to do when we can’t stand one another. We have a Church that teaches us how to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness. We know what marriage is and what it isn’t. It is about loving one another, even when we are angry. It is about forgiving one another. It isn’t about being in a competition with one another. It isn’t about who’s right and it’s not about getting my way all the time.
As I think about this poor woman and her daughter today and pray for them both along with her husband, I think about how many people in this world who are married are fighting right now. How many of them are talking trash about their spouse, how many feel like they are trapped in a miserable situation. How many of them know that God’s Grace can save their marriages to be restored to the time when they were both having dinner and smiling? God help us.
It is extremely important for us as Catholics to understand that we are the ones called to teach this broken world about what marriage is, and the best way to do that is to be witnesses of it. We also need to teach our kids what marriage is by living it in front of them. My kids still freak out if Stacey and I are fighting because of what they endured in my first marriage, but now they see what disagreement followed by forgiveness looks like.
I pray that we will never see a story like this in the news again, but I know we will. May we all see how we can help those closest to us when they have problems in their marriages, even if that means lending a couch every once in a while for someone who needs to cool off.
What a tragedy.
© 2013. Leticia Adams. All Rights Reserved.