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Entering Marriage with Eyes Wide Open
by Edward Peters


If I heard it once as a tribunal judge, I heard it a thousand times in marriage nullity cases: “How could I have been so blind?” All right, maybe a thousand times is an exaggeration, but I’m sure I (and other tribunal judges) heard it plenty of times, this heart-breaking question, not rhetorical, but real, usually posed by what canon law used to call “the innocent spouse” in an annulment case, but what might today be more accurately called the shell-shocked survivor of a destructive attempt at marriage. It’s the question that one spouse needs, in many annulment cases, painfully to ask himself (or herself) after three years, eight years, or a dozen in a marriage finally wrecked by alcoholism or drug abuse, chronic infidelities, physical violence, the squandering of finances, or often enough, a combination of these factors: How could he (or she) have been so blind?


Without wanting to give the impression that the dismal factors just outlined always lead to a declaration of nullity (because they don’t), and without minimizing the fact that in most divorces and eventual annulments both parties had a role to play in the failure or nullity of the marriage (because they do), there are a considerable number of wrecked marriages wherein the signs of these grave disorders were present prior to and at the time of the wedding, but were missed or grossly minimized by the spouse who, some years later was left asking: “How could I have been so blind?”


I think there is a good answer to this question, but to appreciate it requires one to step back from the immediacy of the crisis in marriage today, and look at problem from a wider perspective. Two points need to be borne in mind.


First, it helps to recall the image of the Church as our holy Mother, one whose love for us knows no bounds. Any mother worthy of the name wants her children to avoid harm and live happy lives. Thus, a caring mother gives direction and advice, she guides her children’s feet onto the good path, and warns them against the bad. But for the most part, a mother tends to spare her children the gory details of why bad things are bad, and even details as to just how bad they really are, lest her children be unnecessarily frightened, scandalized, or drawn by a prurient interest toward such behavior. I think there is some of this maternal attitude at work in the Church’s warnings against, say, drug and alcohol abuse. The teaching that such things are wrong is clearly given. At times, additional elaboration on the dangers of such activities are given, but like a good mother, the Church does not usually present the depth of the depravity that chemical addiction entails.


To be sure, the Church is, as Pope Paul VI put it, “an expert in humanity,” and no human secrets, however horrid, are hidden from her and her ministers who need to know. Moreover, as Christ said in the parable about the rich man who begged to have a message sent from hell to his wayward brothers lest they fall into the Pit as did he, the Church can rightly say to those who suggest that she show more graphically the degree of suffering involved in some marriage-destroying activities, “The law and the prophets should be enough for us, and even if someone were to rise from the dead to tell, some people would still not believe.” For all that, though, there are people preparing for marriage who view the Church’s admonitions against some types of behavior in themselves or their future spouses as mere formalism, rules imposed without any real connection to reality.


The second problem is similar to the first, and it usually is found, albeit ironically, among young people blessed to have been raised in more or less stable families. I speak of a certain naiveté.


When children are raised in homes where dad goes to work day in and day out, where mom sees to the basic needs of her children, where meals are predictable, holidays celebrated normally, issues frankly discussed, good times enjoyed with friends and bad times embraced prayerfully as the will of God, they tend to think that most everybody does these things too. What they, as children, cannot see is the myriad ways in which solid parental love, living faith, freedom from chemical and emotional manipulation, and the leavening strength of domestic stability prevents untold numbers of problems from ever arising in the first place, and enables the family to address, usually successfully, those problems that inevitably must visit, even if barely, every home. In other words, they simply cannot imagine (and God be praised that they need not!) how bad things could really get under other circumstances than the ones they are used to.


But, marriage to an active, abusive alcoholic teaches brutal lessons. Marriage to the victim of unresolved, long-term sexual or emotional abuse teaches brutal lessons. Marriage to a sexual or financial profligate teaches brutal lessons. Is there a way, though, to learn from those lessons, short of entering such a marriage? There is, I think, but it requires two acts on the part of one considering marriage.


Two key points:

First, one needs humility. One has to be willing to admit that are some things about people in this world that one just doesn’t know. No one wants to be considered naïve (though exactly why one doesn’t, I’m not sure), but after a decade in annulment work, I can tell young people, it’s better to admit some possible naiveté now than to enter a minefield marriage and have your cluelessness proven to all the world. Instead of being embarrassed by your naiveté, thank God for it. Thank God that you don’t know how bad this condition or that vice can be, in the same way that many people can thank God that they don’t know what deep hunger means, or how homelessness feels, or what victimization by crime is like.

Second, one needs trust. One has to be willing to take the Church at its word that certain things are destructive of happiness before marriage and after. One has to trust concerned parents, siblings, pastors, or friends when they express reservations or opposition to plans to marry so-and-so. Don’t assume that such reservations or opposition are based on dislike of your choice for marriage (even if such dislike is present). Rather, consider the possibility that the stance is based on love and concern for you.


One final but very important point to consider. While many, many people suffer from things that can directly and severely impact their own ability to marry and their potential spouses’ chances at happiness in marriage, few of them labor under such circumstances that cannot, with patience, prayer, and counseling, eventually be overcome or repaired. In other words, one’s frank recognition that, at present such-and-such a marriage is ill-advised, does not necessarily mean that the wedding can never take place. What it more likely means is that if the wedding takes place now, without the benefit of counseling or, if needed, personal reform, it will likely entail much unnecessary suffering for both parties and eventually children, and is even more likely finally to fail than are, sadly, most marriages today. I would hold that there is no such thing as a bad reason to call off a wedding. Surely we can suggest that there is no such thing as bad reason to put one off. A few months (such a short time!) may be all it takes to address effectively a situation that might otherwise result in a lifetime of unhappiness.


Sometimes, when a party in an annulment case asks: “How could I have been so blind?”, the plain truth is that the person had deliberately blinded himself or herself to the pre-wedding warning signs of impending disaster. But in many cases, no self-deception was at work. The person instead simply did not understand, and not understanding, too hastily shrugged off, the warning signs that the Church, parents, families or friends said, or perhaps hinted, were there. But marriage, more than any other decision the great majority of adult Catholics will make in life, is simply too important to enter with anything less than eyes wide open.

Dr. Peters served for many years as a Defender of the Bond and later as Matrimonial judge in various diocesan tribunals. He presently is professor canon law and liturgy for the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Courtesy Catholic Information on the Internet (Catholic.net)

Jesus Explained The Eucharist The Day After Feeding The 5000

"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." John 6:53-56


Jesus Gave Us The Eucharist For All Time The Night Before He Died

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. " Matthew 26:26-28


Today Some Cannot Accept The Gift Just As It Was In The Time Of Jesus

"'But there are some of you who do not believe.' Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, 'For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.' As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'" John 6:64-68


Jesus Explained That Eternal Life Is Gained Through The Spirit - Not Through The Flesh

Jesus' Flesh And Blood Are Of Divine Nature (Spirit) And Not Of This World (Flesh)

"It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.John 6:64-68


It's NOT Just Bread And Wine - It's NOT Just Crackers And Grape Juice

Jesus Gave Us The Eucharist To Nourish Us Until He Returns

Come Home To HIS Church And Accept HIS Holy Flesh And Blood


"Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." Luke 10:16





Do Not Reject HIS Church

Do Not Reject HIM







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Automated Translation From English - Always Rely On The Church For Complete Understanding



My objective in building this site is to spread the truth of the Christian Faith - the truth of the Catholic Faith. Many of our brothers and sisters are misinformed or have no knowledge about our Catholic Faith. If you find this site useful and informative, please provide a link. What I profess is freely available to all. Join the evangelization effort of the new millennium. All scripture references are taken from the New American Bible, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000 - December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops June 03, 2003 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Copyright © of some material on this site is held by other parties.