This Letter from Rachael Marie Collins was published on First Things:
Dear Synod Fathers,
My husband and I were married in April 2008. Despite a lovely courtship and beautiful wedding, the first eighteen months of our marriage were terrible. Although we loved one another, we were unprepared for the daily compromises, negotiations and renunciations of self that a loving and successful marriage requires. Independent and extremely willful, we fought. We fought so ferociously and so often that after we entered couples therapy, our therapist told my husband that he should leave me. It would always be this way, she said. Things would never “change.”
Our marriage is now strong, happy and healthy. We’ve been married for over seven years and have three beautiful children. We hope to have more children and we’re committed to leading hidden, holy lives within the sacrament of our marriage in service of one another and the children given to us by God. How did this change happen? How was our marriage saved and transformed?
Our most steadfast supporter was the Church Herself. The Church’s position on the indissolubility of marriage and Her willingness to stand by this teaching in praxis (and not just in doctrine) strengthened us. She left us with no choice but to try and try again until things improved. She also provided us with the support and help we needed. We attended confession often. Faithful priests counseled and encouraged us. Older Catholic couples joyfully showed us that it was possible to have a happy marriage and how to do so.
When family members and secular therapists were ready to approve us walking away from the commitment we’d made, the Church wasn’t. I don’t know that our marriage would have survived if the Church had wavered in its teaching and practice on marriage, if it had offered us the false hope of a “merciful” way out. Instead, the Church encouraged us to rely on God’s help, to seek answers from Scripture and strength from the sacraments. We slowly learned to practice the Christian virtues of patience and forgiveness. By forcing us to persevere, the Church taught us how to love one another.