So, it finally happened: I decided it was time to annul my first marriage so that my religion views it as, in essence, null and void. It’s time for it to be over, mentally and spiritually. These are ten actual things that happened in said meeting.
- My heart hurt. This was short lived, but sitting down to say out loud exactly why your marriage ended is difficult. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat in a confessional, but I understand the penance of doing so: you own your mistake and it hurts. This hurt.
- My priest listened to demographic details like names, addresses, and cities. He listed them down. He then started to ask my ex-spouse’s birthdate before cutting himself off, muttering “You wouldn’t know that.” I immediately rattled off the digits. No, we may not live together or communicate, but I doubt that I’ll forget that date until I die. He seemed chagrined, and my heart twinged with both sadness and regret that I still remember more about him than he likely does about me.
- Evidently, this annulment will likely go through somewhat quickly. Getting married in a public place, like we did, and not a church is a “good thing” if you ever want to get it annulled. (Hey! We did something right!) However, hearing a priest refer to your death-do-you-part vows being a “lack of form” union isn’t the most comforting gesture. It might have lacked in form, yes, but it was more than enough to deform a few years of my life. At this point, my chest got heavy; I worried it would start to affect my breathing.
- I then had to describe what went wrong in our marriage. At one point I had to discuss intimacy issues, and then I realized I was thinking about sexual intercourse while talking to a priest and got very uncomfortable with my own psyche. My brain fired back with more awkward thoughts just to see how uncomfortable I could get. My heart ached less, which made me thank my passive-aggressive, truly messed up mind.
- I described the issues preceding and during the marriage that lead to our separation and divorce. I was encouraged to “swallow my pride” and “just be honest.” I found it difficult to see where I went wrong; I might have been an angry, nagging wife, but that was because I suspected my husband didn’t want to be married. Didn’t want to be home. Didn’t want to commit. My heart hardened even thinking about it–why marry someone you don’t want to be with a few months later?
- My priest called my ex-spouse a “creep.” I smiled because I wasn’t even being fully honest about most of our problems. Keeping things simple isn’t hard when there isn’t much to go on, but the fact that even minute detail can render him a creep means that it’s good we’re not together.
- My priest suggested the woman he left me for was a “floozy.” My smile lessened. Because…
- I realized that while my marriage ended and I do not think highly of my ex-spouse or the woman he was/is with now, they are sinners just like I am. Even if I find it hard to place fault on myself for our union’s demise, I know that they are no better or worse than me. I sin, too. My heart opened a crack because grace is clearly something with which God has gifted me for times like this.
- I signed off on the papers after checking some boxes about who is responsible for which “fatal” issues. Apparently the promise of eternity can be reconciled to nothing within the span of three pages of sans serif font. Mere legal documentation and witnesses are needed. No smiling, no feelings in my heart. Nothing.
- Somewhere during this process, in the church rectory where we sat, I thought about all the women who’d likely prepared for their wedding day in the very room I sat in to discuss my annulment. I remember a friend looking into the mirror on the back wall before her marriage. I remember doing service hours before my confirmation when I was a teenager, too. Somehow, I think about the hope of preparing for union, the excitement before one chooses her faith or marries someone with whom she plans to spend her life. It is at this moment that I also realize how very much I want to someday be married in the Catholic church, something I’ve not admitted to wanting before, not to myself or anyone else.
I left the meeting feeling thankful. I’m thankful that I had the marriage that I did, and I’m thankful for the lessons learned. I do not think that the marriage I had will ever be null and void with me, but I think it is safe to say that our union will never be considered sacramental and I’m grateful for that fact. It was brief, it was real, and we suffered an awful end. The next time around, I am aiming for longevity, real but honest, with no end. I am so, so thankful that I am still able to have the hope that my aim might hit a mark.
UPDATE: I received my annulment approval letter three weeks and two days after this post. All is well, and all is hopeful.