Annulment. A foreign and often misunderstood word to most of the non-Catholic friends out there. Actually, I think it’s safe to say it’s even misunderstood by some of the Catholic community as well. I am going to share my take on the process and what I learned from my experience. If this topic interests you or you are thinking of starting the process, I would encourage you to read this article. It does a real good job of explaining all that the process entails in layman’s terms.
When my divorce was looking more and more final, I thought to myself, what more can I possibly handle? I knew because I was married in the Catholic church I also needed an annulment and I selfishly thought that it was asking a lot of me. Divorce and annulment? I was not on board. Initially, my reaction to all things annulment was a very emotional one. If I was the victim, why did I have to go through this long-winded process to erase my marriage from the Church. It wasn’t my fault my marriage ended. Shouldn’t I get to skip ahead to the auto annul stamp? And how will my baby feel when she finds out that the church erased the very union that brought her into this world. At one point I remember thinking, I won’t do that to her, I’d rather not get married in the church to prove my point. Crazed thoughts all over the place.
When the emotions were somewhat removed and I was able to wrap my mind around this idea, I met with many priests, nuns, and strong Catholic influences. I would be visiting a parish or at a retreat or at confession and I would just ask and ask. I wanted to hear different perspectives from different circles. I wanted to talk with and find out everything there was to know about why this was necessary. I also wanted to talk with children whose parents had gone through a divorce and annulment. I wanted to hear their take on it and how it made them feel. Turns out the folks I spoke with all said that an annulment is a second chance at the way God intended my marriage to be. It’s the church’s blessing on your future, especially if that includes remarrying in the church. It’s declaring that, sadly, one party in the marriage did not enter their life-long vows with permanence in mind. I understand how heartbreaking this is, but in reality, there is a level of truth. Did your spouse say their vows in hopes of the marriage falling apart? Probably not. But in my case, my ex did feel that he had the freedom to be unfaithful only three years into our marriage. That doesn't exactly scream permanence. And from a child’s perspective? Not one of the adult children I spoke with had any ill feelings about the fact that their parents had an annulment.
If you are Catholic and are debating this process, do your research! As I said, I read A LOT, listened to many respected people, and prayed for an open heart. Don’t rush this process. It took me a good year before I saw the beauty that this process had to offer. Please contact ME too. I would be happy to walk you through any misconceptions or details you’d like to know about.
Once the emotional exhaustion lessened and I understood the goodness this could bring, I decided to embark on my petition for the annulment. As I was starting the extensive packet of questions and recaps, I couldn’t help but respect how the church views marriage. These questions were thorough to say the very least. There was a set of questions for myself, my ex (who chose not to participate), our family members, our friends, and the deacon who married us. The questions explored many elements of the marriage and at all different points of the relationship. They asked questions of people who knew us before we met, while were dating, while engaged, in our marriage, and in our separation. The feel I got was that they weren’t just handing out annulments like candy. There needed to be REAL reasons for the marriage ending in order for the annulment to be granted. I liked this. After all the questionnaires were submitted by myself, friends, and family members, we waited. The case was reviewed by the diocesan tribunal ( a group of respected priests and deacons in the church).
Right around a year later, the annulment was granted (just last week. yay!). This was an exciting time as it meant, if it’s God’s will, I was now able to remarry in the church. It felt as if the scarlet letter I had been holding on to had been removed. It also felt like one more final nail in the coffin. Those moments of further finality help in the healing of your heart. A process that once brought me emotions of annoyance suddenly brought me peace and assurance. A sacred blessing over moving forward with what the future holds.
Image by The Hipster Housewife