By Ashourina Slewo
The end of a marriage brings a palpable sense of loss, one that leaves both individuals reevaluating what they thought they knew so well. Whether the first marriage ended amicably or not, the thought of getting remarried tends to be far off and in some cases, nonexistent.
This was the case for a local woman in the community when her marriage of three years came to an end. For the purpose of this article, the young woman has opted to use the pseudonym Ashley in an effort to remain anonymous in her account of her first marriage.
A lack of autonomy in her marriage, says Ashley, is what led to the end of her marriage. With his mother’s approval ranked before anything else, there was much friction. An issue from the start, Ashley didn’t notice the red flag for what it was as she was enamored with the planning of the wedding.
“The first time around I was so caught up in planning the wedding,” she said. “I’m not going to do that this time around.”
In the years that would follow her wedding, Ashley would notice that the minor things that bothered her at first, were not so minor and affected everything from her ability to raise her daughter to being able to live comfortably in her home.
Even through all the turmoil, though, Ashley never considered divorce. She loved her husband and had committed her life to him. She didn’t want her daughter to get caught in the middle.
“Things had not been going well for a while, but I believed my husband loved me and would want to work through our problems,” she said. “I knew that wasn’t the case when he suddenly served me with divorce papers.”
Barely three years into her marriage, it was over. Ashley was not looking for another husband. She was focused on raising her daughter and making sure that the end of her marriage did not affect her upbringing.
It wasn’t until she attended the Kairos retreat that she met a man that would change her mind about marriage.
“I met my partner at a religious retreat where I demanded he carry my luggage,” she joked.
As she prepares for her second wedding later this year, Ashley finds herself inundated with more than color schemes and dress choices as she struggles with the annulment process.
“The Church offers a process to help divorced men and women who entered, what they thought at the time, a valid marriage,” said Lubna Seba, who oversees annulments for the Chaldean Diocese of St. Thomas. “After a tribunal examines the application, the Church may find that some essential aspect, which make a marriage valid, was missing from the very beginning. This process is called an annulment.”
If the investigation proves the marriage was not valid from its inception, an annulment is granted. When a man or woman is granted an annulment, they are free to marry again in the Catholic Church.
The annulment process, as Ashley has learned, is not a linear one.
“There are many huge misconceptions about the annulment process. There are rumors about the cost and the duration of the process. Regardless what you have heard about the cost, the Latin Rite tribunal has a reasonable fee charged for each application processed,” explained Seba. “As far as duration of the application goes, it varies from one case to another. At this time the diocese of Toledo, which handles annulments for the Chaldean Diocese in Detroit, is completing most of the cases in less than a year.
Of course, sometimes there are some circumstances things that are unforeseen such as witness responses that may delay a case. To be safe, one should always take the time to investigate and ask the questions for themselves.”
Seba explains that the annulment process is meant to be a healing process as much as it as a way to void a marriage.
“It’s very important to remember that the annulment process is meant to also be very healing, not a pass to get into another marriage,” said Seba. “Since marriage is a Sacrament one should be prepared spiritually before entering into a second marriage.”
For Ashley, this process has brought healing and understanding from the start. In filling out her annulment questionnaire, Ashley was required to dig deep and recall everything from the good to the bad in her previous marriage.
In this necessary reminiscing, she was able to look back and see where things went wrong. “I’ve realized that this marriage will not be like my last,” she said. “I’ve learned quite a bit from my previous marriage and learned even more since the divorce.”
For many, the annulment process can seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be, says Seba.
“I know at times people are intimidated by the process and don’t want to reflect on or answers questions about a dark time in their life,” she explained. “It helps and is important to do this prayerfully, it can also be a time to learn more about yourself and how you can grow to become a better spouse heal. It is well very much worth it in at the end. If you have a question please call the Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle at 248-351-0440.”