What It's Like to Be Catholic and Divorced
Illustration by Adam Noor Iman
Identity

What It's Like to Be Catholic and Divorced

My divorce filled me with dread, but my marriage was even worse.
March 31, 2018, 8:00am

We were dating for five years. But that alone is never a reason to get married. The problem was that our parents thought otherwise. They really wanted us to get married and we didn't want to disappoint them, so we agreed to get married at a Catholic church in North Sumatra.

There was seven years between us. I was 24, he was 31. The wedding came at us fast, far to fast to really think. From proposal to the alter took less than eight months, not that my ex-husband or I really cared. Sadly, this lightening quick wedding prep. lasted a lot longer than our actual marriage.

There were so many thoughts running through my head. We weren't ready for this. But we were forced to do it. I couldn't help but think that the only reason we both went through with this was to please our families. Neither of us went into this thinking it would be like the movies. We knew that happy marriages were rare—and happy endings even rarer. But that didn't prepare us for how terrible it would actually be.

We argued all the time. After the first month—the honeymoon period—every little thing resulted in an argument. Sure, we were always a couple who argued a lot, but that was back when we were dating. It didn't take us long to move on and make up. It's different when you're married, because it's just so much harder to make up your mind.

To make matters worse, our families constantly interfered in our life. Back when we were dating, we were still happy. Those days ended once we got married.

But getting divorced was still a hard decision. We did everything we could to try to save our marriage. I was prepared to sacrifice everything to make it work, but the fights just got worse. I started to argue with his family. We had to live with his parents (my in-laws) and I felt like they were poising our marriage. How could we focus on making things work if we couldn't live alone?

I think we just weren't ready. We didn't know how to put our minds together and become a unit. We were just two separate people and I was living in someone else's family home.

I kept telling myself, "we can't live like this." My ex and I both knew we weren't ready, so we made the decision to get divorced.

People kept telling me to think it over. My extended family repeatedly said, "don't quit just yet, try to make it work." But I told my dad, mom, and my two sisters—the people I trust the most—that it's just not working. We tried and things weren't getting better. So we all eventually reached an agreement—this marriage wasn't built to last.

The decision changed my life. I stopped talking to anyone outside my immediate family. I rarely went outside. I was just too afraid that people would talk about me. They would never understand what I was going through. But they would judge nonetheless.

It's not an easy decision to get a divorce as a Catholic. The church told me that marriage was a lifetime commitment. It left me conflicted over my decision. It didn't help that, back then, the Catholic Church was really against divorce. The church considered divorce and adultery as equal sins. If I got divorced, I wouldn't be able to receive communion anymore.

Later, the rules changed and the church softened its views on divorce. Not that it made me feel any less stressed those weeks before I finally pulled the trigger. I didn't want to be alone, so I stuck to my sister like glue. I even left Jakarta and went home to Solo a few times, just to get my mind off my failing marriage back in the capital.

Whenever I felt really anxious, I would spend my lunch break sitting in church and praying. I would ask: "Is this the right path? Should I really end this?" It was in these prayers that I eventually found peace and acceptance. I became sure of my decision and felt like God was guiding me along through it all.

So, after much worry, I finally went through with it.

The divorce pre-trial preparations took a while. I had to go back-and-fourth to the neighborhood and community offices, as well as the offices of the district chief and the mayor to get all the paperwork ready. It took me six months, but eventually my ex-husband and I were standing trial at the local religion court. Three trials later, and one year and four month after our marriage day we were officially divorced. The marriage was really over a long time before then, but divorce takes a while.

Fast-forward to now, four years after this whole mess, and I am living an entirely new life. I have learned to accept my past. As Easter approaches, I can't help but think about my husband and my faith. We used to spend our Easters together. Now everything is different, but I still believe there is a little silver lining every Easter—alone or not.

This interview was condensed, translated, and edited for content and clarity.