The Girl Who Looked Death in the Eye and Smiled

8 03 2019

#InternationalWomensDay

by Chinwuba Iyizoba

People the world over flee illness and suffering and despise death as an evil that must be avoided at all cost. They feel themselves most unfortunate, even unlucky if ever one or the other should overcome them. Yet, there was a young girl who did not despise and fly from suffering and pain, but even looked death in the eye with a smile, accepting and embracing it as a gentle caress full of affection from a God who loved her so much.

Who was this girl and how did she come to have such uncommon attitude in the face of pain, suffering, even death. What gave her mind to understand that acceptance rather than hatred and rejection are the most effective antibiotics against infecting the soul with bitterness. What were the outcome of these her radical ideas?

Her name was Maria Montse Grases, a young Spaniard who lived in Barcelona. She was only 17 in 1957 when she was diagnosed with a rare and painful bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. In the 50’s   Ewing’s sarcoma was a death sentence.


Maria Montse Grases

 Montse loved life and had an infectious smile straight from the heart. Her eyes shown like diamonds, tall and strong, it seems there was almost always a perpetual smile on her face, a smile that came straight from the heart. Her eyes were kind, friendly and filled with playful mischief.  She was neat and tidy and her clothes reflected style and taste. She especially liked a green plaid skirt that reached her ankles

  She liked sport and music as well as traditional local dances. She was a good athlete, playing basketball, tennis, and ping-pong. But her favorite recreation was outings with friends.

In many sense she was like any other girl; yet, she was unlike many other girls because she radiated an inner charm and her virtues and character made her attractive to all who met her. 

She almost never worried about herself but busied herself taking care of others, she showered love and attention on the needy and suffering; and took her friends to visit poor families and sick people, and she regularly gave religions classes to the local children in parishes, and would sometimes bring them toys and sweets.

 She took great care of her spiritual life of prayers because she loved God with a personal love that was both intimate and filled with reverence.  To her, God was a friend with whom she could share everything, the deepest secrets of her soul, she laid bare to him daily in prayer and anything that worried her.

Like every young woman, she had her personal shortcomings.  Impulsive and brusque at times, she however never compromised with her personal defects, wrestling resolutely against them and struggling to control her occasional ill temper, and be friendly and jovial with everyone.

This greatness of heart shone like a brilliant star when she demonstrated a rare capacity to dedicate herself to something greater than herself. 

When she was 11, her parents came in contact with Opus Dei an institution in the Catholic Church that shows ordinary people how to be holy in the ordinary circumstances of each day. They readily understood the message of Opus Dei and within two years both had joined Opus Dei.

Montse’s parents thought her how to deal with Jesus with confidence, they strove to make her stable companion of Jesus sparing no effort to make it happen.  It was her mother who first suggested she visited a center of Opus Dei, where Christian and human formation is give to young girls. In attending the means of formation given in the center of Opus Dei, she perceived one day God was calling her to serve him as a celibate member of Opus Dei. She was sixteen

After meditating, praying, and seeking advice, she asked to be admitted to Opus Dei. From then on she struggled decisively and with constancy to seek holiness in her daily life. She struggled to be in constant conversation with God, to discover the will of God in the fulfillment of her duties and in caring for little details out of love, and to make life pleasant for those around her. She was able to transmit to many of her relatives and friends the peace that comes from living close to God.

Her brother George soon took notice that Montse had changed. Though externally, she was the same, same dress, she still attended classes on cooking and arts, but her brothers noticed that she was no longer arguing with him, and was more affectionate and tactful. She seemed to have suddenly grown up.

What made her so readily generous with God?  Some people attribute it to her parent’s generosity with God in having a large family. Montse was the second of nine children.

“Me and my wife agreed in everything, ready to start a Christian family, accepting all children God wanted to send.” Her father said.

Ewing’s sarcoma

One day on June 1958, Montse went skiing with friends and injured her leg. The pain was excruciating and won’t go away; her parents took her to a clinic. After lengthy investigations, the doctor took her parent aside, and told them she had a rare kind of bone cancer, causing the great pain she had been experiencing. But worse, it was incurable. She was going to die.

Devastated, her parents wept inconsolably, unable to speak or break the news to her.

Finally, they told her.

“Would it help if they cut the bad leg?” she asked.

“I am afraid my daughter, that will not help.” her sad father said.

To her parents surprise she brightened up and began singing a Mexican song and that night, as her mother recalled slept soundly.

Little by little, her illness got worse though, and she spent many a sleepless night squirming in pain; the treatment made her suffer a lot. Her pain increased to the point of being almost unbearable. From February 16th on, her leg was so swollen up to the hip that her skin began to crack.

Treating the leg was terribly painful. But instead of complaining, she hummed a song. She always had an affectionate word for those who treated her leg, even though they couldn’t help hurting her.

She couldn’t eat. To take anything was a real torture. Since she couldn’t swallow anything, she sucked on a piece of ice for refreshment. She usually commented that she was a coward because she was afraid the suffering would come.  

Jesus was afraid to die?

At first, she naturally was afraid to die. One day she said to a friend: “I’m afraid of dying, because I’m afraid to be alone.”

Her friend tried to encourage her by mentioning the scene of Jesus in Gethsemane was afraid to die.

“Jesus was afraid to die?” She exclaimed, astonished that she hadn’t thought about that before. Joy flooded into her heart.

“What joy to find myself afraid together with Jesus,” Montse exclaimed ecstatically clasping her hands, her face radiant with peace and joy.

 “Together with Jesus I will face death happily!”

The end drew to a close rapidly however.  At the beginning of March they had to call the doctor quickly because. Montse had such a weak pulse that it was hardly noticeable.

The doctor, when he took her pulse couldn’t hide his concern that was noticed by all. Montse broke the anguished silence by picking up the doctor’s bag from the bed and saying: “Mama, have you seen this strange bag?”

This made everyone smile.

She grew much worse. They thought the moment had arrived to give her the Blessing of the Sick. She also thought it would be good to have it as soon as possible. A priest of Opus Dei administered this sacrament. Montse followed the ritual with great devotion, showing no sadness. Every once in a while she smiled at her mother who knelt at the foot of the bed.

On March 18, eve of the feast of St. Joseph, it seemed that the hour of her death had arrived. Montse was very happy.

“How do I look,” she asked those who were staying with her.

 “All right,” someone answered. Montse wanted them to say, “Worse.” And when asked, “How do you feel?” she answered unenthusiastically, “Me? Fine; just look.” The clock struck eleven, and she asked, “What time is it? Am I still here?”

At twelve she was asked, “Montse, do you want to pray?”

 They said the Angelus. At that moment she was more awake, and she said: “Do you know what I think? I’m not going to worry any more. When God wants, he’ll take me.”

Soon to Heaven

St. Joseph’s day passed, and her general condition improved somewhat. The doctor came to see her and Montse asked later: “What did he say? What’s happening? Aren’t I going?”

“He said you might go at any moment,” they answered.

 “Can you imagine? Soon to Heaven, soon to Heaven! Will you let me go?” she exclaimed happily, hugging the person who had told her the doctor’s comment.

Little by little she weakened. The nights were the worst. A continuous sweat left her exhausted. She became very thirsty and felt suffocated. The night before her death, Montse wanted to say something. But in spite of the effort she made no one could understand her. Early in the morning of that Holy Thursday, March 26, 1959, the directress of the Opus Dei house that she attended was close to her bed, and Montse asked her to say aspirations since she herself couldn’t talk anymore. About ten o’clock she tried to sit up to see the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary that she had in front of her bed.

She whispered: “How much I love you. When are you coming to take me?” These were her last words. Her life ebbed away little by little.

At noon, those who were with her prayed the Angelus. She must have followed it with her heart. It was her last glance toward the One she loved so much, and to whom she had said so many things during her lifetime. Those who were with her began to say the Rosary in a soft voice, and they had just finished the first mystery when Montse died

Montserrat Graces, an 18 year old girl when she died on March 25, 1959 and was recently declared venerable by Pope Francis. She is a model for all women on women’s day. 





Davido’s Mom

18 02 2019

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

Davido gets it right with his mom, but wrong with women.

Davido at 02 Arena London

When Davido’s January 27, London concert sold out at the 02 Arena, with a crowd of more than 20000 people, the music maestro was so overjoyed that he credited the triumph to the help of his late mother.

Celebrating with guests, the next day, the 26 yrs old broke down in tears, and continued thanking his late mom comparing her to an angel, posting on instagram:

“Only angels can make such Dreams come true … Thank you mom for watching over your baby.”

His mom, Veronica Adeleke, died when he was 10. A woman of rare beauty and a music lover, she had owned a record label in the 90’s which she named after Davido, who must have inherited her love for music, and a sign of strong bond between mother and son that even death is unable to break.

Veronica Adeleke, Davido’s Mom

Much like Catholics understanding of devotion to Mother Mary, he believes that she is very much alive in heaven, helping him each step of the way.

In his mind, love for his mom pushes him to give his best.

Interestingly, this devotion to his mom, rather than offend anyone is in fact making him appear more humane, warm and attractive to his fans especially women, yet his relationship with other women leave much to be desired having fathered two daughters from two different women while in a public relationship with a third.

Considering that he has over 2 million followers on face-book and many more on Instagram, many of them young people, one can see that his loose lifestyle is having bad influence on public morals.

As a role model, he is teaching his young fans to behave like cows, next he will teach them to be content to go the way of goats. He is sending the wrong message to young people to act like miserably beasts who dont know how to control their passions.

Davido whose music career took off with his 2011 hit single “Dami Duro” and gained him a huge student fan base should remember that his mom, apart from her love for music, was a teacher, a university lecturer, who loved academics and taught her students well, and desired that her students do well in their studies.

Davido’s Fans

Without a doubt, she would desired that his music and songs helped his young fans achieve academic excellence, by being a little less salacious, and more focused on themes that encourages learning, extolling the virtues of hard work and family.

Thus it is meet and proper for him to recognize his moms help, but it’s even better for him emulate her love for family, marriage and try to emulate it.

Davido’s Father (Middle) with daughters by his side and his son Davido standing behind with his elder brother.

Moreover, he enjoyed and continues to enjoy the dignity and prestige of being born in a family. His mom met his father Adedeji Adeleke in the 80’s; they fell in love, got married and had four children. Where his parents not properly married, perhaps he would not be who he is today.

Why then would he deny his own children that same dignity? It is unfortunate, unfair and rather irresponsible.

Davido with one of his daughters fathered out of wedlock

One could argue that wealth and popularity has gotten into his head, but his father was a very rich man, and popular, yet there aren’t evidence that his money or fame influenced him to lead a reprobate life, having, and children with other women apart from his mother.

Without a doubt, his parents good example of lifelong love, marriage and great family atmosphere has contributed in no small measures to his own success; his children has a right to expect same from him and would be a dereliction of duty if he fails to do so. In fact one could even say that he is setting his daughters up for failure since studies show that children from stable homes do way better than one from broken homes.

His mother, like all mothers know a great deal about love. Through marriage, God opened a fruitful channel for her love to share in the power God on free and responsible transmitting of life, rather than the wickedly undermining God’s plan because selfish human pleasures.

I am sure, Davido’s mom watching over him so motherly, wanting the best for him, would wish him to stop sowing his wild oats around, settle down, get married and treat his wife and children with more respect. She would wish to tell him that running around and fathering children shamelessly with different women isn’t a very good way to pay her back for all the toil and hard work in bringing him and his 3 siblings up and that he must stop taking advantage of women if he truly loves her.





Illusory freedom of Brad Pit and Angelina Jolie

12 08 2018

The divorce between Brad and his wife, Angelina Angelina, started since 2016, is building up to a dramatic and sleazy end.

Both, divorcee, lived together unmarried for 10-years. The glamorous couple had 6 children; 3 biological and 3 adopted. When they finally decided to get married in 2014, cracks began to appear.

In a beautiful letter he wrote his wife that went viral on the internet, Brad claimed that his wife was depressed, stressed out, and uncommunicative. The letter was all about his gallant effort to win her back and save his marriage.

It’s unclear whether the double mastectomy Angelina had the previous year contributed to her illness. In May 2013, she had both breasts surgically removed after discovering she carries a genetic mutation that dramatically increases the chance of being diagnosed with potentially fatal breast cancer.

It is not uncommon that such drastic actions could result in regrets and self-loathing as time goes by. After all, a woman’s breast is a significant part of her beauty and attractiveness. Fears that her husband no longer finds her attractive could have triggered a feeling of insecurity that lead to her depression.

Many people were disappointed when in 2016, the couple announced that they were divorcing, citing irreconcilable differences.

Thing went dark quickly. Last year, Brad was investigated and cleared of petty child abuse accusation brought by his wife.

Then again, recently, the media was abuzz when Angelina, again, accused her husband of not paying her child support for their 6 children. A ridiculous accusation given that she is super rich.

In the entire hullabaloo, the real losers are their children.

Already Maddox, their first child, is not on speaking terms with his Dad and is showing signs of anti-social behavior; and Shiloh, their first biological daughter, is in a deep confusion, behaving like a boy and preferring to wear boys’ clothes. Studies show that divorce harms children.

Add to this; different men and women may soon be entering their lives, demanding the entitlement of a new mother or a new father (most Hollywood stars remarry shortly after divorce)

Angelina and Brad should consider their children’s right to be brought up in a stable, intact home and work harder to reconcile their differences.

When married folk talk about “irreconcilable difference” to get a divorce, it’s often about themselves, but they end up injuring their children as well.

Look, when parents sacrifice their own selfishness for love of their children, they have made a choice, and the more they love the greater will be their freedom. If their love is great, their freedom will bear much fruit in their children’s good

Couples who decide to stick it out, for better or worse, make a choice which derives from their blessed freedom. This presupposes self-surrender, for God’s sake, and for the children’s sake.

But unfortunately, Brad and Angelina are greatly ignorant about what freedom really is. They are aspiring to an illusory freedom without limits as though it were the ultimate goal of happiness. Yet, both have been down this road before. Angelina was previously married to an actor called Bob Thornton and walked away. Brad left a fellow actress, Jennifer Aniston for Angelina. Now they are at it again. Where will it go from here?

Marriage is about reconciling irreconcilably differences. When a man and woman marry, they reconcile themselves into one. The two shall become one, as the Holy writ says. We reconcile our differences by deliberately choosing to do so, out of love because love is not true if it’s not forever.

In a way, it all goes to support C. S Lewis arguments that if marriage is not for keeps, it’s better not to get married in the first place, and the Catholic Church insists that marriage is for keeps, and for the sake of children.

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

The Editor





Should I keep this secret from my spouse?

1 08 2018

Marriage experts and real women debate the gray areas of keeping secrets from your husband or wife.

What you don’t say in a marriage can be even more telling than what you do say. Stacey Greene, author of Stronger Than Broken: One Couple’s Decision to Move Through An Affair, knows this fact better than most. After learning about her husband’s secret affair, she wrote her book to document her harrowing journey of recovering from that infidelity as a Christian woman. While writing and working through her unfortunate situation, Greene realized a simple truth about marriage: no secret is worth keeping from your spouse.

“In fact, while we were resurrecting the marriage, we began being brutally honest with each other, even if we knew it would hurt the other one’s feelings,” says Greene. “Marriage is rough, but honesty is paramount. It’s okay if I say, ‘Does this dress make my butt look fat?’ and he says, ‘Yes.’ I simply change dresses.”

That may sound extreme to some of us who like a little confidence-boosting white lie every now and again. But as far as Greene is concerned, one small secret as mild as an unflattering piece of clothing has the potential domino into more secrets and jeopardize the foundation of trust between husband and wife.

“Trust is at the pinnacle of any lasting and meaningful relationship,” she says. “We need to ask ourselves why would we even want to keep a secret from our wife or husband. What is the purpose? What are we afraid of the other person finding out about us?” Greene’s argument suggests that the underlying motives for telling the truth should outweigh the sometimes awkward or temporary wounded recreation your spouse might have. To her point, most of us don’t really want to leave the house in a dress that doesn’t look nice.

The truth will come out

Greene argues that no matter what kind of secret you may want to keep, your spouse will eventually learn the truth.

First and foremost she applies this to money. “If it is a financial secret, it will no doubt come out at some point,” she says. “Maybe it will come out at tax time, or when you must declare bankruptcy or lose a home. There goes trust and security in the marriage.” Financial talks are difficult — there’s no doubt about it. But between arguing about truths now rather than realizing your assets were actually a pack of lies later … which would you choose? And this goes both ways: if you feel you’re in the dark about your joint finances, don’t stay there; speak up. There’s no time like the present to find out the real scoop.

But the other big lie married couples often worry about is fidelity: “If it is a relationship secret (like cheating or being cheated on), there is a distinct probability that the affair will eventually be found out,” says Greene. “If it is a health secret (like he or she had been sleeping around), then diseases can be transmitted to the innocent partner. If there was a secret child from another relationship, that child may look up his biological parents and disrupt the lives of the biological family.” So the chances of being caught in your lie are many, and possibly all even more hurtful than hearing the truth directly from your partner. Though, of course, it’s always better simply not to do anything in a marriage that you feel you need to lie about to begin with.

She adds, “What we have to understand about secrets is that there is always a chance of being caught, which erodes trust.”

Anni Harry, who is a married Catholic woman, agrees that chances are good you will get caught no matter what, so you might as well be honest with your spouse in the first place.

“I am an open book,” she says. “I don’t have anything I keep from him simply because I am a firm believer that he will find out anyway. Also, I believe a lie by omission is still a lie, and most secrets are kept from someone to keep them out of the loop.”

But are there tiny exceptions?

Still, some married people argue that there are minor or short-term secrets that may be safe to keep, as long as your relationship is still largely based on trust and open communication.

For instance, gifts. “Small secrets — like, what you are gifting for birthdays, Christmas, etc. — are okay, but if it is pricey, I run the price by him first,” she says.

Alicia Schonhardt, the blogger behind the Catholic homeschooling blog Sweeping Up Joy, says that her secrets are her harmless guilty pleasures.

“My secrets involve the amount of chocolate I’ve consumed in one day and what fluffy TV shows I watch regularly,” she says. “If asked directly, I answer honestly. Yes, I watch Dancing With the Stars. No, I’m not proud of it. That’s pretty much it.”

Schonhardt adds, “There might be other things that I don’t tell him, but nothing is off the table for discussion if he brings it up.”

Chiara Pierpaolo Finaldi, a married Catholic woman in London, doesn’t believe you have to own up to all your tiny, embarrassing mistakes … though don’t expect to keep such matters a secret for long.

“You don’t need to tell [your husband] straight away that you ruined his favorite shirt when you washed it or shrunk his really special sweater that accidentally ended up in the dryer,” she says. “He will eventually find out.”

But slightly more substantial secrets may make sense to guard, too. If your friend has told you something in confidence that has absolutely nothing to do with your husband, many women feel you can keep mum on the matter.

“I keep to myself the things friends tell me if they don’t give me permission to share it with him, like marriages falling apart, for instance,” says Jennie Lawlis Goutet, who runs the blog, A Lady in France. “I always ask my friends first. But he’s respectful of my friends’ privacy and doesn’t ask further questions about things they’re not willing for him to know.”

Another type of secret that may make sense to guard is specific gossip about your husband.

“I keep negative things other people have said about him, from him,” says Leah Gray, who blogs about her experiences as the wife of an addict. “My husband battled an addiction and sometimes people say unkind things. The other thing I do is make it very clear I won’t listen to it either. It’s a personal integrity thing. He has no idea I do it, but I want to bless him in my secret life as well.”

Other than that? “I have no secrets from him,” says Grey. Because, while there are teeny exceptions, most secrets are hurtful, if not downright damaging.

by Aleteia, aleteia.org July 29, 2018 05:00 AM





 About to End  My Marriage,  I discovered How to Make my Husband Love me by  Kathy Murray 

6 07 2017


Californian Kathy Murray says she saved her marriage by giving up trying to control her husband. Despite considering herself a feminist, she follows – and now teaches others – the approach of a controversial book called The Surrendered Wife, which tells women to stop nagging their partners and start treating them with more respect.

The first time I married I was divorced by 26. I married for the second time at 32 but soon found myself sleeping in the guest room. My husband and I fought all the time.

Much of our fighting stemmed from the fact I thought my husband was clueless when it came to raising the children (we had four children between us aged from four to nine years old). We also quarrelled about how to manage our finances, and how often we made love.

I was working full-time as chief finance officer for a private school and also volunteered at my kids’ school and in my community. My husband was a sales rep for a construction company but I was the breadwinner and acted like I was in charge.

I didn’t tell anyone I was in constant conflict with my husband. I was embarrassed, angry and resentful.

The six principles of being a ‘Surrendered Wife’

Relinquishes inappropriate control of her husband. Respects her husband’s thinking. Receives his gifts graciously and expresses gratitude for him. Expresses what she wants without trying to control him. Relies on him to handle household finances. Focuses on her own self-care and fulfilment

My husband often resorted to watching TV and snuggling with our pets as I’d rage at him over ignoring my needs. I mean all men want sex right? Not my husband. He wanted nothing to do with me. It was awful.

The more I told my husband how he should be, the less he’d try. I couldn’t figure it out so I dragged him to marriage counselling. But that only made things worse, so we sent our children to counselling since they too bore the brunt of so much of our conflict. That didn’t work either.

So I went to counselling by myself and complained about my husband for more than a year. Spending thousands of dollars, only to find myself nearer divorce than when I started.

I’d cry, fight, yell and pout, thinking he would eventually come around, but he didn’t. I lost weight, went to the gym and started getting attention from men which was tempting to act on, but I knew I couldn’t do that, so I’d play the victim card and sulk. That didn’t work either.

I was about to end my marriage when I picked up a book called The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. I mean, they don’t teach us how to be successful in marriage in school and the women in my life didn’t share the secrets either.

It was incredibly humbling to recognise that I had something to do with why my marriage was failing and perhaps even why my first marriage failed. But it was also empowering.

I didn’t know I’d been disrespectful to my husband or even that I’d been controlling and critical.

I thought I was being helpful and logical. I just didn’t know that respect for men is like oxygen, so no wonder my husband was no longer interested in me sexually.

I’ll never forget the day I first apologised to my husband for being rude for correcting him in front of the children, or the day I said “whatever you think” when I’d previously been extremely opinionated about what he should do.

I had trained my husband to ask my permission for everything. And then complained about it for a year in counselling that he couldn’t make simple decisions!

I relinquished control of my husband’s life, choices and decisions and instead I focused on my own happiness. I was no longer acting like his mother and started acting like his lover.

We were fighting less and less and my husband started reaching out to hold my hand or pull me in for a kiss.

I had no idea that I was responsible for my own happiness. I thought my husband should make me happy.

I’ve now found subtle ways of getting my husband in the mood for sex, which is far more effective than the days of begging, crying or yelling about wanting it. Even if I’m not in the mood and he is, I often find myself getting in the mood just by being open to receiving pleasure.

My kids began to notice the change in our relationship too, and as a result, their behaviour improved and our home became peaceful and fun again.

Women often ask me if my approach is about dumbing myself down or becoming a submissive wife. I tell them I am a feminist. Surrendering is acknowledging you can’t change or control anyone but yourself. That’s empowering!

​http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37861459





Managing Marriage, love and relationships by Fr. Mike Schmitz 

18 05 2017

He was getting ready to marry a beautiful woman,  but God spoke and Fr Mike Schmitz gave himself to God. He is more than qualified to tell us a thing or two  about marriage, love and relationships 





Saving Your Marriage by Healing Selfishness

23 06 2016

Saving marriage by healing selfishness

Recently the New York Times ran an opinion piece by popular philosopher Alain de Botton, Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. It was widely shared and sat at the top of  The Times’ “most viewed” list for nearly two weeks. De Botton argued that the solution to marital unhappiness and divorce is to expect less happiness from marriage. In other words, swapping romanticism for pessimism can save marriages.

In a follow-up debate this week six pundits opine on Knowing When a Marriage Is Over – a pessimistic premise to be sure, and all of them accept that there will be circumstances (other than abuse) where it will be reasonable to say, “It’s over.” It comes down to “what you want”. Significantly, children are barely mentioned.

But as psychiatrist Dr Richard Fitzgibbons notes below, the welfare of children is a key reason for trying to save marriages. And this is possible because the underlying causes of conflict between spouses can be brought to light and healed – again, if “you want”. Not all optimism is merely romantic, just as pessimism is not necessarily realistic.

* * * * *

Today marriage and family life are being severely traumatized by the divorce epidemic, the explosion of selfishness which is the major enemy of marital love, and failure to understand and address serious emotional conflicts. Around one million children a year in the United States are victimised by divorce. (See my chapter, “Children of Divorce: Conflicts and Healing” in M. McCarthy (ed) Torn Asunder: Children, the Myth of Good Divorce, and the Recovery of Origins – due out in August).

The toll from marital conflicts can be severe and debilitating.  Selfishness, excessive anger and behaviours that are controlling, emotionally distant and mistrustful cause grave harm to spouses and children. The loyal spouses who are victimized are often incorrectly blamed as being the primary cause of the marital conflict. These conflicts and their resolution through growth in virtues are rarely addressed in the mental health literature on marriage.

Origins of serious emotional conflicts

In my experience the spouse that initiates divorce often has the most serious psychological difficulties.  These are often unconscious wounds they have brought into the marriage.  They arise primarily from hurts in the father relationship and secondarily from hurts in the mother relationship, or from giving into selfishness.

These unresolved are on the periphery of the deep goodness in each spouse, the goodness that led to strong love, commitment and marital vows.  When they are resolved, trust grows and love is regularly rediscovered.

Confusion about the nature of marriage

An understanding of the nature of marriage is also essential to safeguarding marital love. At the present time, there are two markedly different views on the marriage. Sociologist Dr Brad Wilcox refers to them as the traditional Judeo-Christian view of marriage and the more prevalent psychological view. (Wilcox, B. (2009). The Evolution of Divorce)

In the latter, the primary obligation is not to one’s spouse and family but to one’s self and one’s own happiness and sense of fulfillment.  Hence, marital success is defined not by successfully fulfilling one’s responsibilities to a spouse and children.  It is characterized by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage, usually to be found in material comfort and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse and others.

Virtues, anger and forgiveness

The role of virtues has been viewed in Western Civilization as being essential in the development of a healthy personality.  The mental health field has grown recently to appreciate this approach and a new field, positive psychology, has developed – notably by Dr Martin Seligman and colleagues. (Seligman, M. & Peterson, C. 2004.Character Strengths and Virtues) Positive psychology promotes the development of virtues to address and resolve cognitive, emotional, behavioural and personality conflicts, including those in marriage.

My own particular contribution to this new field is in the use of forgiveness in treating the excessive anger that is present in most psychiatric disorders and in marital conflicts. This subject is treated in detail in a book I co-authored with Dr Robert Enright, Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, published by the American Psychological Association in 2000. (A second edition was published in 2014 with the title, Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.)

Uncovering conflicts

The first challenge in the healing process is to acquire self-knowledge about one’s weaknesses, most often unconscious and hidden, so that they can be addressed. My own clinical experience is supported by research that demonstrates that 70 percent of adult psychological conflicts are the result of unresolved issues from childhood.

Most spouses do not deliberately set out to hurt the person they have vowed to honor and love all the days of their lives. Instead, they inflict painful wounds and even divorce because of their “baggage”/family of origin conflicts, giving in to selfishness or loss of faith.

The good news is that selfishness, excessive anger; mistrustful, controlling and emotionally distant behaviors, loneliness and insecurity, and the poor communication patterns that harm many marriages can be correctly identified and in many marriages resolved, especially if there is a faith component in the healing process.

Starting with singles

But we also have to prevent marital conflict and divorce by educating young adults about how the most common relationship stresses can be uncovered and resolved. Singles can then be more hopeful about having a successful marriage, and the retreat from marriage – itself partly attributable to the experience of divorce in families – can be reversed.

In particular young adults need to become more aware of selfishness, because it is of epidemic proportions in today’s culture and is a major reason for the retreat from marriage. This is a task awaiting parents, pastors and others involved in the education and formation of young people.

Dr Richard Fitzgibbons is the director of Comprehensive Counselling Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. He has practiced psychiatry for 40 years with a specialty in the treatment of excessive anger. Further information at: Institute for Marital Healing








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