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Dear Struggling Marriages

In my work preparing couples for marriage, I have had to account for the unexpected implosion of a marriage where I was once part of the preparation. Sometimes I hear about the troubles first hand, other times when I see one of them meeting with the Nullity Minister.

It saddens me every time when those couples who looked and acted so much in love, and desired to dedicate their whole lives to one another in sacramental marriage; give up and quit. I feel I have an investment in each and every couple. I connect with them, and give my whole heart in the work God has called me to.

The work of marriage however, is the couple’s work to do together for the benefit of their own souls, their family, and for society. The work they do will effect generations for good or bad and ultimately the whole world.  We see this lived out in today’s culture when parents don’t take seriously their duty to raise up responsible, moral, hard-working future citizens.

Those children left to their own devices, can easily become everyone’s problem. Choosing themselves and their personal happiness over working things out with a spouse, can have a devastating effect as children are left in the debris of divorce.

As in every disagreement, there is her version, his version, and the truth. I hate it when I hear cruel accusations lobbed at their spouse. Was this the same couple who cuddled on the couch in my office as we talked about marriage? What happened? What changed, or rather, what finally came to the surface and reared its ugly head? How do two people so in love that they want to be together for life, give up on each other, “fall out of love,” or cheat on their spouse?

It is easy to quit on one another — that is what the world wants and that is exactly what Satan wants! Quitting is easy, staying married is hard. One man told me “if it is this hard, then it must not be love.”

Really? Exercising is hard. What would happen if we quit on that? Just look around to see the fruit of that life style. What about our jobs? They can get pretty demanding. Should we not work? Picking produce, fermenting grapes, stocking shelves, is a real pain in the back day in and day out. No one’s talking about giving up on wine.

Love does not quit, give up, walk out, or point fingers. Love doesn’t lie or choose every other thing including work, children, or friends, over the beloved. Marriage is the sign that God instituted to point most to His unconditional, irrevocable, faithful, exclusive love for each of us. It reflects Christ’s love for the Church.

You know Christ, the One impaled on a tree, barely clinging to life, bloody, and bruised. Perhaps there is something to learn in that icon. Love hurts. It hurts like hell sometimes. St. Teresa of Calcutta wrote, “Love to be real, it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.”

And therein lies the problem, “empty us of self.”

Love isn’t about you, your feelings, your happiness, or unlimited fun. Love is about other. Love is giving, and pouring out without cost, or measure, or return. The word is sacrificial, because not putting me first-hurts. It takes dying to self over and over, until it becomes natural, a habit honed over time.

When husband and wife do that very thing, we see such a beautiful, attractive window into God’s marvelous love for us. We desperately need this kind of witness in our world. Married couples have the power to raise up, or warp, twist, pervert, or elevate, how humanity sees God, imitates love, and understands marriage.

Almost always the couple does not make dedicated time for each other, pray together, or practice their Catholic faith regularly through attending mass. There is critical importance in placing each other above all else, of making God, faith, and prayer, a part of your daily existence. After thirty-eight years I can assure you, without God, we would not have lasted long on our own.

I have nothing to lose by being frank in writing these things sent in love, and empowered by truth. I beg you, do whatever is necessary to remain true to the vows you both made in front of God.  “For I hate divorce, says the Lord…” (Malachi 2:16).

I too hate divorce with all my heart. It leaves everlasting devastation in its wake. It harms children, and grandchildren for generations. It poisons those around us, it poisons how humanity thinks about marriage and a lifelong commitment, and it poisons how people think and relate to God. I have read one hundred raw testimonials from adults whose parents divorced, and the negative consequence it had, and continues to have, on how they think, and interact with others. (Primal Loss-Miller)

With God’s help and the healing power of confession, anything is possible. We believe in the God of Miracles! There is a retreat called Retrouvaille for couples who find themselves in dire straits and who are willing to do whatever it takes to seek help. It means “rediscover”. It is Catholic, but any faith can attend. I know it saves marriages, even the most horrible and seemingly UN-savable marriages.

So if you ever really loved each other, and if you are willing to let God do what He does best, then I invite you to do this, because you both deserve it. It is not magic. Nothing will change if you both are not willing to trust, love, surrender, and do the hard work.

It’s all up to you whether you are a part of a miracle, or just another statistic.


Barbara Lishko works full time as a Lay Catholic Marriage Minister. She and her husband Mark, an ordained Deacon, have been married for 35 years and are blessed with five young adult children, whose lives grow and expand through marriage and grandchildren.


Through the inspiration of her family, work in the Catholic Church and wacky life experiences her dream of writing was born. She is the recipient of the Diocese of Phoenix St Terese of Lisieux award. Barbara can be reached at blishko_58@yahoo.com


  • Mike Phelan

    Right on. Deeply painful when we see breakdown among marriages we have accompanied in the prep process! Thank you for continuing to give your heart in this work. A thought that occurred: it is of our nature to not see the future challenges when we are in love; also of our nature to marry in partial ignorance. There is a right to marriage. What is unnatural is the cultural confusion about commitment–no wise culture provides so little support for marriage. So, yes Barb, it is a miracle and we need all the supernatural means of the Church. Thanks for this article.

  • Randal Agostini

    A Beautiful article. It is unfortunate that we wait for trouble before turning to God, who is always there wanting to help. For God to make parents responsible for the foundation of our children’s salvation is an enormous honor and responsibility, filled with His graces if we put our Trust in Him.

  • Terry

    I loved the article and agree, each Divorce can cause damage for generations affecting hundreds perhaps thousands of people, all because of the self centered to put your needs before others