Marriage and virginity in Catholic teaching

I posted the following as a comment on another blog. I’m not going to link it because I’m afraid that if I do, it might embarrass whomever it was and I don’t want to do that. After I wrote it, I saw elsewhere on her blog that she doesn’t respond to comments. So my comment not get approved.

The person was seriously considering leaving the Church and the reasons she gave were faulty. What I mean is that they were based on an erroneous understanding of what the Church teaches. Somehow she believed that marriage and virginity were set against each other, in conflict, as if the Church values virginity more than it values marriage. This led her to a wrong conclusion: that what she called “the Catholic Jesus” believed it would have been better for her to not exist. Yikes, that’s just not true at all. The Church values every single human life.

Here’s what I said:

Where did you hear these teachings regarding virginity and marriage, as if they were set against each other in conflict? I ask this because they are not what we see in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

For example, I searched the CCC for references to the word “virgin.” There are 121. Most pertained to Mary; one to Eve; several to consecrated virgins; a few drew a parallel with marriage, such as this one at 1620:

“Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will. Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other: Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.”

Or this one found at 2349:

“…There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others…”

This [sic] references go against what you were taught, so that’s why I asked where you learned what you learned. The Lord values marriage very much. The Bible practically opens with a wedding (Adam and Eve) and certainly closes with one (the wedding of the Lamb). The Church is the bride of Christ, after all (Ephesians 5:32). And every single human life has value, including you! This is a clear teaching of the Church. Please don’t leave yet.

There were a number of other issues she raised which I decided not to address, but this one seemed to be the crux of the others–I reasoned to myself that if I made sense here, it might soften her position on the other issues. I hope what I said helps.

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Why did my parents reject me?

In almost all of the divorce literature, you will come across something that goes like this:

“Children of divorce often think that the divorce was their fault.”

This was not my experience. I never consciously thought that my parents divorce was my fault. So I have doubted that idea. I think, instead, that this idea doesn’t go far enough. It is an attempt to describe something, but it is inadequate.

It is not so much that the child blames himself, it is that he feels a deep sense of rejection, cannot understand the rejection, and cannot articulate it. Each parent has embraced the half of the child that represents himself or herself. But simultaneously, they have rejected the half of the child that represents the other parent. It is profoundly confusing to be simultaneously accepted and rejected. It is like living in a hall of mirrors without being told it is a hall of mirrors.

Here is a diagram I created in Word to try and explain what I see and feel.

divorce diagram of the child 20160811
The stretched life of a child, post-divorce.

I’m trying to show how the child’s life is being stretched in two directions. In a normal situation, the parents’ lives and interests are more closely bound up with the life of the child. After a divorce, the child becomes pulled in two distinct directions, and these directions become more and more distinct as time goes on. On the mother’s side, she accepts the side of the oval (the life of the child) that corresponds to her life and interests, but rejects the side of the oval (the life of the child) the corresponds to the father’s life and interests. The same is true for the father but reversed.

When parents divorce, the child spends time with each parent without the other there. The parents are saying, in effect, “I want my freedom so badly that I am willing to be apart from you for half your life.” That is rejection. Related to this is the rejection of the child’s other side of the family: in-laws become personae non gratae practically overnight. This means that the child has family that his flesh-and-blood parent no longer has. The hall of mirrors gets bigger.

I think this explains why some parents engage in “parental alienation.” They don’t want to be with the other parent, and they don’t want to be apart from their kids at all. In order to achieve this goalthey believe that they can emotionally separate the child from the other parent and that parent’s family without harming the child. Given that it is now viewed as child abuse, this is probably the strategy of somebody who is mentally or emotionally impaired.

I do not think kids of divorce are wondering, “Is the divorce my fault?” I think they are feeling a deeper question: “Why did my parents reject me and my family?” If what I’m saying is true then this means that important aspects of our culture and family law system are based on lies and need to change. For example, our notion of “freedom” currently supports kids being stretched into two halves as I’ve described here. Also, the divorce industry (and other industries that thrive on separating kids from their family trees) is founded on the idea that “kids are resilient.” This is another way of saying that it is perfectly fine to tear somebody’s life into two pieces, since:

  • They’ll just somehow “get over it”
  • They won’t care
  • They will be so thrilled with their parents’ happiness that they’ll sublimate their own
  • They are automatons who don’t have their own happiness; they only have their parents’ happiness

How is that wound healed? I still do not know, but it cannot be healed by pretending it is not there.

“Blended family” is a flawed theoretical model

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The professional class and divorce industry have failed to provide children of divorce (and other non-triad arrangements) with an accurate theoretical model to understand their emotions and the ongoing problems they face. One of the reasons they have failed to do this, I believe, is that they put their trust in inaccurate models. One of these is called “blended family.” It serves as a buttress against developing a more accurate model.

It is a very popular model, and many or perhaps even most people rely on it for guiding their expectations as to how a step-family should form and function. The idea is that when two adults are in love, their love, joy and excitement is like a magical ingredient that will make the living arrangements and emotional bonding process go smoothly between people who have no shared past, no shared family tree, and no choice in the matter (the children). As I pointed out the other day, this explains why two otherwise intelligent people were completely comfortable with meeting their new step-children, and the step-children all meeting each other, on their wedding day. They relied on a flawed model.

This theoretical model is so appealing and pervasive that when the blending process does not go well, people will say, “My blended family won’t blend.” These people are under the false assumption that a smooth “blending” process is normal, and that a non-smooth process is abnormal. It is as if they are saying, “I have all the ingredients to bake a cake, but when I try to blend the ingredients together, they won’t blend. What is wrong with the ingredients?” dough blender public domainThis question makes sense when dealing with inert ingredients such as flour, sugar, salt, cocoa, etc. There is an actual chemistry involved in baking, and it is reliable–follow the recipe and you WILL get the desired result. But the “blended” model doesn’t work when applied to children and families, since they are not inert. Plus, family life should not be thought of as being in a blender, or as being subject to metal instruments that push you around so that you go in a direction somebody else wants you to go.

The normal result is to have a difficult time “blending” the family, because to even think of it that way is to embrace a flawed way to think about it. This is because:

I long for the day when we are willing to embrace an accurate theoretical model for understanding first families and the harms that come about when they are destroyed because of the sinful behavior or the adults, or fail to form properly. It seems to me that we find ourselves in this predicimate because we (meaning, secular society) no longer accept “sin” as a legitimate category.

Nobody has a right to pregnancy-free coitus

Edit on 8/30/2016: after publishing this, the interaction I had in the comments below helped me clarify this concept. Going forward, you will see me referring to the concept like this: “Fertile couples don’t have a right to pregnancy-free coitus,” rather than “Nobody has a right to pregnancy-free coitus.” The first phrase is more accurate. If you read the comments where I discuss menopausal women, you’ll see how I came to this conclusion.

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In Catholic circles there is an idea known as “the contraceptive mentality.” I’m not crazy about the phrase because it isn’t obvious what it means. At least, it wasn’t to me. It was only in the last four months or so that I understood it, even though I embraced the Church’s teaching on contraception 5-6 years ago, before I even officially became Catholic. Once I figured out what the phrase meant, I coined my own phrase:

Nobody has a right to pregnancy-free coitus.

That seems more clear to me. It makes it easier to see how contraception shifts the thought process surrounding sex. Even though not every act of sex makes a baby, in point of fact sex is a normatively and presumptively fertile act. Contraception shifts the thought process at this point. It makes people believe that sex is normatively and presumptively sterile. Once sex is viewed this way, then link between contraception and abortion becomes apparent. If sex is supposed to be sterile, then getting rid of an unwanted baby is justified on the grounds that the pregnancy was unintended. The use of contraceptives buttresses the idea that sex is a purely recreational activity; sex becomes a baby making activity only when the baby is explicitly wanted. Thus, contraception devalues all human life.

Superficially, it seems like contraception would reduce abortion, but this has not been the case. As Janet Smith said:

“There’s not a country in the world which had abortion illegal… in which contraception gets introduced and widely used, that’s when you get pressure to change the laws against abortion.”

And why is that? Because contraception makes people believe that they have a right to pregnancy-free coitus. Even SCOTUS noted the link between contraception and abortion in its 1992 decision known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey:

“…in some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception . . . .  for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”

That’s SCOTUS, a totally secular organization, making the same connection between contraception and abortion that the Catholic Church makes, but using the link as a way to uphold abortion. SCOTUS’ logic is that contraception gives people a right to pregnancy-free coitus, but since contraception can fail, then people need abortion as a way to uphold that right. It is obviously faulty logic, but people are so committed to purely recreational sex, and the false belief that contraception gives them 100% control over their fertility, that they can’t see how tenuous the logic is.

Finding lost sheep, part 2

Yesterday I told the story of what happened between me and my ex on Saturday. This got me thinking about how I never explained to him why I sought an annulment. Given that he has expressed pain about it, it became evident that I needed to explain why I did it, so I wrote him a letter. Overall I am happy with it. My only complaint is its length–I wish I could have said the same thing with fewer words. I hope he is able to hear what I am saying without feeling triggered. It might just be tl;dr, but time will tell. This is copied and pasted from the Word document, including the graphics. I edited out identifying information.

August 9, 2016

Dear [name of ex],

At the outset here, let me state that I am very sorry for how I hurt you in the past. I did im sorry dogmany so many things wrong, and did many wrong things. I regret them all. Please forgive me. I know that you are also sorry for the things you regret. So let’s just wipe the slate clean on both sides.

Because I care for you, I thought it would be good if I explained why I sought the annulment. Before I do that, I will tell you why I did not seek it: I did not seek it because I hated you or did not love you.

I sought the annulment for a couple reasons that are very complex. Unfortunately, it will take me a number of paragraphs to explain it all. I wish I could do it more briefly, but I don’t know how. I want you to understand, but am worried. It is such a sensitive issue, and I might accidentally trigger negative emotions in you, which will make it hard to understand what I’m saying. Please bear with me as I work through this. It is not my intention to trigger any negative emotions; I just want you to understand. It can be really hard for me to express my heart, especially in written form, but I will try.

I am not blaming you for what happened, just describing what it was like for me. The annulment was not about winners and losers, so you did not “lose.” This point is very important.

First, the entire time we were together, I never really felt that we were together, really joined as a one-flesh union like the Bible talks about. There was always a blockage, like a wedge between you and me and I felt this acutely. It is why I would complain about [name of cult] and [name of cult leader]—they came between us. There were only two names on our marriage certificate, yours and mine, but it felt like there were three names, yours, mine, and [name of cult leader/name of cult]. It was a three way marriage. After 20 years I could no longer take it. There were many, many times I honestly wondered if you hated me. The wedge blocked us, because it made it impossible for me to see how much you loved me. I know now that you did love me, but at the time I could not see it clearly at all. Related to this is how I never felt that I could love you on my own terms; I had to love you on somebody else’s terms, terms that were not truly yours. I had to love [name of cult] as part of loving you. That offended me deeply and seemed profoundly wrong and unfair.

The second reason is related to the first. I wanted to be free to marry a Catholic man should I have found one, but I also wondered in the back of my mind if anything would transpire between you and I in the future. And I thought that if you and I were to ever date or enter courtship, we would need to begin with a clean slate. We would need to start a relationship on an honest foundation. This would have to exclude any influence from [name of cult], since that influence is what contributed to our marriage being poorly structured—according to Jesus Christ, a marriage cannot have three (or more) participants.

Here is an analogy. Do you remember how [name of a female cult member] has those small stones embedded in her arm after she and her scooter went down many years ago? Once I asked her about them, why she never had them removed, and she said that it would be very difficult and painful. Between the divorce and the annulment, that’s sort of like what I had to do. I had to remove a deeply embedded wedge, one that had flesh and skin grown over it and had been embedded for a long time. It was very painful for both of us, the kids too. I cried a lot. Did you? But like a painful surgery, it had to be done because the wedge between us was not part of God’s plan for marriage.

wedgeDo you remember a letter I wrote to you many years ago? I think it was sometime in the late 1990s. I said something about how hard it was to be a wife, and how I did not like being a wife. I don’t remember the other details. You kept it for a long time but do you still have it? Here is why I mention it: if you read it through the eyes of somebody who did not feel a one-flesh union with the man she was with, it may make more sense now. If I remember correctly, and it is possible that I do not since I wrote it so long ago, the letter was my expression of sadness, anger, and resignation over not having a one-flesh union. If you still have it, I would appreciate being able to read it.

I think I understand why you want me to reverse the annulment. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that you believe that the wedge was from God, and you believe I lied to the diocese. You thought of the wedge as glue to keep us together, right? But I don’t believe that the wedge was from God because it blocked our love for each other and it blocked our one-flesh union, and I know that’s never God’s will. Also, I didn’t lie to the diocese. I kept a copy of the testimony I submitted to them. We could set up a time to go through it together and you can show me where you believe I lied. But haven’t we hashed through the bad memories enough in the 20 years we were together? And where did all that get us? But hey, if we need to go through it again, then OK, I’m willing.

I’m not interested in “winning,” and I don’t view you as “losing.” The annulment was not about winners and losers. It was about finding the reasons that explained how I felt for 20 years, and resetting the playing field back to a point of honesty and truth. Perhaps more importantly, we only have right now, this moment. The past is done, it’s over. Wouldn’t a joyful heart is good medicineyou agree that it might be better if we just picked up from where we are now and begin a friendship anew? The kids would appreciate that so much, and it would be healthy for them to see us interacting in a positive way. And we can do that, [our eldest daughter’s] wedding is evidence. I enjoyed your company at her wedding. It was fun to all be together. Proverbs says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” The wedge is gone now, but like after a surgery there is a wound, and it needs bandages and medicine. Friendship is like medicine, since it means joy and laughter, good conversations, shared memories. We have a lot of good memories and funny inside jokes that developed over the years. You know how to make me laugh and I appreciate that. I would appreciate us setting aside the painful memories, focusing on the good memories, and creating more good memories. Wouldn’t this be very healing?

I know this is complex, and that it is a very sensitive subject. I sincerely hope I didn’t trigger any negative emotions. That’s not my intention. What do you think we can do to help our healing, and the healing of our children?

[my signature]

Finding lost sheep

I may be selling my place soon. There are a couple projects that should be done before putting it on the market. The master bedroom needs to be painted, and the kitchen and entry have vinyl on the floor. I’d like to replace it with tile. So I contacted a few local contractors to see what their prices were.

Then it occurred to me that this might be a good opportunity to reach out to my ex. He is very handy and can definitely do both of those things. I thought it might be a pleasant way to begin a positive dialog about a non-controversial subject. Here is what I texted him on Saturday morning:

Hi Jxxx. I hope you are doing well. I was wondering if you and [our son] would be willing to do a couple projects at my place. I have to hire somebody and I thought of you guys. I need the walls painted in my master bedroom, and also some floor tile put down in a couple different areas of my house. If you’re interested, let me know. I’ll definitely pay you guys whatever the going rate is. Thanks.

About 8.5 hours later, he responded:

Have you yet realized how you seriously f’ked up? Divorcing me was the stupidest thing anyone I’ve ever known ever did. No, I’m not going to help you with your condo. You divorced me and you annulled our marriage. Stupid. If you want to ever have a relationship with me as your ex, reverse the annulment. Send letters to the Catholic diocese and all your stupid witnesses and tell them you lied and you were wrong. Get it reversed and then I’ll talk to you. Otherwise leave me the freak alone.

Here is what I said back to him:

This is abusive. I did not lie, and you don’t get to dictate how I felt about our arranged marriage. We could still be friends, and our children deserve that. I thought we had a very nice time at [our eldest daughter’s] wedding, and hoped that perhaps that could be the start of a new and positive chapter between you and I. Your commitment to [name of cult leader] and [name of cult] is clouding your judgement.

Then I made a reference to the Matrix, a movie he loves. We watched it together many times:

You have to trust me. Why? Because you have been down there. You know that road. You know exactly where it ends. And I know that’s not where you want to be.

Here is the scene I was referencing. I feel very confident that he knew what I was referring to.

He did not respond.

I have thought for a long time that he has Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ll go into those details in a future blog. The short version is that people with BPD can get flooded with emotions which they cannot manage. The emotions are so strong that they cannot use their brains for higher order thinking skills. Without realizing it at the time, I now see that I triggered him, because what he said was highly emotional and did not make any sense:

  • He is not Catholic and so in a very practical way, the annulment does not effect him.
  • He is engaged to marry another woman. If he believes that God still views us as married, then he’s admitting that he is in a state of adultery.
  • The annulment was finished almost three years ago.
  • He fought the annulment, and at the same time was dating a woman and engaging in sex with her.
  • He actually DID lie to the diocese and I provided proof of it.

I called my cousin the next day and told her about the text messages. She said that she thinks he still loves me. I said, “Well, maybe, but he’s trying to catch flies with vinegar.” She pointed out that sometimes there is a fine line between love and hate.

Maybe he does still love me, but I take his nonsensical reasoning as evidence for BPD. I’ve wondered about his BPD for about five years, but I just didn’t want to face it. But that text exchange is a great example of what I had to deal with on a nearly-daily basis for 20 years–nonsensical reasoning created by emotional flooding from a man with an undiagnosed personality disorder who believes that a narcissistic cult leader is his guru. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Even reading that makes me feel so dumb for being so gullible.  

Later, I realized that pretty much anytime we communicate anymore (which is rare), he mentions the annulment and how much it hurt him. I’ve never actually explained to him why I did it, so I decided to write him a letter. As I worked on it, I came across the Gospel reading for the day (Aug. 9), which includes these words of Jesus from Matthew 18:

What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

This really inspired me. He is the father of my children. Rightly or wrongly, I believe that I have a duty to him because of my duty to them. He is half of who they are, and I won’t pretend otherwise even though I often wish I could. So I collected my thoughts, prayed a lot, asked others to pray with me, and wrote him a letter explaining why I sought the annulment. It went into the mail yesterday (Wed.).

Two systems of worship in the New Covenant

I made a startling observation while working on the post from July 29. I have observed that there are two systems of worship in use by Christians today. See if you agree. Here is what I see:

  • One group of Christians believes the Scriptures give us liberty to choose the elements of Sunday communal worship and the order in which those elements occur. This group does not mandate attendance on Sunday; mandatory attendance on Sundays is not in the Scripture.
  • Another group of Christians believes that we must follow the tradition of Sunday worship handed down to us from our spiritual forebearers going back to the Apostles. It is a tradition that must contain certain elements every Sunday in order to fulfill our obligation to worship God. Attendance is mandatory (except for a serious reason).

I was really bothered when I saw this. Let me explain why. I will need to draw from the Old Covenant (OC).

Looking at Exodus 26, imagine if a group of people arose and accused Moses of being wrong about the layout of the tabernacle. Let’s say they decided to build their own tabernacle, believing that God had spoken to them or their leader. Does that seem like something God would have caused? No, and I can think of three reasons why:

1) The set of regulations for worship is intimately tied in with the covenant itself.

2) A new set of regulations requires a new authority structure to maintain and uphold the regulations.

3) A new set of regulations for worship means a new covenant.

In fact, all of these are exactly what happened when the OC was abolished. The old set of worship regulations was abolished, and the new set was established. As we see in Hebrews 10:9:

… He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.

Hebrews 9 reiterates that the OC had one set of regulations for worship (“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship…”). A careful reading also makes it clear that the New Covenant (NC) is pattered after it. The conclusion is that the NC can only have one set of regulations for worship, not two as we see today.

This realization makes me feel sad. I don’t like it, but that’s what I see.

Did anybody warn her that she might marry somebody who would hate her children?

In a few days I may write about how divorce needs a warning label. I also want to discuss the parallels I see between the divorce industry and the tobacco industry. In the mean time, remember when I said before how step-parents sometimes hate their step-children? I ran across this video from Dr. Phil’s show. I guarantee you that nobody in the professional class warned this woman that she was running this risk.

Starting at 1:26, Dr. Phil asks the step-dad: “How do you hate children?”

Step-dad: “Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know if was so much that I… I did hate them, yea, I’m not gonna lie. I did not want to be around them…”

Then he offers excuses as to why he hated them. It’s their fault, of course. It couldn’t be him causing any of the problems, nor could it be their remarriage and the chaos it brought to the kids’ lives.

And get this: the kids all met each other and their new step-parent for the very first time on the wedding day.

On.

The.

Wedding.

Day.

This blows my mind. However, it is evidence for my claim that we view kids like gears in a car:

It is as if we think of [adopted] children like gears in a car… first gear = first family. Push in the clutch (destroy first family by refusing to help them stay together), push the lever into second gear (insert adoptive family) and voila! Everything will be great because “love makes a family” and “biology doesn’t matter.”

Adoptees are saying, “No!” And I get that, because I think something similar happens to kids of divorce. First gear = first family. Push in the clutch (destroy first family through divorce), push the lever into second gear (insert step-family) and voila! Everything will be great because “love makes a family” and “biology doesn’t matter.”

Be sure to notice how there is zero mention of kids’ other parents… they are personae non gratae. They must be personae non gratae, in order to prop up the lie that the first family doesn’t matter anymore. The only family that matters in popular culture today is the one based on adults’ sexual choices. If or when those choices change, then the family changes with it… like gears in a car.

I bet none of the divorce professionals warned this mom of the risk she was running, nor did any of them tell any of the kids that their new step-parent might hate them.

Jesus waits for us

Every Catholic Church has a special gold box in the sanctuary. Near this gold box will be a red candle, sometimes hanging from the ceiling.

The box is called the Tabernacle and the candle is Tabernacle Lamp (click the links for photos).

The purpose of the Tabernacle is to store the Eucharist when mass is not being said, and purpose of the Tabernacle Lamp is to remind us that God is with us… Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23). Rarely, the Lamp will be out, because the Eucharist will not be inside the Tabernacle. This happens on Good Friday, for example.

Jesus is present there, in the Eucharist, he is the bread that came down from heaven… his body, blood, soul and divinity is present there. Yes, Emmanuel, God with us, present tense. Discerning his body is part of our calling as Christians (1 Cor. 11:29).

My eldest daughter is looking for a church. Naturally, I want her to be a Catholic but I also know that it takes time… she was raised in a gnostic cult, after all. I mentioned that she could always go to the Catholic Church, and encouraged her by saying, “Jesus is there, waiting for you.” Because it’s true. He is.

Testimonial: my husband’s parents are divorcing

I received this as a comment on my blog. It was in response to one of my posts about how there is a cultural obsession with happy endings and how this clouds our thinking about what divorce does to the next generation over the long term:

Thank you for writing this. My in-laws are going through a divorce right now, and a lot of this mirrors what my husband is going through. While my MIL is very apologetic, my FIL refuses to acknowledge that this is doing anything to their children. “You’re an adult, this shouldn’t affect you.”- his actual words to my husband as the world was ripped out from under him. Meanwhile he surprises us all by bringing his new -to-us but year-long girlfriend to a large family function without telling his children that he HAD a girlfriend in the first place, and insists they should all be adult about it.

We DO have a cultural obsession with happy endings. Cultural pressure to accept that divorce is “for the better”. It’s all a lie. And it all comes from the father of lies himself. It’s horrible, it’s untrue, and it’s disgusting. I don’t know what’s worse- widespread divorce, or the lies that go along with it.

Divorcing parents are utterly clueless as to how offensive it can be when they bring a new love-interest into the picture. However, their cluelessness is not entirely their fault. As I have said elsewhere, the professional class–the group of people who SHOULD know better, who CLAIM to know better–lies all the time about the harms of divorce. Related to this, is how they have failed to provide an accurate theoretical framework for kids of divorce to understand their emotions and the ongoing struggles they face.