“Do you love me? “

A love story: Marriage, the birth of a daughter and then separation. Yet even separation can become an experience of God, with the help of a seven-year-old girl. This story is narrated by the mother.

Y and I met in 2003 and after a year and a half we decided to get married. We are both veterinarians who worked together and shared several interests and hobbies. Five years later we still had no children; at first, we had difficulty accepting this but then it made our relationship stronger. We are both practicing Catholics and at that time we attended several Catholic courses for family accompaniment.

In 2010, M. our little girl arrived unexpectedly, this coincided with the loss of both our jobs. We decided to embark on a new working adventure and started our own business from nothing. The stress was considerable, causing two miscarriages one after the other. Gradually, almost unconsciously, something began to change; dialogue between us degenerated, common interests changed to individual interests, V. seemed to be experiencing a moment of deep crisis and I thought he was depressed.

We made many attempts to save our relationship by asking for help from spiritual guides, psychologists, friends. I felt helpless and was trying to put off what seemed inevitable. Four more years went by, and we had completely changed: V.had become detached, inaccessible, very grumpy, often aggressive. I, consequently, had closed myself in an unnatural silence and at the same time in a watchful expectation of the evolution of events and with an almost maniacal attention I tried to discover useful details which would help me to understand what was going on.

Meanwhile, M., with the antennae typical of children although still very small, confirmed by her instinctive behaviour that she knew something important was wrong though unaware what it was. A deep sadness took hold of me, and although four very hard years had passed, we still allowed ourselves a year to figure out what to do. Everything was now under a spotlight, the situation was so clear, and this awareness came with so much pain. Finally, I asked V.: “Do you love me? ». His answer was absolute silence, more eloquent than many words.

Finally, it hit me, his lack of respect was not acceptable, the denial of what was happening and the desire at all costs to remain as a couple despite his treatment had made me lose sight of myself. I was lost.

I repeated to myself: “I don’t want M. to have the perception of her mother as being sad, I’m not like that.” On the outside we looked like a serene couple, but I could not continue to live like this. Self-respect and an inner voice that was pushing me to find myself, led me towards an invisible but necessary, dark horizon towards which I never would have expected to go. At that point, separation was inevitable.

Separation is a painful experience that suddenly invests you, leaving you shattered and at times submerged by the rubble of your own life which until recently seemed apparently full. Getting out of this devastating experience quickly and lucidly is not easy. You must face and keep at bay all the frailty which invests you and wants to dominate you. You feel stunned by pain, fragile, weak, helpless, at the mercy of excesses of anger, of regurgitations of pride, hatred and resentment.

Yet the experience of separation can become an experience of God. There are two characteristics at the base of this story: the slowness with which I lived this experience, which gave me the opportunity to discern and the silence and prayer that opened the doors of my heart to the Holy Spirit, accepting his suggestions. This helped me to contain the pain.

Five years ago, when V. and I separated, M. was seven years old. She has always been a very perceptive and mature child and immediately knew how to communicate what she felt inside, expecting things that were fundamental to her. For this reason, M. was the nail that held me close to my cross at that time. With the simplicity of a child, she asked me questions and demanded answers. One day she said: “Mom, do you love Dad? ‘. A point-blank question that required a sincere and coherent answer.

Before knowing my answer, we need to take a step back in time. One of the greatest pains in this whole story was the suffering we were causing our daughter. M. was so wanted, for five years no children had arrived, and various medical specialists had told us that we could never have them because of our infertility. And then, unexpectedly she was born. Motherhood to me was an experience of great love.

Strangely, the arrival of that little being had transported me to open a window of love for humanity which included every man and woman on the planet, and how could I be so selfish as not to think about M. right now? Me, who had wanted her so much! But my wounded self, who was feeling such excruciating pain, was now capable of emotions such as anger, resentment, hatred. So strong, so intense, that they took possession of me and clouded my mind.

To counter them, greater strength was needed.

I confided in a fellow member of the Focolare Movement that I needed to free my heart from all these negative emotions to make room only for love. But where could I experience concrete love? Where could I be nourished and fill my heart with love? I needed significant motivation.

The drive for change was my daughter. First, I had wanted her, then came the miracle of her birth; her first glance, when she fixed her black eyes on mine, generated such love within me that I had never experienced. This was the way forward, where would it lead me?

Ezio Aceti, a psychologist I had contacted, often told me to always tell the truth to my daughter, a truth within her reach. I looked straight into her black eyes as she always does to me to be sure of my sincerity, and I told her: “I will always want what is good for your dad, as dad wants what is good for mom and we both want your good”.

Without realizing it, with this answer I had marked out my life itinerary. Moving “from loving well” to “wanting good”. M., day after day, pushed me to see V. with different eyes, with her eyes, with the innocent and simple eyes of a child. From being a nail that hooked my flesh to my cross, M., little by little, has become a meeting point of God’s gaze. Grafting myself into love for M. I began to see V. as a child of God.

I believe that M. and I are the mutual fruit of what the Holy Spirit wanted to achieve by whispering in our heart, like a divine Cyranus, words and thoughts that led us to live to the full the hard and painful experience of separation. Finally, the light of the Resurrection brought us out of what I called the stigmata of separation. Through a grace which helped us to rediscover and make sense of things and the love between us which gave us the strength to carry on, I know that without M. I would not have opened my heart to the creativity of the Holy Spirit, and I would not have been able to have this kind of experience.

Y and I continue to work together, each aware of his own faults, each capable of forgiving the other, each finally able to stand seeing and welcoming the other. One day God willing, I will find a way to tell this experience to my daughter and I will thank her for the opportunity she gave me, this seven-year-old girl, with few certainties and little awareness of what was happening, taught me to love myself and others.

This has been a long, tiring, tortuous journey where fundamental roles were  played by a psychotherapist, he “recomposed” me, (he put the pieces back together), and brought me back to being me; the accompaniment of a friend of the Focolare Movement with her silence, tenderness, delicacy and welcome; and spiritual guidance of a priest who allowed me to believe that the sacrament of marriage continues to live, that particular grace is not over and even if we are separated we remain a family.

(compiled by Aurelio Molè9