Second marriage leads to unexpected ministry

marriage
Dorothy and Mike O’Boyle are looking for a few good couples to join them in offering marriage preparation classes to couples entering second marriages in the Catholic Church. LEAVEN PHOTO BY DOUG HESSE

by Marc and Julie Anderson
mjanderson@theleaven.org

LEAWOOD — Mike and Dorothy O’Boyle admit they don’t have the perfect marriage. In fact, that’s often the first thing they tell couples preparing for marriage.

As Mike likes to say, though, the couple has the perfect marriage for them.

As members of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood, the O’Boyles are just one couple in the archdiocese preparing couples for marriage. However, they are the only one to focus almost exclusively on couples comprised of at least one, if not two, individuals entering a marriage for a second time.

It’s a ministry they never envisioned doing, but one they say is rewarding.

In 2005, Dorothy lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Mike lived in Oklahoma City. Both of them were divorced, having come out of long-term marriages of 25 years or more. After meeting online, the two decided to meet in person to get to know one another.

During a lunch hour in 2006, they married in a civil ceremony. A year later, after both had received annulments from their first marriages, their marriage was blessed in the church.

With five adult children between the two and having gone through the annulment process, the O’Boyles said they feel as if they more fully appreciate and understand couples entering a second marriage than they would have without those experiences.

For example, decisions such as where to live can become more challenging. In their case, that decision eventually led to their ministry.

“Mike was always very aware of the fact that I wanted to be in an active relationship with my grandchildren,” said Dorothy. Her youngest son and his wife live in Overland Park. When her first grandchild, Noah, came along four years ago, having previously talked about it, the decision to move was easy.

In 2012, in less than three months, Noah was born, and the O’Boyles sold their home. They also moved their business and bought a home in Kansas. That was the same year Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann extended an invitation for couples to participate in a “Living in Love” retreat.

Having never done a retreat together, the O’Boyles decided to try it in hopes of deepening their relationship. During their second retreat, “Living in Love Every Day,” the coordinators asked if they would consider serving as a lead couple for marriage preparation.

The O’Boyles said they realized they’d been given a chance to help others learn from their mistakes — and successes. In 2013, they were certified as a lead couple and have since prepared more than 100 couples.

“Part of getting into a successful second marriage is to admit there were some failures in the first one,” Mike said. “We really worked hard, and we talked a lot about what we didn’t want to repeat in a second marriage. . . . We don’t have all of the answers, but we do have some life experiences we can share.”

Any marriage, the O’Boyles said, requires both parties to be willing to accept responsibility for their actions. However, couples preparing for a second marriage have unique needs.

For example, sometimes couples bring young children to the marriage and their new spouse will be required to co-parent. Other couples have adult children who may not like the idea of their parents getting remarried.

Navigating those waters might not be easy, the O’Boyles said, but it’s important to talk through potential areas of conflict ahead of time.

“We want you to build your fire evacuation plan now. Don’t wait until the house is on fire. That’s a recipe for disaster,” Mike said.

Areas that can cause difficulties run the gamut from relationships with previous in-laws, holiday expectations, burial plans, the former spouses, discipline of children and even the possibility adult children can become romantically involved.

While there’s no way to anticipate every issue, the key, the couple said, is to understand where the other person is coming from.

Prior to each marriage prep session, the O’Boyles receive a snapshot of each of the couples preparing for marriage from the archdiocesan marriage and family life office. In that way, they are alerted to areas they might want to explore with the preparing couples.

“We emphasize where we need to,” said Dorothy, “but it’s not a lot of lecturing. It’s more about them communicating rather than us imparting information to them.”

Although they’ve tried different formats, currently the O’Boyles host two Saturday sessions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a week off in between sessions. Each session consists of presentations of five to 10 minutes, followed by 10 to 30 minutes for the couples to talk privately. During the off-week, couples complete homework designed to get them talking on a deeper level, especially about how their previous marriages will affect their pending marriages.

One of the biggest challenges for couples entering second marriages, they said, is re-establishing normalcy.

“Nothing is going to be normal like you’re used to,” said Mike. “You have to re-establish it.”

“We try to introduce them to all of the tools that will help them be successful,” he continued.

But the O’Boyles can’t do it alone.

There’s quite a need in the archdiocese for additional lead couples.

Mike said he knows that some couples might feel they have no right to lead others when their own first marriages have failed.

But he would disagree.

“I think there are a lot of couples who have a great story to tell,” Mike said.

And their experience might help someone else make a success of their second marriage.

“So long as you’re trying to succeed and move forward,” said Mike, “and doing it with the church.”

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