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How to navigate on-again-off-again relationships like this holy couple


Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

Cecilia Pigg - published on 01/26/21

Chiara Corbella Petrillo and her husband Enrico had a tumultuous dating relationship, yet went on to have a beautiful marriage.

Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo had a tumultuous relationship with Enrico, the man who became her husband. They broke up several times while dating before getting engaged and married. But then, once they got married, they had a beautiful and fruitful marriage.

People who knew them say that it was a joy to be around them as a married couple. Their story provides a ray of hope to anyone who has ever been in a similar situation. It often seems impossible to know what to do when you’re in a relationship that goes through rocky times. You might ask yourself, when do you know if you should break up for good or get back together? And if you have broken up more than once, is there still hope that you can have a successful relationship and marriage long-term?

If you are wondering how to navigate an on again, off again relationship, consider trying what Enrico and Chiara did. 

First of all, Chiara and Enrico went to spiritual direction and asked for help navigating their relationship. They went to the same priest for direction, but separately, after taking a course on vocations. Their priest’s guidance was very important in helping them sort out the twists and turns of their dating life together. He got to know each of them, and the clarity and insight (rooted in Christ) that he provided them helped them move forward in confidence. 

Secondly, they did not commit fully until they forgave each other. The two had a couple of very important moments of reconciliation and healing. One was a conversation during which Enrico talked to Chiara about his frustration that they weren’t able to move forward in their relationship. In this particular talk, Chiara was able to open up and be the most vulnerable she had ever been, and it enabled them to decide to see each other more clearly. Afterwards, they decided to give the relationship one last chance, and went on a 10-day hike to the Portiuncula chapel of St. Francis in Assisi. On that hike, they were able to forgive each other for the ways they had hurt each other throughout their relationship. They each had some bitterness and resentment toward the other that they had to overcome and let go of. At the end of that trip, they decided to get married. 

Finally, in order to move forward in engagement and marriage, both Enrico and Chiara had to confront the issues that were holding them back. Enrico thought loving Chiara would be too difficult. He didn’t want to deal with the sacrifice it would involve to stay in relationship with her. And he had to finally realize that he subconsciously blamed her for the things going wrong in his life. Chiara, on the other hand, was not able to be as vulnerable as she needed to be to make the relationship work. She also realized she couldn’t cling too tightly to him or the relationship, and had to learn to trust God that it would work out if it was the right thing for both of them.

Their engagement and marriage were very peaceful compared to the tumult and anxiety that was present in their dating life. In addition to asking for Chiara’s intercession in your own relationship, try following her example when you need to sort things out. Ask for help. Talking to a priest or counselor about what’s going on in your dating life might be exactly what you need. Recognize the need to forgive your boyfriend or girlfriend. And don’t be afraid to tackle the big problems in your relationship. It might take some time and self-reflection to realize what is tripping you up, but if you can put your finger on your problem and take ownership of it, clarity might follow.  

Information about Chiara Corbella Petrillo was found in the book A Witness to Joy


Read more:
On the road to sainthood: The widower of Chiara Corbella talks about his wife’s faith and their marriage

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