Several years after my divorce, I felt one of the important factors in healing needed to be taking the focus off myself and my troubles, and focusing on serving the needs of someone else. My parish needed a teacher for the 1st Communion class, so I volunteered. It was such a great experience and the 2nd graders were fantastic. Their cheerful smiles and funny statements always brightened my evening, regardless of what had happened before I got there.
On one particular evening, we were going over the 10 Commandments and one of the children asked, “Miss Madrid, what does ‘adultery’ mean?”
I took a deep breath and imagined myself in a most cynical and sarcastic saying, “Okay kids, gather ’round. Aunt Lisa’s going to tell you about adultery.” Of course, I didn’t and never would do that to any child, but because I was still dealing with a lot of anger and resentment surrounding my divorce, the temptation to let it affect my words and actions was certainly there.
It’s easy to believe that what happened in the past should remain there, but what about when you’re on a date, and your date is curious about what happened? How do you describe what happened in your previous marriage and divorce to someone new, who is naturally curious? To be fair to your date, there should be at least partial disclosure and this can become uncomfortable for you. How do you not become negative about something that was very negative? Yes, it can be tricky.
First and foremost in this situation, make sure that you are healed enough to date, and available (have a decree of nullity). It’s true, after a divorce there will always be memories of what happened, but if you’re truly seeking to be healed, it will happen. In the past, I’ve encouraged you to take the steps of the 5 Keys To Healing process – Acceptance, Forgiveness, Letting Go, Gratitude, and Moving On. These steps prepare you for a new relationship and especially for tackling this tough question. But here are important ways you can share your experience with a previous marriage and divorce in a positive way:
1. Economize your words
Think about this: your date asks you why you got a divorce and your reply is, “He left me for another woman he had been having an affair with for 2 years. He left me and our children with very little money and ignores his kids completely since he got remarried.” Okay. That may be the truth of your situation, but if this is your explanation, you sound like a victim and that will probably be a huge turn-off for your date.
You might try this, instead: “The divorce was not my idea, but he was insistent because he wanted to move on to other things. It’s been rough on my kids and me, but we’re a lot stronger today because of all that’s happened. I think we’ve become a lot closer to each other.”
You are stating the same information with a different attitude. If your date wants to know more, he or she will ask and you’ve politely given your date the opportunity to ask – you didn’t dump it all out. Even better, by you are paving the way for the beginning of a positive style of communication - another important aspect of forming relationships. From there, it’s like descending a staircase. You go from level to level together.
2. Don’t Spouse Bash
You may have been married to someone whom you believed to be the antichrist or a psycho, but again, if you’re ready to date then you’ve recovered from that. You’re making a new life for yourself, and you want to present to your date a heart that is ready to love and be happy again. This will be very difficult if you only have harsh words for your former spouse. Chances are, your date will hear the negativity and see themselves being talked about that way some day. Always remain charitable when it comes to speaking about your ex-spouse.
The truth needs to be told, no doubt. You just need to show your date you respect his or her questions while doling out the information in a prudent manner. Prudence is key here and definitely another sign to your date that you are someone with integrity who can be trusted.