Dating Dilemma: “Should I Date A Divorced Man?”


Dilemma

In the last year of writing for CatholicMatch, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know so many of the members through article comments, the forums, and especially the personal emails I receive. It’s great to get your comments and questions because it really helps me keep my finger on the pulse of what’s important to you.

Recently, a CatholicMatch member who I’ll call Jennifer told me about a dilemma she was having regarding dating a man who was divorced. Jennifer has never been married and the gentleman she was involved with did not have a decree of nullity when they first met. Although he eventually went through the process, she tried her best to remain just friends with him but as their friendship grew, she developed strong feelings for him.

There was also a significant age difference between them, a factor that was met with disapproval from her family and led Jennifer to doubt her involvement with him at all. She wrote:

“I must make a decision because this man whom I have come to dearly love, even though I shouldn’t, has given up because I cannot make my mind up. Is this God’s way of removing me from the situation or am I just afraid of people’s opinions and my own lack of courage. Could God ever desire such a union?”

After having been divorced myself, I am particularly sensitive to these issues, both on the part of those who are divorced and trying to rebuild their lives, as well as those who have not been married and wonder about issues like those Jennifer described. Especially when strong emotions are involved, it’s easy to become confused about what the correct decision is to make.

Here are a few things I shared with Jennifer that I would like to share with you all, no matter what your dilemma is:
 
First, if you are in a dating relationship with someone and your conscience is bothering you about anything, you should step back from it and consult God through prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and confession. Being reserved and cautious is great but feelings may still become stronger and you might find yourself in a really difficult situation. If your conscience is bothering you, you need to discern why. Here are few reflection questions I use when I need to discern an answer:
 
  1. What are the pros and cons of the situation? (make a physical list and see if one outweighs the other)
  2. If I proceed with this situation, what about it, if anything, will bring me and anyone else involved closer to God?
  3. If I proceed with this situation, what about it, if anything, will lead me and anyone else involved away from God?
  4. Is my desire to continue connected to pride or vanity or can I honestly say I am proceeding with humility?
 
If you take some time to reflect on these questions, you can usually see beyond the emotions you feel and have a sensibly balanced answer that will let you know how you should proceed.
 
It will also help to to overcome the trap of worrying about what others say/think about your personal situation. I always want to know what my family members and friends think about an important decision I make, because I trust their judgment. But they can’t make the decision for me, it’s mine to make and I need to consider all aspects, not just their opinion. 
 
I think the experience of divorce makes many men and women better dates and better spouses because they understand what it means to suffer for love, and they have allowed their experiences to change them for the better. But another important point to consider in dating someone who is divorced, of course, is that pesky little piece of paper called a decree of nullity (annulment). Many people see this as an obstacle to happiness but nothing could be further from the truth. The annulment process is a cleansing and healing process that truly sets one free to remarry if they have received one.
 
Jennifer’s friend was not very concerned with having an annulment before dating and situations like that should be a concern. It could be that your date doesn’t really understand Church teaching or what the annulment process is about, but it also could be a sign of disinterest in doing things the right way. Caution!
 
I hope this helps and I welcome your thoughts, questions, and comments anytime. You can contact me at asklisa@catholicmatch.com. As always, my best wishes and prayers for you in your search for your perfect match!
 





7 Comments

  1. Stephen-725391 July 16, 2012 Reply

    Lisa,

    You have, as it is sometimes said, hit it on the head. You are ABSOLUTELY correct in this statement – “your conscience is bothering you about anything, you should step back from it and consult God”. The four questions that you have laid out are practical, down to earth acts (actions) to resolve (discern) the conscience issue. I have intentionally rearranged you schedule, placing the practical actions first and NOW those can be taken for consultation with God. Once you have the issue plainly and clearly in front of you, then you can relate to a gospel passage, sermon, even the common prayers in Adoration, Mass, Confession, etc.

    You end by using this phrase -“doing things the right way.” For whatever it’s worth, ‘doing things the right way’ has, to date, lead me to a better result than trying to short-cut things (done that too). Just so everyone understands, for reasons available to all who wish to see not just me because of the difficulties (I like the term ‘pesky’) the Tribunal is causing me in the annulment process, the Church has an institutional aversion to “doing things the right way” also.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence for divorced people and their suitability in practical terms as dates and spouses.

    As always, a nicely done piece clearly showing a good balance between praying and doing.

    God Bless you and yours,

    Stephen

  2. Monique-873151 July 16, 2012 Reply

    Hi Lisa, thanks for your insightful article. What is your opinion on being in a marriage where your spouse has an annullment but has children and a wife previously. Doesn’t this cause some sort of a scandal considering in the eyes of the world this is just like a Catholic divorce since the world does not understand our idea of the sacrament of Marriage? It kind of seems like we’ll just blend in like everyone else as well as the effects this has on children.
    Can you shed some light here?
    God bless,
    Monique

  3. Taiti-869046 July 25, 2012 Reply

    rthy

  4. Jason-119281 September 12, 2012 Reply

    Hi All….

    I appreciate Lisa addressing this issue. This situation has been out there in the Church forever – well – several recent decades anyway. Unfortunately, sound catechesis on this matter has not necessarily been common place, and now, surprise (NOT!) there is considerable confusion on the matter. I might just offer a few thoughts on this. First, technically speaking, until a person has actually received “a decree of nullity” – in the mind of Mother Church – they are married. I quite honestly have yet to REALLY understand why priests etc, ever “sign-off” on a couple dating when either party is going through the annulment process. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy to tell a man and woman with obvious interest mutual they should not be getting dating, let alone, getting engaged while either is going through this process. In virtually all of my experience, all parties in involved in this scenario seem supremely confident the annulment with go through. And, granted, apparently a sum total of about 5% of annulments are denied – not exactly bad odds for a betting couple. And, I say “betting couple” , because when the rubber meets the road, or the undesirable organic matter hits the fan, any two people who are dating when one is going through the process are gambling. It may sure seem like a sure bet, but if they are wrong, people are going to PAY if that piece of paper called “a decree of nullity” is denied. Anyone ever meet a woman or guy that was THRILLED to have an engagement broken off – regardless of the reason? Granted, just dating is several notches down on the relationship “totem pole” from engagement, but still, the more physically oriented the relationship gets, the harder it is to “throttle back”. I am presuming most dating folks are at least holding hands and this kinda thing – and thereby – increasing the emotional investment and attachment.

    However, it’s not the consequence of ending a relationship that really “tops the bill” here. If we condense a mythical “Top Ten” list to a “Top Two” list – the existing marriage itself HAS to “Headline”. Like it or not, the annulment process itself is proof that a person is considered married in the eyes of the Church. Consequently, a civilly divorced, but still married man or woman IS still married until they receive a decree of nullity! So, while it’s mighty darn tempting for a priest or others to condone the choice to date in this situation – presumably on account of being “pastoral” – this is actually in error. If a person is married in the Church – they are married – period! There is NO such thing as being “kind of married” when it comes to Sacramental unions – which Matrimoney is. This is a supernatural contract, even more yet, a covenant between two people and God. And, when one enters a Covenant with God, this is NOT to be trifled with or dealt with lightly. I am NOT convinced the gravity and importance of this sacrament is frequently presented or proclaimed – nor the goods and ends proper to this sacrament for that matter. God designed marriage with one principle objective – to serve a spouse towards Sainthood – aka…Herioc Virtue. It’s NEVER heroic to make decisions that push the grey areas of vice and sin.

    So, the real question one might ask themselves is, would I date someone if I was married to another? This, just putting it point blank, is the reality. Naturally, how this is presented and addressed to specific people in real life situations requires a great deal of sensitivity, compassion, and empathy towards all involved. However, about the only thing worse than being blunt and painfully direct on this, is condoning a course of action that inevitably leads one away from grace and thereby Christ. Sin NEVER brings one closer to Christ. And, while some might attempt to argue this is not sinful, I challenge with the following: what is more Herioc and Virtuous…..doing something that is questionable at best and may indeed lead to vice or sin, or choosing the path is clearly virtuous and in keeping with Charity, and consistent with Christ and His Church?

    Holy Matrimony as designed and created by its Maker – God Himself – is meant to produce St. Wife and St. Husband. And this requires the highest and greatest of sacrificial, self-giving Love which two people can only achieve by keeping God in the Middle of EVERYTHING and making Him “mind his own business”…NEVER! All of this is God’s business, and the more He is the “Center of Attention”, the happier and more fulfilling the marriage will be. So, if you are trying to decide whether or not to date a person going through the annulment process – ask yourself the following:

    How will this increase both of our prayer lives? Time and Quality….

    How will this lead us both to grow in virtue, and greater capacity to suffer and sacrifice for Christ? Charity is the GREAT virtue, Queen of All virtue which calls to service even when this is the hardest, or costs one the most.

    Is this in complete accordance with the Teaching of the Catholic Church which is the infallible mouthpiece of Jesus Himself – the Catechism of the Catholic Church for one example.

    Any “no” or “I don’t know” to any of the above is a RED FLAG! Remember, conscience is only as good it is properly and “correctly” informed by Church Teaching. The Catechism is a sure guide – and any decisions made in ignorance of this is a potential liability.

    Ok, my rambling is done, God Bless all – may the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and all of heaven intercede for everyone on this site :)

    Jason

  5. Naomi-698107 January 25, 2013 Reply

    The problem with conscience is not everyone’s conscience is up to standard. The reality is if a person is divorced and not annulled they are still married in the eyes of God and the eyes of the Church, dating them, entertaining the notion of dating them is akin to adultery.

    If the person doesn’t have an annullment, they have no business dating. Period.

    The excuse of “but we love each other” is nonsense in this instance. Love is willing the good of the other, even at the expense of self. It is not loving to endanger a person’s mortal soul, or your own, with the sin of adultery.

    Yeah, it sucks if an annullment isn’t granted, that person can not get married in the Catholic Church, and any marriage they enter into civilly will be void and adulterous; so the best bet is to insure correct marriage prep in the first place. Too many people are entering into marriage with out the proper understanding as to what it is.

    • Ann-69118 May 30, 2014 Reply

      I agree with your totally. I dated a few divorced guys before really understanding the teachings of the church. One was in the annulment process but had a ways to go and still dealing with his bitterness about his past relationship. He ended things when he felt we were getting too close. Second guy had no intention of getting an annulment at all I ended that one. One guy I talked with was not even divorced though he put divorced on his profile and admitted he was still in love with wife and they had only been separated for a few months :-/ I quickly ended communication. Many divorced guys are looking for companionship I don’t blame them for not wanting to be alone but they need to heal themselves first and go about getting annulment if they really want a healthy relationship. So in summary I won’t consider any divorced guys anymore it’s not worth my time. I’d rather stay single than go through the drama they seem to carry with them. Technically they still married as well so I don’t feel right morally about dating them.

  6. Kate O. September 17, 2013 Reply

    Hi! just curious; what if they are divorced and not Catholic?

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