Even the thought of dating after a divorce or annulment is enough to cause shudders in the lives of those who understand what that truly means, and yet there comes a time in the lives of most divorced Catholics to ask whether or not to begin dating again. Pressure from society, even from loving, well-meaning friends and family, often encourages the divorced to begin dating quickly after divorce. Conversations at gatherings often begin with, “Are you seeing anyone?” followed by disappointed encouragement, “You will.”
Dating after divorce presents challenges beyond even those adolescents face. Aging does not mean you’ve outgrown awkward, shy, what-do-we-talk-about moments. It does not mean you automatically know when the time is right to reach over and hold hands or to ask for that first kiss. To complicate matters further, previous marriage and past sexual activity presents obstacles for a partner who no longer sees value in being chaste outside of marriage.
Post divorce dating can involve long distances and possibilities of combining two complete households. Relocating means finding a new job in a new town far away. For many who have been hurt by divorce, dating presents understandable challenges to trust, “What if I give up my home, my job, my family, friends, town that I love…and he/she leaves too?” What if I’m not good enough again?”
Beyond that, children are often thrown in the mix presenting more important considerations than any that revolve around two adults. How will your children accept your beau and sharing Mom’s time? How will your beau accept your children and sharing your time? How will children interact with potential step-siblings? Even if the single Mom is ready to begin dating, she should question whether her children are ready for her to begin dating. She should also wait to introduce a date until she is very sure of him and he of her. The single Mom must put her children ahead of her desire for dating at least for some time. She cannot forget that those precious children have also been scarred by divorce or that their wounds run deep below the surface. They must be treasured, protected, Loved, and sacrificed for.
Despite the risks involved and the opening oneself (and one’s children) up for more potential heartbreak, most divorced and annulled do think of dating again, and I am no exception. I remember my ex telling me that I’d find someone quickly. I remember looking down at my extended belly. I remember seeing my children in all their boyish glory (that is sometimes not so glorious!) and thinking, “Are you kidding???”
Over the months, I thought about what he had said and realized the truth there. I could date quickly if I wanted to, but I didn’t. I didn’t want the kind of man who would date a pregnant woman, a woman who had a chance to work things out with her husband. I didn’t want to date just anyone. He was right. I probably could find someone to date quickly if I wanted, but I didn’t want that. It wasn’t just about not being with the right guy either. Some of it was about me.
I had settled before. I had let my fears, my doubts, and my insecurities get the better of me, and I didn’t want that again. I needed to wait and build my life and the lives of my children before dating. I have to admit, I did get on some of those dating sites out there, Catholic, Christian. I even poked around a bit on some non-religious dating sites. I met one person on a Catholic site but discovered he was Catholic in name only and not someone I wanted to spend time with.
I also knew at that time that I was making foolish decisions and sliding back to my former, pre-married, selfish insecurities. At that time, I had been separated/divorced from my husband for about four years, and many people were telling me to jump back in to the dating scene, but I wasn’t ready. Fortunately, God gave me the Wisdom to pull back. While I continued to check forums, read message boards, and even contact people occasionally, I wasn’t truly interested in dating. I had to get myself and my boys on the right path first. I needed time to adapt, organize, grow, plan, pray, breathe.
I just needed time to breath on my own.
Too often loneliness and insecurity drive divorced Catholic, Christians, and people of many faiths to reach out and begin dating before being ready. After a divorce, especially a sudden or unwanted divorce, you need time to re-create who you are and what you will become. It is a time for exploring personal growth, job opportunities, a change in housing, and a shift of friendships. It is a time for strengthening yourself, your children, and a few truly meaningful family and friend relationships.
As much as one may want to jump into a new relationship and as eligible and wonderful as many potential dates may be, it is good to take some time between the break-up of your marriage and the blossoming of a new relationship. Give your heart time to heal, your mind time to adjust, and your body time to get physically strong. Give your children time to get used to having dad gone before looking like you’re trying to replace him.
No one wants to think the next relationship will not work out, but divorce statistics for second marriages are even higher than those for first marriages. Entering the dating field at a slow and steady pace and knowing when the time is right to move forward after your annulment may just be the best deterrent from finding yourself in the same position you were in during your first marriage.