Dear Mary Beth,
I guess God knows that I choose to not want to marry anyone divorced – whether they have an annulment or not – because I don’t think that their life experiences would be a good match for mine. Also, I have always believed that my wife should be someone who didn’t spend years together with another man being sexually intimate. Even though I am not a young person anymore my beliefs have not changed related to dating divorced women.
I also think that I am doing the will of God by practicing what I believe. I think that if I didn’t have faith in God it probably wouldn’t matter if anyone I was interested in dating had religious beliefs or not or whether they were previously married or not. We all can change our future every day by what we do, how we believe, and making the right choices about our environment and people that we associate with.
The beautiful thing about marriage is that it is a free choice. We are – or at least we should be – free to marry or not to marry anyone we choose. (Well, I suppose that person has to be willing to marry us – so I guess we aren’t completely free.) And thus, you are perfectly within your rights to exclude any persons, or group of persons, whose life experiences you don’t believe would be a good match for yours.
Many single Catholics are reluctant to date divorced men and women who haven’t received annulments from the Church. Their reasoning isn’t about the sexual history of the person involved but is rather related to the fact that the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize civil divorce. Without an annulment, a divorced person is presumed to be validly married unless or until a Church tribunal determines otherwise. They avoid dating the divorced out of respect for the institution of marriage.
You, however, didn’t mention anything about that. Rather, you say you don’t want to marry a woman who has spent years being sexually intimate with another man.
You talk about divorced women but never mention the widowed. In reality, a widow would be in the same situation vis a vis her sexual history. In order to be consistent, those women would have to be scratched off your list as well, as would a wide variety of other women who may have repented of mistakes from their past.
As I said, you are certainly within your rights to build that list any way you’d like. And given your current mindset, I think it’s safe to say that you’re doing those women a favor by avoiding them. But whether you’re “doing the will of God by practicing what you believe” in this matter is another story.
God isn’t so much impressed with us for “practicing what we believe” as He is by our striving to conform our will to His. There are many, many people who hold beliefs that are radically contrary to the will of God. Others, like you, have a certain rigidity in your beliefs that goes beyond morality into the realm of personal preference. And it is very possible that those beliefs, while not being immoral per se, are closing you off to something wonderful that God may have planned for you.
Has it ever occurred to you that you could be missing out on spending your life with a really wonderful woman whom God has chosen for you, all because of your narrow pre-judgment about her “life experience”? You could have children (perhaps yours, perhaps not – but either way, created in the image and likeness of God and placed under your fatherhood for His purposes). You could have a partner, someone who would love you and be at your side and support you and help you to get to heaven.
But you may be shutting all of that out because you are clinging to your “beliefs” instead of trusting God and His providence.
My one word of caution, if any of this resonates with you, would be to pray for a change of heart before you actually go out and get involved with someone who doesn’t meet that current criterion. If a woman has been married previously and is free and open to marriage again, she doesn’t need to open her heart to a man who sees her previous marriage as an obstacle, even if he’s trying to get over it.
But I would recommend that you do pray for that change of heart. Examine your own motives and desires. Is it really her “life experience” that is getting in the way? Is there perhaps some insecurity, possessiveness or jealousy? Is it a lack of trust in His providence? Ask God to reveal that to you and to point you toward whatever resources you need to get out of it.
God loves you, and He wants great things for your life. Who knows what He may have in store for you if you just open yourself up to His plan?