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Divorce & Annulments

“I know sex isn’t important to you, but it’s important to me.” 

That was my co-worker who was telling me all about her new boyfriend and how well they were getting along but didn’t like hearing my suggestion that they shouldn’t be sleeping together. 
 
I was purposely digging a little deeper into her new-found elation and asked why she would sleep with her new boyfriend so quickly. How could she really get to know him when she’s all wrapped up in the good feelings and emotions that come with intimacy? What would happen when the good feelings stop happening? That’s when I got reprimanded for “not liking sex.” She knew that as a single woman (at the time) I believed chaste dating was the way to go.
 
The attitudes of many non-married people today are scary. Sleeping with each other apparently is the primary goal of any date. If you seem to be compatible with each other in the bedroom within the first few days, then you get the “happy relationship” stamp. What happened to courtship, people?
 
I think I know why so many people get discouraged trying to find a solid, lasting relationship. It’s because there is no excellence in dating.
 
Excellence is what you work hard for in your career, in sports, in whatever it is you do. Especially after divorce, when learning to trust someone again is a big deal, doesn’t it make sense that you would want to make dating the best possible experience? 
 
Beyond the obvious suggestion of remaining chaste, here are a few tips on how to have excellence in dating:
 
 
1. Be completely available to date. No strings attached. Make sure you have a decree of nullity from your tribunal that states you are free to marry in the Church. But more than that, make sure there are no burdens of anger and resentment toward your ex-spouse. Forgiveness frees your heart and prepares it for the excitement and fulfillment of love. Also, make sure your children, if you have them, are ready for this step. Kids need a lot of security to help them heal. If they aren’t ready to see you with someone else, there will be difficulties and that will take away from your excellence in dating experience.
 
 
2. It’s not me, it’s you. Don’t go into the date thinking, “Is this the one that will make me happy?” Think, “Is this the one I can make happy?” Of course, you want to be with someone who makes you happy, but too many people have the Janet Jackson syndrome: “What have you done for me lately?” That’s a recipe for disaster, my friends. What do you bring to the table? What makes you the right one? Let your desire to love translate directly to how much you listen to and how well you respond to the needs of the other person.
 
 
3. Accept your date for who he is, not what you think he can be nor what you wish he would be. A big mistake women make is believing they can change a man. This should not be criteria for choosing a spouse. Be yourself, and let your date be authentic as well. In doing so, you’ll know whether or not you are right for each other much sooner than later.
 
 
4. Be romantic. Romance might mean walking on the beach together for one person or dinner by candlelight for another, but what is really romantic are words. They way you communicate with each other should be the key to romance. Physical affection is good in appropriate amounts, but love each other with your words and actions. Don’t be afraid to let your date know what it is about her you find attractive. Don’t hesitate to give a genuine compliment or do something nice for him. When my husband and I were long-distance dating from Connecticut to Atlanta, I called a near-by pizza joint one evening and ordered him a pizza for dinner when he was swamped with work and couldn’t take a break to eat. (By the way, I successfully talked the pizza guy into making it a heart-shaped pizza!) It’s OK, you can laugh, but from a distance, it was the best I could come up with.
 
 
Ladies, gentlemen, let’s bring class and integrity back to the dating game. Sex is easy.
 
Getting to know and really love someone takes effort, but doesn’t everything that’s worth having take effort? Saving the honeymoon for after the wedding is not only classy, but smart. By the time you walk together to the altar, you’ll know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, gifts and faults, and just how compatible you are together. There’s no smoke and mirrors, just a lifetime to spend with your best friend.
 
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17 Comments

  1. Stephen-725391 April 26, 2012

    Lisa, the items you list and discussed regarding – is it dating or courtship or both? Since you state in #1 being fully available to date, it seems to imply that dating and courtship is one and the same. This is of concern because if I, applying what you have said to ME, follow what I believe you are saying – I just find a closet, crawl in and wait until someone at the tribunal, or my kids, or someone else says it’s ok to look and interact with a female.

    So could you DEFINE – Date? It all seems to be a catch 22!

    Stephen

    • Lisa Duffy
      Lisa Duffy April 27, 2012

      Stephen and Ali,

      Great question and you’ve actually beat me to the punch on this… I have a post coming up next week that addresses the issue of people who are divorced but not annulled.

      First, please allow me to point out that you, Stephen, have a unique situation of which I do not know all the details. I do know you are very angry about what’s going on especially because you’ve said that you’ve been assured the annulment will be granted and all you are waiting on is that piece of paper stating this. So, taking this into consideration, it might be better for you to seek the answer to this question as it pertains to you personally, from a priest who knows the details of your case.

      But outside of some special circumstances, divorced Catholics should not be dating on a romantic basis until they have a decree of nullity in hand. Does this mean you should “find a closet, crawl in and wait until someone at the tribunal, or my kids, or someone else says it’s ok to look and interact with a female” as you wrote?

      Of course not and the Church does not expect you to live like a hermit. You need social relationships, but that’s where it needs to remain until you have confirmation that you are free to marry in the Church. Social relationships, not romantic relationships. There are plenty of ways to do this; going out in groups is the best way.

      You may read this and think I’m an alien from Mars who has no idea what it’s like to live in modern society. I don’t have a problem with this. But I speak from experience. I know being divorced, single, and waiting for a decree of nullity is not easy because I’ve lived it. Not only have I lived it, but I’ve also been on both the wrong side and the right side of the moral fence and take my advice – being on the right side of the fence is BY FAR the better choice.

      Believe it or not, the Church’s mandate that divorced people should not date until they’ve received a decree of nullity is a good thing and intended to protect you from future hurt – it’s not just a rule that must be followed. I understand you, Stephen, have grave doubts about your local tribunal, but these guidelines that are in place are there specifically to help us live happy, moral lives, not to take away some presumed “happiness.”

      So get out there and be social! There’s lots of things to do with others who share your circumstances.

      - Lisa

      • Stephen-725391 April 27, 2012

        Lisa,

        I have the greatest regard for you and KNOW that you have walked in the moccasins. However, there is no priest who knows my circumstances mainly because there aren’t enough priest to go around and spend the time to find out. 2nd, the tribunal and it’s advocates are a joke. The only option is to hire a firm of canon lawyers, but that takes money and who knows how much more time taken out of my life. Third, with all due respect, who in their right mind is going to socialize with a group (if you can find one, which the Catholic Church doesn’t approve of because of the prohibition of non-annulled fall in love) where the sign say DEAD END, ain’t going nowhere because you ain’t allowed! I don’t disagree with your conclusions, but at 63 I don’t see that the Church gives a damn, there is no urgency about the one sheep out in the wilderness when they got the other 99 in the corral.

        I am looking forward to reading this report on single in the Catholic Church and I’ll see if it’s a white-wash or not.

        You might what to address sex after the wedding as in my experience and with a large number of my male friends, it’s a no no then too! The term ‘marital debt’ is a pretty NEGATIVE term, don’t you think, and since the Church doesn’t enforce the ‘debt’ but prohibits relief nonetheless.

        By the way, Dr. Laura doesn’t dance around this issue.

        • Lisa Duffy
          Lisa Duffy April 27, 2012

          Dear Stephen,

          With utmost respect to you as a fellow Catholic and one who has suffered greatly because of divorce, I want to suggest one thing…

          You may not have that piece of paper that says you are free to marry – and it might just be out of your reach because of the incompetence of someone at the tribunal – but your heart is full of anger! Where is the room to love? This is just as important, if not more, than the other aspects.

          Your heart has imprisoned those who have angered you… they are locked up in little cells in your heart where you can punish them, but the only one being punished is you. Do you really want to bring that into a new relationship?

          I know it’s difficult to let go of resentment, especially when you’ve been unjustly wronged, but you must release your anger. You will never be happy in a relationship, in a group, or alone as long as you keep these hurts imprisoned in your heart.

          Sincerely – Lisa

          • Stephen-725391 April 27, 2012

            Lisa,

            I practiced indigent criminal (felony) defense and what was (is) interesting among these people is that they have no anger when JUSTLY convicted, it is when UNJUST means, ie injustice, are used to obtain the conviction. There is no doubt in my mind or heart that what occurred 40 years ago and during the marriage is my own doing and I take responsibility for it, I have stated it, clearly and without holding back anything. God hasn’t written up the paperwork for me, He didn’t assemble the documents initially nor the ones just obtained, He is working through other to get me the money to hire the canon lawyer (who I pray have enough integrity to do their job right) – I’m God’s hands here on earth regarding those things and I HAVE only me and no one to help me, to counsel me, to encourage me – ONLY me. I know you know how that hurts, so HOW do you release that hurt?

            Academically I FULLY understand the necessity to drive it out of my heart, if that is where it’s at, but drive it out is what I want – however, hints of how are all that is available and those are over the internet. Monday is the last day here, can’t afford to re-up. It’s really lonely out here.

            But whatever – Don’t send for whom the bell tolls…

            Stephen

        • Lisa Duffy
          Lisa Duffy April 27, 2012

          BTW, there are many DBNA (divorced but not annulled) Catholics out there who are in social groups, Catholic as well as non-Catholic, and are enjoying themselves as much as possible while they wait. It is true, it can be done.

          • Stephen-725391 April 27, 2012

            Lisa,

            At your end of the world maybe, out here in SW Washington and NW Oregon, nope and I’ve looked. I’ve got my close friends – the choir if you will – but I’d not list them in that category.

            Stephen

  2. Ali-788574 April 26, 2012

    A good question, Stephen, for those of us “in process”.

    • Stephen-725391 April 27, 2012

      Ali,

      Thanks. I’m in the process with a tribunal that in my professional (attorney) opinion is as corrupt as any judicial tribunal in this country. I’m to trust them, wait on them, expect them to do what they are supposed to do when they have given me every indication to the contrary and on top of that (I’m not to be concerned (sarcasm off)) I’m 63 and how long do they drag it out. Do I even get a chance at Lisa’s 4 steps?

      Stephen

      • Stephen-725391 April 27, 2012

        Heh, Ali and anyone else out there, look at this Blog just two down from here on CM Blog

        New Report: The Singles Problem In The Catholic Church

        You can get a free copy. Bet they got the same questions and hopefully some answers to MY questions.

        Stephen

  3. Ali-788574 April 27, 2012

    Aha! And why is being Single and a Catholic… A PROBLEM??

    • Stephen-725391 April 27, 2012

      I think that the Bishops got to answer that question and I for one WANT TO KNOW what they are going to say.

  4. Ramona-652361 April 27, 2012

    A great post you wrote “What would happen when the good feelings stop happening? ” Many times have I heard people say about a failed relationship, after the sex was done we found that we had nothing in common. I’m a fan of courtship.

  5. Christina Ries
    Christina Ries April 27, 2012

    Ali, the problem isn’t the single Catholics, who exist in record number, it’s the many others who have failed to recognize and address their presence. I hope you’ll request a copy (free!) and share it with your pastor. We have been working hard to prepare this report, loaded with good questions and — yes, Stephen — satisfying answers.

    Details: http://www.catholicmatch.com/blog/2012/04/free-single-catholics-books/

    • Stephen-725391 April 27, 2012

      It seems to me that the Bishops SHOULD BE issuing this report to their Parishes as a REQUIRED item available at the Parishes and IT should be found in every Sunday Bulletin and on every Parish web-site – NOT HIDDEN on a Catholic dating blog site! Ust saying!

  6. Monica-345711 May 7, 2012

    Lisa,
    Beautifully written with much wisdom! I agree whole-heartedly with what you wrote. Thank you! If God’s will is for me to remarry, then I look forward to walking down the aisle after a chaste courtship knowing that my future spouse and I know each other well and are not tainted by lust getting in the way of developing and growing the relationship. A beautiful honeymoon will be well worth the wait….and actually probably better yet because of the wait.
    Monica

  7. Meesch-691047 July 27, 2012

    Awesome reflections!

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