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:
- What are the pros and cons of the situation? (make a physical list and see if one outweighs the other)
- If I proceed with this situation, what about it, if anything, will bring me and anyone else involved closer to God?
- If I proceed with this situation, what about it, if anything, will lead me and anyone else involved away from God?
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, my best wishes and prayers for you in your search for your perfect match!