So, you’ve made it through the annulment process and you have a decree of nullity in hand. Some people feel as if they’ve been freed from jail when this happens. Congratulations, if you are one of them.
Others, however, may walk away with a bittersweet feeling. You know you now are free to date and marry, but you still mourn for your previous marriage. This was the boat I was in the day I received the final decree (the letter in the second instance).
So, now what? You were divorced, you are now annulled, now what do you do? Where do you start from?
Here are some surefire ways to catapult yourself toward a happy future:
1. Take A Personal Inventory
Okay, so the cloud of dust from the annulment process has settled and you have your decree of nullity in hand. You are looking ahead to dating and finding a relationship, but there are a number of issues that were brought to light during the annulment process that still require your attention before you begin dating. Frequently, the tribunal will dictate that one must receive counseling before entering into a new relationship or render some similar type of restriction, but oftentimes, you just know without a tribunal dictate that there are personal improvements you can make on your own. Aspects of your life and the type of person you are that contributed to the breakdown of your marriage that you need to improve upon. This is the perfect time to identify those things you still need to work on and raise the bar on your level of personal integrity. Take some time, preferrably in Eucharistic Adoration, to create a plan that allows you to tackle those issues; identifying the problems or obstacles and devising a practical way to overcome each one.
2. Don’t Be A Lazy Dater
The real purpose of dating is to find out if you and the person you are dating are going to get married. But a lazy dater is someone who is simply content to have a good time without any real intention of making a commitment if things start to get serious. This causes unnecessary pain and suffering for the person you are dating and who hopes to have a serious relationship. If, at any point, you realize the one you are dating is not “the one” don’t continue the relationship on the basis of a hopeful romance, especially if you are just waiting until you find someone you are more interested in. Be honest and forthright with your date. There may be disappointment, but everyone appreciates honesty over being strung along and then dropped like a hot potato.
3. Test Your Call
Are you supposed to be married or are you being called to a different vocation? This was a nagging question for me, personally, a short time after I received my decree of nullity. And as much as I wanted to get married, I knew I needed to take the time to test my call and look into other life options. I went on a retreat at a center for religious vocations and set an appointment to meet with the Carmelite nuns in my area. In the end, I became quite certain that God had intended me to be a wife and it was wonderful to be able to proceed down that road with confidence.
Here are two websites where you can find outstanding resources for testing your call:
4. Use Your Experience To Help Someone Else
Just like AA has sponsors to help others recover from alcoholism, just like parishes have seasoned married couples helping newlyweds, you can use your experience to help someone else who is going through a divorce. Lead a support program, get involved in the Stephen Ministry, become an advocate for the annulment process, etc. There are so many people who are struggling to keep their heads above the waters of divorce and so many questions you can help answer since you’ve been through it already. I highly recommend doing something to serve the divorced community in the Church. You will get back more than you give.
I invite your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.