The 3 Biggest Mistakes When Dating After Divorce


Forgiving an ex-spouse isn't easy, writes Lisa Duffy

Dating after a divorce is just like getting back on the horse, right?

Well, not so much.

It certainly is not the same as dating before marriage, and frankly, I think it takes a lot of courage on the part of both the male and the female to “get out there again.” You’ve got to feel ready to date, you need to find the right place to look for a date, and you’ve got to find the right one to date. At least it seems those are the right questions to answer before dating, but I found – and you may have as well – that it’s just not that simple.

Popular belief in today’s society holds that the key to getting over a divorce is to find someone new. Friends and relatives always had “the perfect person” they wanted to set me up with and went to great lengths to talk me into going on dates. But what they didn’t understand and I found a difficult time articulating was a new relationship would not be the cure for the massive emptiness I felt from my divorce.

In my opinion, there are three key mistakes people make when dating after a divorce and I would like to help you avoid them. The first one, and the main subject of this article, is very simple and almost always overlooked: Many people are simply not healed enough to date and begin new relationships.

I remember once during my post-divorce years going to confession to a very wise priest, Fr. Carlton, and discussing with him how I was feeling about my ex-spouse and the frustration he was still putting me through three years after our divorce. During this confession, Fr. Carlton said to me, “You say you want to love, but how can you love when your heart is so full of resentment and bad feelings?”


That was a potent question and one that gave me much to think about. How could I love another man when my heart was full of these unresolved, painful feelings? Where was the room for love?


An imprisoned heart

I knew Fr. Carlton was right. I needed to rid my heart of the bad feelings toward my ex-spouse. I needed to forgive him.

I realized that my heart was like a prison where he was locked in a cell. Periodically, I would take him out and argue with him, telling him all the things I wished I had said when I remembered our arguments. Then I’d put him back in the cell and leave him there until the next time I decided to abuse him.

It was awful.

The worst thing about this was I was the one suffering the most from my lack of forgiveness. I expended an incredible amount of energy just being angry or upset. It also led me to believe that I could not trust men anymore, and that also had to be dealt with. A new relationship and possibly marriage would have to be, must be based on mutual trust and respect. Without it, there is nothing but a meaningless attraction.

So I worked hard on truly forgiving my ex-spouse. Forgiveness is a process and something I found I needed to do every day. The way I was able to achieve this was through practicing something else, too: acceptance.

I needed to accept the fact that I could not control the things my ex-spouse was doing, saying, or thinking. His leaving our marriage, his new lifestyle, and the reasons he gave others for all that was a source of incredible pain for me.

But I had to accept the fact that I could not control him. There simply was nothing I could do about it, so I had to let go of that and look to what I could control. That was my own actions, thoughts, and words.

I also had to accept that even though I was a good wife and fought for my marriage, I was not perfect. I had contributed to the break-up of my marriage in my own ways and I needed accept my faults and contributions to the divorce. This was not easy to do, but gradually, it helped me stop laying all the blame on others for my anger and pain.

Taking these two steps helped me tremendously in getting rid of the terrible feelings that were taking up room in my heart. In good time, I felt confident that if my ex-spouse ever walked into the same room I was in, I could walk up and shake his hand. And my heart became truly a place for love. Not simply love for someone new, but more importantly, for Christ. Through that exercise I found a greater love for God than I had ever experienced and it gave me joy and a great sense of peace.

I encourage you to take some time to reflect on these things; to see if your heart is available for a new love or if you need to do a little housecleaning… and we’ll talk about another big mistake in post-divorce dating next Thursday. In the meantime, count on my prayers for you!



Further reading

Don’t miss the second two parts of this exclusive CatholicMatch series:



  1. Lissa-956941 March 26, 2013 Reply

    This is very true. Forgiveness is an act that may not come naturally, but reflects God’s grace so freely given to us. We not only release our former partner, but our own souls in the process.

  2. Tess-922428 February 19, 2013 Reply

    I agree with this article. Not only for the sake of another relationship must one forgive and accept, but for one’s own sake. I’ve been alone for 12 years and it took me a good many of these years to finally forgive and accept completely. It helped me to be fair and see my part in all of what went wrong and this heiped tremendously. I came to realize that the only person I was hurting in the end was myself. Prayer and asking God to help me forgive and accept was paramount, I knew I could not have done it by myself, otherwise I would have. Once my resentment was lifted and I forgave, my life changed for the better. I stopped judging my ex and before I knew it I found my self not judging others as well. It is not easy to be non-judgemental, but it opens new doors and opens one to different kinds of good relationships on many levels with people I may have never considered before. In a nutshell, prayer was what helped me the most and I believe, the one thing that made all this possible.

  3. Kathleen-878558 September 13, 2012 Reply

    I enjoy your articles, but when I saw this one, I was confused. Shouldn’t it more accurately be labelled post-annulment dating, as you discuss in Part III, The Third Biggest Mistake: Dating Without An Annulment?

    • Cheryl C. November 7, 2012 Reply

      Exactly. Unless you have an annulment after your divorce you cannot marry in the Church, so why doesn’t this page reflect that? And just because you get a divorce is it by no means certain that you are entitled to an annulment.

  4. Audra-804267 February 28, 2012 Reply

    I think it not only takes forgiveness but also to be able to talk about why you felt that way at the time. Some of us are blessed enough to have reminders why we didn’t take those scared wedding vows before God and our families. I trust that my faith has carried me safe..and don’t plan on living my life..instead here to serve HIM in what so ever I do. Even if its placing trust he will send me a Godly man when the time is right!

  5. Lindy-769738 February 5, 2012 Reply

    Thank you Lisa for discussing: letting go of control and of forgiving yourself. These are big themes and are important in the healing process!

  6. Desmond-771761 January 8, 2012 Reply

    Dating after divorce for me just smothered the real issues that I left behind. I tried to rewrite the past by engaging in other relationships,and eventually marriage for the second time.. Though the two marriages are not reconised by the church. I am now four years on my own.. When my second marriage broke up, indeed it was very painful. Though I was trying to engagei in the christian way of life in another demonation. On the onset of my marriage I returned to church of my infancy with true repentance, Only then did I experience a true relationship with our Lord and Myself.. It is four years since my civil wife and I seperated.. I see her as a lovely woman, during our time of seperation we formed a wonderful frienship. Reecently she returned to the USA from my country Ireland just two days before Christmas. The core of our frienship started to form from within of our seperation. I made a decesion before our Lord with his help to look from within my own soul. Though at the same time knowing this was not all my fault, and to acknoledge this without becoming obbesive, as. It was imperitive for me not to focus on my wifes shortcomings. When the finger starts to point “you done this and you done that mentallity” it has no ending for the soul, unless forgiveness begings to foem and allow ones forgiving sprit to grow. I said goodbye to dear friend at Dublin Airport it was sad. Though most importantly we said our goodbyes in love and forgiveness Des 771761

  7. Anne-702606 December 26, 2011 Reply

    It is a nice and encouraging story to read of which i went through, though mine is not a divorce but my husband passed on due to cancer illness. When you are able to forgive and release that person be it a man or a woman and bless him/her then God releases His blessings to you and you able to move to your next life.

    Anne from Kenya (East Africa)

  8. Patty-361409 December 9, 2011 Reply

    Why are many the divorced or single men on Catholic match respond to views on sex not the same as that of the Catholic faith? It is almost as though if a woman also feels that they do not believe in Catholic views toward sex then they surely will find their match since why wait for marriage? Why have a Catholic match when or many of the other secular dating services have the same views!

  9. Gifford-769778 October 25, 2011 Reply

    t upsets me when I contact someone and never get an answer—and know I’ll never know if I’m being rejected by a member or could it be a non-member who is not allowed to respond.

    • Lisa Duffy
      Lisa Duffy October 28, 2011 Reply

      Hi, Gifford!

      I understand your concern and I believe there are other CM members who feel the same way you do. Life does get busy and that’s understandable, but you’re right, at some point a response of some sort is to be expected.

  10. Maritza-760864 September 20, 2011 Reply

    Im a little confuse about divorce (I listened in EWTN channel) that divorced people are allow to worship, attend mass, but not to confession and receive the eucaristy, because is not God will that people doesnt divorce. Only with the annulement the church can remarraige again, but it is a long process, and sometimes painful, and maybe you cannot get it. I was in the catecumenal path…and i was a witness of all the pain that divorced people had there, most divorced people that remarriage had to left her new husband or new wife and look for their first spouse…because for church they are still married with he first spouse… Im single …i think that divorce people have a new chance to be happy and to leave for a bad marriage. But im afraid if i can want to follow Jesus teaching i cant date with a divorce man.. Would you please enlight me about it? Please forgive my english…but it is not my mother’s language… Thank you a lot fo you response

    • Lisa Duffy
      Lisa Duffy September 25, 2011 Reply

      Dear Maritza,

      Great questions! The answer to all your questions lie in the annulment process. A Catholic who has been divorced and remarried without an annulment can come to mass but cannot receive Holy Communion, but someone who has been divorced and remains single and chaste certainly can receive Holy Communion. You should not date a man who is divorced without an annulment, but if you meet a man who has been divorced and has an annulment you are just fine.

      The Catholic Church requires the annulment process to help people heal and prevent them from making greater mistakes such as remarrying when they are not free to do so. It often happens that later in life, they want to return to the Catholic Church and the sacraments, but cannot do so without first going through the annulment process and this can be a very painful episode in their lives.

      This is why it’s so important to follow the Church’s recommendations immediately when a marriage breaks up. It eliminates so much potential pain.

      Thank you for your question and I will pray for your success as a Catholic Match member!

      Sincerely – Lisa Duffy

      • Jim N. May 9, 2012 Reply

        That’s absurd. The whole idea of annulment is that the marriage was never constituted in the first place; it’s not just the Catholic word for divorce. Doesn’t the Catechism teach that divorced people are called to chastity? I’m all in favor of the church rectifying its absurd doctrine on marriage and sexuality, but I find it hard to believe that your views on annulment would pass muster.

        • Lisa Duffy
          Lisa Duffy May 11, 2012 Reply

          You may find it hard to believe, Jim, but it’s the truth. Check the Catechism or Canon Law if you’re in doubt – they’re both available online.

  11. Elizabeth-753085 September 9, 2011 Reply

    So true!

  12. Jeff-448756 August 21, 2011 Reply

    This article is right on target. I was married for almost 27 years, and it took me over two years to even start thinking about dating. During those two years I committed all my energy to helping my kids, volunteering in the parish, staying fit through biking, running, coaching kids and tons of other activities. These type of activities restored my feeling of self worth and help me gain more friends. Now I am ready to open my heart up to another individual.

    Through Catholic Match, I met and dated two terrific ladies. Unfortunately both relationships ended because they were not fully healed from their divorce. I found out that the healing process requires a different period of time for each individual. One lady was divorced for only 1 1/2 years, while the other had been single for 14 years.

    Personally I don’t think you ever fully recover from a divorce…especially if you enjoyed being married and worked to keep the relationship going. There are always lingering feelings of remorse from a failed marriage…..but you have to move beyond these feelings if you ever hope to start a new chapter in your life.

  13. Joann-451185 August 10, 2011 Reply

    this is very informative. i agree with everything, my husband and i were separated 15 yrs, and when we got back togeather, i hadtotaly forgiven sad he died of lung cancer soon after but we forgave one another and we were togeather when he died i nursed him the whole time iam happy that everything happened the way it did,

  14. Kathy-587540 August 5, 2011 Reply

    Your article makes a lot of sense. I will definitely be praying about this to see where my heart is. I hear that you have just moved in next door to my sister-in law Deanna! What a small world!!! I was actually visiting her when your truck pulled up but I think we left the next morning. Anyway, not the place for this I know, but just wanted to say hello.

    • Lisa Duffy
      Lisa Duffy September 25, 2011 Reply

      Hello, Kathy!

      Sorry for my slow response. I have been truly blessed with the gift of your sister as a neighbor! I hope you are making good friends and progress here on Catholic Match!

      Sincerely – Lisa

  15. Jennifer-518410 August 4, 2011 Reply

    Thanks for a great article and support!!!

  16. John-559440 August 4, 2011 Reply

    Agree 100% with the need for forgiveness and acceptance before moving towards another relationship. In the CM forums over a year ago, there were several threads about Beginning Experience. Then in March a priest recommend I attend a B.E. retreat. I attended a B.E. weekend about a month ago. Let me encourage anyone that is still holding the pain of divorce or loss due death to make arrangements to attend a group. I found much healing, forgiveness, and acceptance there.

  17. Robert-486073 July 27, 2011 Reply

    How very true. God tell us we must love each other. Do I have to like her, my X, also?
    I am not sure I can. I talk to her about our kids and that is it. When our kids get out of school and are on their own then I don’t care if I see or talk to her again.
    I guess if I grow old alone that may happen.

    • Lisa Duffy
      Lisa Duffy September 25, 2011 Reply

      Dear Robert,

      You don’t have to like her, you just have to love her. I know that sounds contrary to the way you feel, but I’m not speaking about the “emotion” of love, I’m speaking about the kind of love that is an act of the will… the kind of love that St. Paul described for us in 1 Corinthians 3. Simply put, to willfully act for the good of another. To bite your tongue when you feel like saying something harsh; to praise something good that was done even when other things were terrible; to not wish bad things to happen to that person, etc. God does not expect us all to be super best friends, but He does expect us to treat each other charitably. I know for spouses who are divorced, this can be a terribly difficult suggestion. Much easier said than done. But, ask God for the grace you need to love your ex-spouse in this way and practice it, little by little. God loves a sincere heart!

  18. Barry-719569 July 26, 2011 Reply

    I do believe you have to let go of the past to move on which sounds real easy until you try it, how many of your when you date, start looking at the new person and comparing them to the ex. I do, it is not a good exercise. I own my part in the failed marriage, I certainly was not perfect. I did not initiate it but notheless I sabatoged the marriage by my actions. Even after a couple of years now, I stilll have trouble not feeling the resentment of what went wrong. I know that to love again, I must let this go. Doesn’t make it any easier but I know this to be so. I work every day asking the Lord for guidance to help show me the right path. I ask him to show me the right woman, so that I may know this is his will. I want to love again, I deserve to love again. Barry

  19. MaryAlice-97161 July 23, 2011 Reply

    I agree, wholeheartedly, with this article. It takes two to make a relationship and it takes two to break it.

    Another solution to the post-divorce frustrations and anger I had been feeling was to get so much more closely “in touch” with Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother … allowing Them to heal my heart and mind so I could forgive my ex-husband. At that time, there was a little pamphlet I found on the book rack in the back of a nearby Catholic Church on forgiveness. The author disected Our Lord’s Prayer — the Our Father. One glowing phrase still stands out every time I pray the Rosary and/or the Our Father during Mass, i.e., “… and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, ….” The author explained that if we expect to receive forgiveness and mercy from the priest in confession or from people whom we’ve hurt in our daily lives, we must forgive others, and we must be the first ones to forgive, not waiting for others to be the first to forgive. He also alluded to Christ’s plea to His Father while hanging on the Cross for us, saying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” When I put that into practice, a sense of peace, joy, and happiness overcame me, not overnight, but over a period of maybe a few weeks … but it was a daily and sometime hourly endeavor.

    Very good article, Ms. Duffy. God bless and keep you!

  20. LeoNita-709703 July 23, 2011 Reply

    I agree with you on how this can sabotage a relationship. I do not completely agree about the sex part I believe that after a time that is a very big part of communicating your feelings. I am 51 and when I was in my early 20s used the no sex and he made sure (I found out later) he got it somewhere else. I found this out after he called off our wedding the day of. I do not believe it should be done unless you are completely in love and you can give your heart with it. I use it as a way to express my love after being celibate for almost 8 years.

  21. Michael-745248 July 22, 2011 Reply

    i wrote a book of God’s grace and mercy in response to His carrying me through my unexpected divorce and annulment… I agree with everything in this article. The wisdom and truth in Mt 6:14-15 and Ephesians 4:31-32 hit me like a ton of bricks when I prayed about what to do, how do I live now? And almost daily I get a specific reminder of another old saying that came up when I was going through the worst of it: “God is good all the time; all the time God is good.”

    • Jenny-727150 July 23, 2011 Reply

      Acceptance & forgiveness are important keys in the healing process. Regret not what has been given, only regret what you held back. Treasure the moments, and rejoice what has been shared. Life is full of obstacles that mold us to be a stronger person.

    • Margarita-693359 August 27, 2012 Reply

      Yes, God is good all the time. I though I had forgiven, I even felt joy again, I discovered after three years of my annulment that my heart was closed, I did not liked that. That was resentment. I understood what others including my ex, probably felt for many years. I needed to let go of that and really forgive. Thank you for the citations!

    • Joe S. January 24, 2013 Reply

      Thank you Michael. Very good advice.

  22. Diana-432592 July 20, 2011 Reply

    So true! Giving yourself time to heal and forgive is so important and not just forgiving your spouse but yourself as well!

  23. Armando-740545 July 17, 2011 Reply

    Don’t be afraid to try again. Ask God to help you….and you will find the right person.

  24. Chris-697688 July 15, 2011 Reply

    Couldn’t agree more with the power of forgiveness and acceptance. Not always easy, but necessary in order to allow the heart to love again.

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