Book - Annulments

BOOK - Rebuilding

On Dating After Divorce

pool_floaties_2       Did you ever try to teach your children how to swim? Little Sara feels safe, secure, and enjoys the pool sitting on the steps or hanging onto the side. But try to drag her away into the scary deep waters where she can't touch bottom and you invite pure panic!  Kicking, screaming, and clawing her way across your face and out of your arms, she will try to thrash back to the side to the steps, where she was happiest. It is far too terrifying to be alone in that water when she does not know how to handle it.

       Now fast forward a year or so and Sara has learned to hold her breath and kick her feet; she’s put on her floaties and is pool_underwatersplashing merrily in the deep end. But suddenly the rough-housing older boys in the pool have pushed her under, she’s gulping in water, and with her fear threatening to weigh her down she almost drowns. Miraculously she makes her way to the steps, climbs out, and wraps herself in a towel. After a few tears she doesn’t want to be left out and wants to go back into the pool—and that’s when you step in.

       She’s not ready.
She’s exhausted and her muscles are still weak. Even though she feels better, you see that it’s probably a good idea that she stay in the shallow end and get rid of the floaties. To get back in the deep and survive, she’ll need to develop some stronger swimming skills.

       This is a good image of two dynamics that often happen after divorce
: some don’t have enough sense and want to jump right back in, and others want to get out of the pool altogether—too afraid to ever go in again.

       For some divorced people who have barely made it to the side and are clinging to the steps, they do NOT want a new relationship. The trauma from almost drowning was too much. No way are they ready to leave the safety of the steps in a world of relationships where emotionally you can’t touch bottom and can’t catch your breath.
But for others, they can’t wait to get back into the action.

       Good Lord, we have taken such a hit! We feel unloved, ugly, old, undesirable, and we just want to feel good about ourselves again. We want to be with someone; we want love, affection, affirmation, and security—God hard-wired us for those good things. We don’t want to leave the goods that married life offered and head out into the deep waters of loneliness, anxiety, fear, and the unknown. Now you can flirting_in_bar_1understand why someone may want to rush back, as it were, into the perceived safety of a new relationship. They loved being married, being a family, or having sexual intimacy. They are too impatient to sit on the side and allow themselves to fully recover or to examine what went wrong and how to avoid similar problems in the future. They often fail to see that they need to make interior changes and develop better skills before they are really ready to get back into the dating scene.

        Some admit it’s not wise rush into a romance but maybe they can just be “friends”. Just some casual company of the opposite sex to feel like we are still lovable, right? Wrong. Here’s when dating after divorce will end up as another disaster:

Be truly available first. If you haven’t petitioned for or received an annulment, you are still married. Neither you, nor anyone who may fall in love with you, can move toward marriage. That usually sets you both up for disappointment, frustration, and a sinful using of each other. It also leads you right into into sexual expressions of intimacy which are reserved only for marriage. Yes, they are "natural", but they will blind you and bind you to another painful situation. This is sin, and sin brings deep wounds and even some kind of death. That’s not love. And you both usually begin to resent the Church, scoff at her rules, and make excuses for your life style.

And . . . and you emotionally available to be a spouse? Are you still over attached to your children (or even your prior spouse) so that no new spouse can take his or her rightful place in the marriage/family? Marriage is serious business; get some wise, expert counseling.

Learn from the past to protect your future. If you haven’t thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly) examined why your marriage failed, what part you played in it—even back in the beginning—and taken the time to make great efforts to grow and mature through your divorce, you risk bringing all those disordered dynamics into another relationship. (The annulment process helps you process these things, by the way.) Is that fair to the other person ... and his or her children? No, and it's not true love, either.

Don't use others--even "benevolently." If you are anywhere from simply antsy to deeply desperate to rebuild a family, replace a parent for your children, or otherwise avoid the discomfort of being single, you are probably reducing the new person to an object—like a patch over a hole, a plug in a socket, or a pill to take to feel better. Healthy relationships only spring from two people who are free to remain single and still be content, but who choose each other out of authentic love, not loneliness. And who both want holiness for themselves and the other.

Don't rush. The fear of being alone blinds you. Relationship red flags are meant to protect you and when you ignore, rationalize, or minimize them, you almost invite another divorce upon yourself and your children—and the new person and his/her family. The 50% average national divorce rate is increased greatly for second marriages, at 65-75%. This is usually due to not taking the time and making the effort to do what is necessary for full and lasting recovery. When you rush back in the pool with floaties you’ll never be able to really “swim”—and when the waters get too rough, you risk drowning again.

Don't play with emotional and sexual fire. Dating is never really casual. Most people who meet at the coffee shop have at least some hopes and desires for love and their hearts can easily be broken, despite “casual” exteriors. Even if YOU are "fine" with it, you never really know what is in the heart of the other. Risking a broken heart is never casual. Many are guarded and taking their time, and rightly so, but many can prefer the safe and endless “dating” to a move toward marriage. This type of relating has some immediate benefits that soothe the ego, but it can also be a mutual using of each other until someone better comes along. Sexual frustration is usually relieved with various levels of conditions and guilt. That’s not love, either—even among “friends”.

EvanjeliumPodlaJanaAfter divorce, your broken heart should continue breaking—ever more widely to receive the love God wants to pour into it. He made you for himself, and he is the ONLY one who can fully satisfy your heart, even if you don’t feel like it or believe it.

Have you made a false idol out of marriage or relationship? Has it become your primary purpose for being, and without it you’re lost? If so, it may have become the most important thing in your life and has thus replaced God himself. Marriage, success, power, wealth, security, our children, our careers, and many other “strange gods” hold too high a place in our hearts. They are good things, but they must take second place to God.

Whether you’ve wrongly worshiped relationships, or have rejected them altogether, the alone-time after a divorce can be a HUGE blessing. Don't waste it! It should help us unclasp the firm grip we had on all that we lost, and move us gently and slowly out into the “deep” of knowing God, ourselves, and his true purpose for our lives.

What is our true purpose? You may have learned it “by heart” as a child: first to come to KNOW God, and then to LOVE him. Everything else should flow from that intimate love so that when we SERVE him it will be by seeing and loving others rightly, not using them.

That’s the power that will move us into the deep, out past our little pools and into the endless ocean of God's love.

Despite the wounds of pool_bethany_2divorce, we can be like real-life, "Soul Surfer" Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm to a shark, but who spent enough time healing that she could relearn how to "swim".  If we will do the same, the waters of life will be deep blue and cool, where freedom from our fears keeps us afloat.

And then . .. we will ride the waves!