If you’re thinking about dating after divorce, you may be wondering how in the world you ended up here. How could God allow your marriage, vows you made before him, to end up this way? Maybe you’re wondering if the Catholic Church still accepts you after your divorce. But, most importantly, you’re wondering what next steps you can take from where you’re at now.
As a divorced Catholic looking into the dating world again, you deserve honest answers to your questions about relationships. You’re not alone if you’re healing from a divorce.
Divorce has also been a popular topic in Catholic news, recently. Pope Francis has made some changes to the annulment process for divorced Catholics. If you’re wondering how to know when you’re ready to open yourself up to a new romantic relationship, we can help you find the answers.
How to know if you’re ready to start dating after a divorce
Opening up to new romantic relationships is a big step after going through a divorce. Before creating an online dating profile or saying “yes” to that date offer, it’s worthwhile to take time to holistically heal and find peace after your divorce.
Time doesn’t mean everything
Maybe you experienced a divorce decades ago, or perhaps the process is still fresh. Regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve been through a divorce, timing isn’t everything. There’s no magical timeline that grief and processing works on. Each individual will experience divorce differently, and so each person will heal from divorce differently, too.
It’s more about how you’re healing after the experience
Instead of focusing on whether you’ve waited long enough after your divorce to get back into the dating game, focus on healing from your past relationship.
This may mean pulling things up out of your memory that you’d rather remain buried and partially forgotten. But in order to approach your dating life in a holy, wholesome way, healing is necessary.
It’s also important to realize that healing your thoughts and understandings about love and the Church is a process, and your healing doesn’t have to be a clean and mess-free process.
“When suddenly you seem to lose all you thought you had gained, do not despair,” writes Catholic author Henri Nouwen. “Your healing is not a straight line. You must expect setbacks and regressions. Don’t say to yourself, ‘All is lost. I have to start all over again.’ This is not true. What you have gained, you have gained. . . In everything, keep trusting that God is with you, that God has given you companions on the journey. Keep returning to the road to freedom.”
12 signs you’re ready to start dating again
If you’re thinking about dating after divorce, here are twelve things to think through before asking someone out or making plans for that first date.
1. You’re available to date after divorce
Divorced dating is a complicated topic within the eyes of the church, and it is important that you know exactly where you stand.
Don’t make the mistake of dating before you’re ready both in the eyes of the Church and emotionally. Part of becoming available to date again may involve going through the annulment process with the Catholic Church. Contrary to popular belief, an annulment isn’t a “Catholic divorce.”
Instead, an annulment is a tool that the Catholic Church uses, along with your help, to discern whether you and your ex-spouse participated in a valid marriage or not. Discovering whether your marriage was valid or not is not meant to be an insult to you or your family. You may have taken your marriage vows incredibly seriously, but still could have experienced an invalid marriage.
Catholic lawyers and clergy will work alongside you to determine if you and your ex-spouse came to the wedding altar freely, with the intention of creating a lifelong marriage together and accepting any children God blessed you with. They’ll also help you discern if you and your ex-spouse had a total understanding of the vows you said, and if you’ve consummated your marriage vows.
Annulments aren’t expensive, nor are they are free pass for Catholics to get remarried. An annulment doesn’t take years and years to process, either. Typically, the process takes about a year and half, relying mainly on how quickly you choose to move through the process.
The Catholic Church doesn’t require any divorced Catholic to go through the annulment process. However, she does require Catholics who want to remarry after divorce to get an annulment. If you’re looking to start dating someone, make sure that you’re in a place where you’re totally free to pursue a romantic dating relationship after your divorce. If you’re not, it could cause a lot more hurt down the road.
2. You’ve forgiven your ex-spouse
Bringing resentment into your new dating relationships won’t be healthy for you or the person you’re dating. Instead, make sure that you’re in a healthy emotional place where you can forgive your ex-spouse for the pain they’ve caused you. This may mean seeking forgiveness for the pain you’ve caused them, as well.
Lisa Duffy, a Catholic author who’s been through the divorce and annulment process herself, recommends that divorced Catholics consider the process of reconciling with their ex-spouse. Remember, forgiving someone may not mean a face to face meeting and conversation.
You don’t need to hear the words “I’m sorry, would you forgive me?” from the lips of your ex-spouse in order to forgive them. Instead, forgiveness is something that you can offer without their acceptance. Working through the steps of forgiving your ex-spouse is an important process before choosing to date again.
3. You see yourself as lovable
If your divorce came full of lies from society or your ex-spouse about how you aren’t loved and lovable, those wounds can take time to heal.
If you haven’t healed to see yourself as worthy of love, this isn’t a good time to look into the dating scene again. You shouldn’t rely on the person you date, or the person you marry if you choose that path, to prove to you that you are lovable. Instead, that love should come from your relationship with God. If you’re able to rest in the knowledge that God made you good and that he sings over you, you’ll be able to accept that love from others freely instead of in an unhealthy way.
Don’t know how to start the process of seeing yourself as worthy of love? You’re not alone if you struggle with this aspect of healing. A great Catholic resource for this can be found in Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World. If you’re able to, work through this resource with a trusted friend, spiritual director, or counselor.
4. You’re no longer angry about your divorce
First dates after divorce shouldn’t be venting sessions for your experience with divorce or anger at your ex-spouse. Instead, you should be able to discuss the reality of the divorce situation without feeling anger take over.
If you haven’t sought out counseling after the divorce, now may be a good time to look into it. If you’re still processing things on a spiritual level, a good spiritual director may be able to help you assess your anger levels when it comes to healing after a divorce. Seeking solace in other divorced singles can also be a path towards real healing.
5. You don’t constantly relive the past
Your divorce offers you ways to learn from your past, and those shouldn’t be glossed over. However, you may not be ready to date again if you find yourself constantly reliving the past and wishing you could have done something differently or reacted another way.
Avoid jumping onto an online dating service as a way to distract yourself. Rather, take the time to learn from your past.
6. You’ve reclaimed yourself
Everyone’s divorce story is different. Maybe you were married for a few years before things fell apart. Perhaps you’re discerning how to parent your children after a divorce (dating when there is a child in the picture can be a completely different proposition). But regardless of your story, you get to decide where you’re going from here.
Maybe you’ve realized that you need to take more time to heal from your experience of divorce. You could be ready to start dating again. But wherever you’re at in the healing process, it’s important to let yourself process the event, and claim this new path of life.
7. You’ve stop blaming yourself
Although you may have made decisions that you’re now healing from and asking forgiveness for, you can’t blame yourself for the entire divorce process. But there’s a difference between recognizing your potential role in the divorce experience and blaming yourself constantly for everything that happened.
If you’re able to look back on the relationship with a level head, acknowledging your own mistakes but not letting them define your future, you may be ready to pursue dating after divorce. If you’re still unable to think about the divorce without putting all the blame on your shoulders, it’s a good sign that you still need to work through aspects of the experience rather with a friend, spiritual director, or a counselor before you look into dating again.
8. You’re happy on your own
You know you’re in a good place to discern dating after divorce if you realize you don’t need a relationship to be happy. You may want to find love – and that’s perfectly natural! But you are aware that you don’t need a romantic relationship in your life to be fulfilled and content. Don’t date because you’re lonely, date because you’re ready to date.
If you’re happy on your own, that’s a great sign. After all, you shouldn’t enter into a relationship expecting your significant other to fulfill all of your desires for happiness – that’s above their pay-grade. Only God can bring that sort of happiness.
9. You’re emotionally secure
It can be easy to start meeting other divorced singles, only to find yourself seeking security in a dating relationship. What is your attachment style, and how did the divorce impact your desire for security? Take time to examine if you’ll be able to interact with your date in a healthy, secure way without desiring an unhealthy amount of attachment.
You should be able to begin dating and entering into a long-term relationship after divorce freely, without feeling the need to find someone to place your security in.
10. You look to the future with excitement
When you think about dating after divorce, what comes to your mind automatically? Are they thoughts of excitement and joy, or do they align more with worry and anxiety? Dating shouldn’t be something that makes you feel overly stressed or anxious. Rather, it should be something that fills you with excitement.
If dating after divorce is a prospect filled with excitement and hope (and you’re available!) maybe it’s time to look at dating. If not, take time to see what about dating or the future causes you anxiety.
11. You’re ready to go out again
Even if you’ve available for dating after divorce in the eyes of the Church, that doesn’t mean you have to be ready to go out on a date again. Dating after divorce isn’t something you have to do, or should feel forced into from friends, family, or the culture.
Instead, divorced dating should be something you pursue when you’re ready to go out on a date again. This isn’t a process that has to occur on a set timeline. Take as long as you need to heal from the experience of a divorce, and don’t force dating if you’re not ready.
12. You are confident in God’s love for you
Another area of your life to examine before you pursue dating after divorce is your relationship with God. It can be tempting to harbor anger against God after divorce, and wonder how a good, loving Father could allow such pain in the life of his children. But restoring trust with God is possible, even after the heartbreaking experience of divorce.
This doesn’t mean that you will constantly experience spiritual consolation. After all, a healthy spiritual life involves ups and downs, consolation and desolation. Instead, it means that (even in the moments where God is silent!) you’re able to place yourself in his presence.
Divorced dating is a loaded subject for Catholics who are seeking answers after going through a painful, heart wrenching experience. Regardless of how long ago you experienced a divorce, healing from the ramifications of the relationship is important before you look into dating again.
If you’re ready to pursue dating after divorce in the eyes of the Catholic Church and in terms of your own healing, we’re here to help. Give online dating a try through Catholic Singles where we’ve been serving Catholic singles since 1997!