Dear Michele: Unwanted Divorce and Dating

Dear Michele,I finalized my divorce in 2008. I am not a believer in divorce so I still have flashbacks of wanting my family back. I feel that when I go out on dates (not lately ever), part of me feels it is wrong. I am over her 80% of the time.

Starting with my first relationship in High School, I have gotten into relationships where the woman pursued me or made it very obvious that she would go out with me and want a relationship. This included my ex-wife. I haven’t had a steady partner for the last couple of years for the first time ever. There hasn’t been that convenient situation for a person to pursue me.

So my self- esteem is now low, I was used to going out with beautiful women. I have no interest in below average looking woman. In fact I don’t even try anymore to date, I have no confidence. Any suggestions? I really am a good guy and have learned things from my failed marriage like not taking a woman for granted.

Unwanted Divorce and Dating

Dear Unwanted,
Wow, there is a lot to cover from your email. First, it sounds as if you have not completely mourned the loss of your marriage. There can be many reasons for this, one may be that a part of you still wants to be married. I don’t know if you are in denial, or if reconciliation is possible. If you believe you have truly changed and grown, and the 20% of you that wants to be back can be the husband you need to be, then you may want to consider having that conversation with your ex. If you simply don’t like being alone, that is not a good enough reason to attempt to reconcile. If your partner is completely shut down to the idea of reconciling, then you must allow yourself the time and space to deal with the reality that your marriage is over. Divorce is the death of a family. Treat it as such – meaning, allow yourself to grieve, allow yourself to feel those unwanted emotions. You may need to ask your ex for forgiveness. You may need to forgive yourself. Whatever you need to do to let go, pursue that path, no matter how uncomfortable, painful, or frightening it may be.

I can hear that you are conflicted when you are trying to date. Is your marriage annulled? If it is not, then you are still married in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Many people find pursuing an annulment is actually a very healing process. It may reveal to you truths about the marriage, and the inability of one or both partners to give a free commitment. So definitely consider an annulment if you have not already.

It also sounds as if your struggles with self-esteem may have started before your marriage. If you are used to being pursued, is this because you did not feel worthy enough to pursue women who you were interested in? Do you feel like you end up “settling” because you can’t do any better? There may be some deeper healing that needs to occur within you, separate from the marriage issues. I would suggest taking that journey with a trusted mentor, clergy, or Catholic therapist.

Finally, I hear that you feel you have grown and you are a good guy, and I applaud your honestly in saying that you want to only date attractive women. But wanting another marriage but limiting yourself to only women who are considered beautiful by our culture’s material standards sounds a little immature. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of being attracted to your date. Very attracted. But if you only want to fall in love with a face or body, then you are missing the true dignity of the person and the ultimate meaning of love. When you start to feel more confident in yourself, you may find that you don’t need the “beautiful” woman to make you feel worthy. Falling in love with the personality, companionship, uniqueness, values, character, and dreams of another person will ensure that you are starting a relationship on strong foundations, rather than the fleeing and ever-changing images of beauty.

Good luck and God bless,

Michele Fleming, M.A.