Heal a Lonely Heart

Dear Michele,
I was just reading your blog and the question from the widow (Time Not Healing), and it occurred to me that I, too, am grieving but in a different way. My marriage of 11 1/2 years recently ended by divorce. It was a very turbulent relationship and, while I’m glad to be in a better place, I am feeling very lost and alone. I feel the demise of my marriage has left me very cynical about relationships and interacting with men. I don’t feel like I can trust a man to be honest or “safe.”

Deep down, I would really like to find a good match with someone who is a strong Catholic, but I feel like there might not be anyone out there for me, especially since I have quite a few children. How do I get to the point where I can trust men and not feel that I am just being used? I don’t want to set any potential relationships or even friendships up for failure before they have even had a chance to start.

My circumstances are such that I am able to marry in the Church and I receive spiritual counseling from my parish priest and personal counseling from a Catholic counselor. Where do I go from here? How do I let men know that I am interested in a relationship while still feeling very insecure and unsure of myself?

One of my friends says I shouldn’t even think about another relationship for another two years, but I would like to find a friend, and eventually a best friend; I am tired of being alone.

Any advice or resource suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Very Lost and Alone

Dear Very Lost and Alone,
Yes, you are also suffering a type of “death,” and certainly a very significant lost. We all receive our identity through our relationships with others (our relationship with Christ is what makes us “Christians”), so you have lost a part of yourself. But it’s not gone forever or doomed never to return. Your task now is to re-build your identity, based on who you are outside of this relationship, or any relationship. No matter how long you felt alone in your marriage, or how long you were separated, the finalized divorce is a significant milestone. You are likely going through new and deeper feelings of pain and isolation.

How do you make sure you are not being used? Simply put: you don’t put yourself in situations where you could be used. That means, as much as you are focused on finding a man who is “safe,” you are also responsible for keeping yourself safe. Do not give yourself away, and do not give your heart away until you have spent a significant amount of time with someone in a face-to-face relationship, where you have met his friends, family, and co-workers. Ask questions. Pay attention to how he treats others. Listen to your gut. Do not tolerate any deceit. Be authentic about your likes and dislikes. Do not change yourself in order to try to get a man to fall in love with you. Do not sacrifice relationships with friends, children, or family for a dating relationship. Stay connected to others, outside of a romantic relationship. These are the ways to keep yourself safe, to make sure you are not and will not be used.

Honestly, I think it’s good that you don’t trust men right now. You need time to heal. I understand that being alone is very painful, but rushing into another relationship when you are still vulnerable will not be the answer. It may be a short-term fix, but likely one that could bring long-term pain. If you are feeling insecure or unsure of yourself, don’t look to a man or relationship to fix that. You are full capable of being secure and sure of yourself, it will just take time and a lot of personal work. It sounds as if you are in the right place to do just that –with your spiritual director and a counselor. Nothing I can say here can replace their counsel or your relationship with each of them, as they know you much better.

As I’m sure you are, continue to pray for discernment. Pray for the spirit of fear to leave you – it is not from God. You need not fear being alone, you are not alone. Christ is standing beside you, behind you, and in front of you. There is ALWAYS enough time to find the right man. God may need time to prepare him for you. Give yourself permission to take the time to heal from this loss, and don’t let a lonely heart drive you into another set of arms that will lead you back to this suffering.

I hope that helps,

Michele Fleming, M.A.