by Steve Prokopchak
Perhaps marriage has been rough for you. Maybe your partner left you or, worse yet, committed adultery. You might have “moved on” emotionally, yet you keep trying to make things work. You are tired. You don’t have answers. You are in a very tough place.
Should you date? Your friends are trying to set you up, telling you to move on, or saying that you need to think about your own needs.
Dating during separation or divorce is problematic on several levels. The first is that you are still legally married. Separation, even legal separation, is still marriage. When divorce is pending, you are still married. Legally and spiritually, your vows are still intact. To start a new relationship on “top” of a legally binding marriage would not only be unrighteous, but unwise. The seeds of unfaithfulness would be planted into your next relationship.
Besides, you are most likely not ready for a new partner. If you are not ready for a partner, why date in the first place? Dating is part of the process of looking for love again and a marriage partner. Are you emotionally free, financially free, mentally free, and spiritually free? In other words, have you been on a healing trek during this time of separation and/or divorce? Most experts say the process of healing from a broken marriage and being ready for a new one takes at least two years.
You might also want to consider what responsibility you are taking for the failed marriage. Everyone bears responsibility at some level. There are many things to learn and ways to grow as it pertains to being a godly partner, understanding self, and establishing a lasting marriage covenant. Do not rob God or yourself of sufficient healing time.
If there are children, then you and your “ex” are still in communication. If you are pursuing divorce and dating at the same time, a judge may have a negative impression about your level of responsibility as a parent. Further, your children are hurting; they need you to be fully present for them.
It would be important to examine whether you are secretly trying to escape the pain and negativity associated with a relationship that ultimately did not work. Are you trying to overcome your bad feelings by looking for new, exciting ones? While a new relationship might be exciting and create new, feel-good emotions, you are at the same time forfeiting the deep work of healing and wholeness that could be taking place in your life.
Worse yet, most relationships started during separation or divorce do not last. By pursuing such a relationship, you are further complicating issues for yourself and your family.
Another Soul Connection
Adding another soul connection via a new relationship only serves to muddy the waters of your battered soul. Maybe it starts as a friendly meal together. Then it progresses to deeper talks as the friendship grows. Then there is an attraction. As the attraction grows, the two of you become more and more open, more and more vulnerable. Eventually feelings of love can result, causing a deepening soul connection. You might then begin to think, “This is the person for me.”
If the relationship continues, it can become physical with hugs, hand holding, and kisses. This touch leads to more touch and a soul-to-soul connection. Further, if the physical, emotional, and—yes—even spiritual relationship continues to be justified, it can ultimately cross appropriate boundaries and develop into a sexual relationship.
Decisions Have Consequences
So, let’s back up the truck. When did this relationship we’re writing about cross the line and become sinful? The lesson for men and women who are separated or pursuing divorce is to not even start the process of dating until the vows are legally broken and sufficient healing has taken place.
If you are separated, seek with all your heart and soul to remain faithful to your vows, obeying the Word of God and your spoken word. Relentlessly pursue personal healing with everything in you. Lay your feelings at the altar and ask Jesus to walk with you. Seek the Spirit to bring you God’s advice and direction. Ask Him to be Lord of all your decisions. He promises to direct our paths when we trust in Him.
About Steve Prokopchak
Steve serves on the DOVE International Apostolic Council and has been involved in the Christian counseling field for over thirty years. He earned a master of human services from Lincoln University. He is the author of several books, including Called Together, a premarital counseling workbook. He also travels throughout the world teaching and imparting to the lives of many, especially leaders. Read more about Steve or catch up on his blog.