He Said-She Said: Starting to Date Again
- Thursday, June 24, 2010
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness, please click here to submit (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I have a question pertaining to the single life. I was married for twenty years to a Christian man. For the last five he had an affair with a woman who he claimed was just a friend; she was also married. My husband and she filed for their divorces at the same time. My husband was very deceitful and used both of us for a while and when I gave him an ultimatum, he finally chose her and her family. We were separated for four years off and on, and it was very emotionally abusive. I finished the divorce last year. I don't feel ready to date, but am finding that I am beginning to develop a negative view of men from past deceit and don't want to do that. How do you know when you are ready to start dating again after a traumatic long-term marriage has ended, and how does a godly man treat someone he dates? I have never dated before; it was straight out of high school and into marriage.
HE SAID: Having never been married, I cannot specifically address when a person is ready to start dating after a divorce (or an abusive relationship), however, I can speak from having had a long-term committed relationship break off. In either case, there is no set physical timeframe or guideline to work off of. Each situation is different and each person will be "ready" at various times.
As with any loss, personal or relational, there needs to be a time of emotional healing.
The process usually begins with you being honest with yourself, acknowledging the need for a time of healing and taking the time to heal. The hardest part of this "phase" is probably accepting the fact you were a part of something that didn't work—something that failed.
Our pride sometimes gets in the way of us believing we may have been wrong in our decision-making process, our assessment of the other individual, or of our own specific needs and desires for a mate.
We all want to be successful in everything we are a part of, whether it is a job, a venture, a sport, or a relationship. When those expectations are not met, we experience hurt and disappointment. We may feel deceived, wronged, disillusioned, frustrated, regretful, or a number of other things. In any case, it's alright and natural to feel that way.
The struggle is to not hold onto the blame we want to place on the other person (or ourselves). Granted, your ex-husband sounds as if he was completely responsible in this situation; however in every relationship it is rare for one person to be completely 100 percent at fault.
In any event, it is important for you to recognize and acknowledge these feelings along with the need to work through your loss.
If you are having a difficult time processing what you are going through, you may want to seek godly help in order to understand the pain and hurt you were caused. It is usually best to find an outsider who can look objectively at the situation rather than a close friend who may be too one-sided.
The most important and probably the more difficult barrier to cross prior to being ready to date is one of forgiveness.
I understand the fact you were hurt and abused by your ex-husband, however, until you can find it in your heart to forgive him, you probably won't be fully ready or able to enter into another relationship, or to trust another man.
Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" "No!" Jesus replied, "seventy times seven!" (Matthew 18:21-22).
Jesus never questioned what the sin was, what wrong was done, whose fault it may have been, the severity of the act or any of the circumstances. Jesus just said we need to forgive, period.
Christian music artist Sandi Patty once explained it this way, "Forgiveness doesn't make the other person right; it just sets you free."
When you forgive someone of wrongdoing, you are not condoning the action, you are not saying the person was right or just in what they did, and you are not relieving the person of any guilt. In fact, it's not even about the other person. Forgiveness allows you to move on by releasing it all to God, setting you free of the past relationship.
When you are truly able to forgive your ex-husband of the wrong he did to you, you will know you are on the road to recovery. From there, you can set boundaries for your future and begin your road to a healthy relationship.
As for how a godly man treats someone he dates, it all depends on the guy. Even among "godly" men, there is no consistent standard. As for me, I have always been told to treat a woman like I would want someone to treat my future wife—with respect and honor.
If we (guys) viewed women as the children of God they are and dated them as a privilege from our Father in heaven, it may change the way many of us (men) would act.
SHE SAID: First and foremost, let me say how sorry I am that you have had to go through such a painful experience. As a child of divorce, I have seen the devastating effects of what can happen when a marriage disintegrates and what that kind of a fallout means for everyone involved (parents, children, extended family, friends, church, etc.).
Yes, the effects can be long-lasting and you will likely struggle with some of these issues for a while to come. You might grieve what could have been or feel bitter about what you have endured through your past marriage. And you need to take time to fully feel through these emotions and work through them one by one as you process this difficult time of your life.
It can be gritty, and it can be tough at times. But that does not mean that God cannot take something that was and is so painful—something that might feel like a complete failure or an utter waste of your life—and turn it into something good as he brings restoration and renewal. Know that you are not damaged goods. There is beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3). And God can use even our most painful experiences in our ongoing and future ministry to others. (See Romans 8:28, Psalms 51:12and Joel 2:25—my personal favorite!)
It's good that you can see you are applying your situation with your former husband to a negative perspective in how you view men today. As you know, all men are not your former husband and should not be viewed as such. You will need to continue to work through your feelings, emotions and wounds that you have endured so that you will have a healthier view of men going forward (And I trust you have worked with or are working with a good therapist or counselor who can walk you through this process).
When you do have a peace about your situation and the matter is settled in your heart, then you will be ready to move forward with a heart that has been healed and is ready to open up to a new relationship. But to whom? How does a godly man treat someone he dates? I believe that Jesus is the best example for how anyone should treat someone else—regardless of the kind of relationship.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16).
A man who is seeking the Lord will have a servant's heart and a self-sacrificial approach to living in all of his relationships—familial or otherwise.
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:26-28).
As Jesus did, a godly man will also exemplify the fruit of the Spirit (not just talk about it!), so that there is clear and tangible evidence of the condition of his heart. No rationalizing or guesswork (on your part) will be required or involved.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
A godly man will draw you closer to the Father—through his actions and his speech—and be a spiritual leader who will challenge and encourage you in your own spiritual growth.
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. … This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:4-8).
Spend as much time as you can observing a man in action (and if possible, without him knowing you are taking mental notes or are even at all interested). How does he treat others? Who are his friends? What is his reputation? Does he do what he say he will do? Is he trustworthy? Is he a leader in his church or community or family? What is his relationship like with his father and mother?
Ultimately, you will only know if you are ready to start dating again (and with whom) when the Lord shows you that you are ready. Like the old spiritual says, "there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole," and if you seek the Father, you will be restored and renewed (emotionally, spiritually) and reminded of your precious value and identity in Christ.
Relish this season of singleness when there are fewer distractions (and possibly commitments), during which you can spend more time working on yourself and growing stronger in your faith. May God be glorified in you and in the life and kingdom work here on earth you have left to come!
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to living the single life, PLEASE SUBMIT HERE (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that He Said-She Said will be an encouragement to you.
**This column first published on June 24, 2010.
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