Dating after Divorce
Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2016 Jan 14
One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “When can I start dating after my divorce?”
There are multiple variations: Can I date during the divorce process, even if my divorce isn’t final? Divorce Care says not to date for at least a year. Is that true?
I have to be honest: I don’t have a lot of dating experience, partially by choice, partially not. I would love to have someone right now. It’s been over six years since divorce proceedings began, and I am really tired of this season. I keep trying to convince God that it has to be his time by now. But, the truth is, I have a full-time job, a growing ministry, three teen/pre-teen kids who are with me almost 100% of the time. It simply doesn’t leave much time for meeting and building a relationship.
But, there’s more to it. If I just wanted someone, I could get on an online dating site and find someone. I was on a dating site for a very short period about three years ago, and I had plenty of opportunities to meet men.
I don’t just want someone. I want God to bring the man he has planned for me. I want God’s best for me. I want a man who is as committed to God as I am. A man who will step into ministry with me. A man who will lead me closer to God. A man who will love me as Christ loved the church. A man who will be a father to my children. A man who will love my kids as his own.
I want God to bring me my Boaz.
I’m not willing to limit God in bringing that man to me. If he directs me to a dating site, then I will follow. I don’t like dating sites, to be honest, but if God says to join one I will. Until he does, I will simply continue following the last command he gave me: write your book.
That’s my story. That’s the path God has laid out for me. Perhaps he will direct you differently. Perhaps he will direct you to simply wait as he has directed me. Regardless, you simply need to get so close to God that you hear his specific directions to you.
I do believe I can offer some simple tips on when to start dating, however. These thoughts have been tested and tried. I’ve done some things right and some things wrong. I offer these words of advice to save you heartache and despair, to help you find God’s best.
Is it wise? So often, we ask, “Is it permissible?” Instead, we should be looking for the wise decision. Is it permissible to date during the divorce process—before the final divorce decree? Some people would say it’s absolutely not right. You are still married in the eyes of the law and therefore it is adultery. I don’t necessarily feel that way. My marriage was over long before the final decree was signed. My husband left the covenant years before. My marriage was a covenant with God and me, not the government. Getting the final divorce decree was simply a formality.
However, is it wise to date before the final decree? Speaking from experience, absolutely not! You see, I did get involved with someone before the final decree (but after separation), and it has been the basis for accusations of adultery against me ever since. Had I chosen a different path, perhaps there would be no accusations. Ultimately, I know the truth and stand before God with a pure heart. But, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache by waiting.
Am I settling? I’ve had opportunities to date, and they are tempting. It’s tempting to go out with someone for companionship, simply because I’m lonely. It’s tempting to look at outward appearances, to date someone who is a marginal Christian…or not a Christian at all. But God has so much more for us than just companionship. He has plans far beyond our greatest imagination.
Last summer, I had a gentleman show interest in me. He was a nice guy. Christian (he says). But, the fruit wasn’t there. He didn’t attend church regularly. I saw hints of behaviors that were less than God-glorifying. But I longed for companionship. One day I so clearly remember hearing God whisper, “You can choose him, but you will sacrifice the ministry I have planned for you.”
Please, whatever you do, hold out for God’s best. It may take longer, but he will make the wait worthwhile. Don’t settle for anything less than his best.
Are you completely satisfied? Are you content with your life? Are you living a full and satisfying life? Have you established such a strong relationship with God that you are walking in his perfect peace every single day? Have you allowed him to heal your heart completely? Have you learned to trust him so you can trust him in a man?
If you are dissatisfied with your life. If you spend more time pining away for a man than for God. If you are discontent in your current situation. If you are still fighting anger and bitterness toward your ex. If you haven’t learned to trust God with every single piece of your broken heart. You might want to think twice about dating. Take the time to let God heal you so you are a healthy, whole individual. Only then can you have a healthy relationship.
Are you firmly established in God’s purpose for your life? I don’t know about you, but I lost myself in marriage. I gave up my dreams to support and encourage him. My plans to pursue a masters degree? Not fulfilled. My dreams of writing a book? Put on hold until his education was finished and the kids were older. My plans to be a speaker? Never once pursued.
I had a friend a couple years ago. A male friend. We became close, and I really thought something would eventually come of it. What I noticed is that I was giving myself to him, but I wasn’t following my heart. I was giving up my interests, my dreams, my hopes, to support him.
While I have no doubt that, as a wife, I am to be a helpmate to my husband, I also know God has plans for me as an individual. He has a purpose for my life, and it extends beyond supporting my husband. I have since come to understand that God will not fulfill my desires to have a husband until I am firmly established in the purpose he has for me. (I hear God saying, “Write your book.”)
Can you model a godly dating relationship for your kids? My kids are now 11, 13, and 16 years old. They are entering a period where peer pressure about dating relationships is mounting. I want nothing more than for my kids to honor God in this time of their lives, to date as God would have them to and not as the world tells them to. I want them to walk in purity all of their lives. I want my boys to treat ladies as gentlemen should. I want my daughter to be strong enough to withstand the pressure of a man who might use her.
And guess what? I have the privilege of modeling for my kids a proper way of dating. I am setting the standard for them. They know I am selective about who I date. They know God is first and foremost in every relationship. They know I don’t tolerate being treated as an object. They know I don’t allow myself to be in situations where I might compromise my morals. They know dating is only one aspect of my life, and they know I trust God to bring the right one along in his time.
I hold myself to the highest standards because I want my children to have an example they can follow.
Do you have a firm commitment to purity? I wrote an article a several weeks ago on why I choose purity. I’ve been the victim of sexual sins. I know the pain and heartache of being betrayed in the most intimate way. I never want to walk through it again. And, the best way to avoid it in the future is to find someone as committed to living God’s way as I am. That includes a commitment to purity at every level.
Let’s be honest: the desire to be held and touched can be overwhelming some days. I’ve found myself standing next to a male friend (one I’m not even interested in beyond friendship) and just longed to have him hold my hand, put his arm around my shoulder. God created us with a desire for affection. He put a longing in our hearts for tenderness and touch. It’s completely normal. But, can you be with someone without compromising your standards?
Do not date until you have firmly set boundaries in your mind, until you know how you will react when temptation hits. Make sure you are mentally and emotionally prepared and have a battle plan in place. Then, with God by your side, you can march confidently into your future.
This article is part of our larger resource: The Christian Woman’s Guide to Starting Over after Divorce: 7 In-Depth Steps to Take Starting Today. If you’re going through a divorce or are already divorced and looking for more resources, be sure to visit our guide!