Is it OK to Date While Separated?
- Joe Beam President, Marriage Helper
- 2012 16 Nov
Is it okay for a married but separated person to date other people? The question definitely is not new. The situation that brought it to the forefront is not unique.
Lillian Kwon’s Christian Post article begins “Dinesh D'Souza, president of The King's College and co-producer of ‘2016: Obama's America,’ is facing scrutiny for his relationship with a woman whom he has introduced to some as his fiancée. D'Souza is currently married but has filed for divorce.”
My knowledge of Dinesh D’Souza lies only in what I read. Therefore, the comments that follow address principles, not him directly. However, things reported about Dinesh’s circumstances apply to the discussion below. Therefore, I refer to them only to address principles about separation, dating, and morality.
When Dinesh became president of The King’s College in 2010, he moved to New York but left his wife in California. Statements from The King’s College board chair Andy Mills indicate Dinesh’s marriage was in trouble in 2010.
After twenty years of marriage, Dinesh filed for divorce October 4 of this year. However, according to World Magazine, on September 28, the week before he filed, he traveled with Denise Joseph to an event where he introduced her to some people as his fiancée. After speaking at the Christian event that evening and receiving a standing ovation, he spent the night in the same Comfort Inn room with Denise. When confronted later, he claimed nothing happened. Warren Cole Smith wrote, “D’Souza on Oct. 4 told me his marriage was ‘over,’ said he ‘is sure Denise is the one for me,’ and said he had ‘done nothing wrong.’”
On October 18, the board of The King’s College accepted Dinesh’s resignation. They incorporated a prayer into their minutes that included this sentence, “All-too-frequent reports of the sinful failing of our accomplished leaders bring us no joy.” Subsequently, Dinesh announced that he is suspending his engagement to Denise.
Is It Wise to Separate?
Sometimes people ask my opinion about separation. My response: “Separation makes divorce easier. It does not solve problems.”
When a couple struggles, stress inevitably ensues. Usually that leads to strife, anger, and other negative experiences. Therefore, the act of separation immediately brings a sense of relief and calm because they are not constantly at each other’s throats. While attaining that time out sounds like a good idea, typically it is not. Why? Because once they experience the relief, it is difficult to go back into the unpleasant task of figuring out how to solve the problems. Our experience with helping couples indicates that separation facilitates divorce, but seldom facilitates reconciliation.
Of course, if either spouse or children are in danger physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, I urge separation. However, the goal for those separations is not necessarily to save the marriage; it is to save the person.
By leaving his wife in California when they were already having difficulty, Dinesh initiated a process that promised a bad end. Perhaps one or both of them thought it wise, maybe that being away from each other might help. It rarely does.
The old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is more accurately stated “absence makes the heart grow fonder for someone else.”
If a couple truly wishes to try to salvage their marriage, they should commit to living in the same home and finding the help they need to work out their problems. Otherwise, the one promoting the separation should admit to self and spouse that the ultimate goal is divorce. People tend to deal better with a harsh truth than a supposedly sympathetic lie.
Is It Right to Date While Separated?
Dating is the process of sifting through possibilities to find a suitable significant other. Admittedly, not all people who date look for long-term partners, but even if their intention is for short-term companionship, the process is similar. Having lunch with a friend once per proverbial blue moon is not seen as dating because the goal is casual friendship, not a more connected relationship. Dating moves it to a different category. Every single adult in America knows that.
As long as one is married to one person, she should in no way seek significant relationship with any other person. Attempting to justify it by saying “I’m separated” belies reality. Separated is married. If one wishes to find another significant relationship, why has he not legally ended his marriage?
A person who remains married for religious reasons, but is separated and dating, refuses to face her own conscience. Pretending to do right by remaining married is in reality hypocrisy if one dates another. It is a mind game one plays with herself. God does not participate in that delusion. Typically, neither do her friends; they know the score.
A person who remains married for financial reasons, but is separated and dating, refuses to take responsibility for his own actions. If money is enough reason to stay married, then he should truly be married. If it is not, then he should stop the parasitic behavior and stand on his own two feet.
A person who remains married for the children’s sake, but is separated and dating, refuses to be what a parent should be. Children see and hear nearly everything. A parent who thinks she gives her children comfort by not pursuing divorce breaks their hearts if she dates. Because she has not divorced, they hope she and Dad may get back together, but that hope becomes confused when she dates someone else. (Of course, this applies to both parents.) Separation implies their parents could reconcile. If either parent has no intention of ever reconciling, separation creates a mean tease. Either reconcile or bring finality so that they can accept and adjust.
Dating May Lead to Love
I do not know when Dinesh met Denise, or how their relationship developed.
Though I do not know their details, I know the process.
It starts with access. Maybe they worked together, had mutual friends, or went to the same church. It is hard to develop relationship with someone with whom you do not interact. Friendship grows. Typically innocent at first, they find each other attractive in some way – physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, or some combination. As they talk, they gradually open themselves more, becoming vulnerable and transparent to each other as they build trust. Eventually, one of them realizes they have evolved to a deep emotional connection. He begins manipulating conversations to test the feelings of the other. Finally, they admit to themselves and each other that they love and want to be together.
That is how people reach the point that they make statements similar to the one attributed to Dinesh that he “is sure Denise is the one for me.”
Sadly, that occurred while he was married to another woman. Separated people, as all married people, have no right to develop that deep emotional connection with anyone other than their spouses.
Separated is not the same as single.
The "New Love" Often Leads to "Insulated Immorality"
I just coined the term because I could not think of the right word or phrase. “Insulated Immorality” works well to describe it.
As one enmeshes emotionally with another person, she biologically and emotionally begins a process of becoming one with that person. That leads humans to touch, kiss, embrace, and…more. It is the natural course of human love.
People who believe sex is for married people know the struggle to remain sexually chaste as they fall in love and move toward marriage. Even if they believe they should wait until marriage, when love intensifies many become sexual. Some feel guilt. Others justify it with their stated intent to marry. No one is surprised when it happens.
Though immoral by their beliefs and values, they insulate themselves against strong guilt by justifying their behavior because of their deep love for each other. That is why I call it insulated immorality. It can shield a person so securely from his own beliefs and values that he can make a speech at a Christian conference and receive a standing ovation, though he knows that he will spend that very night in a motel room with a certain woman in his audience.
Why would anyone be surprised that a man who allowed himself to fall in love with the woman who “is the one” moved further in that relationship and spent the night with her?
“Because it is wrong!” you might say.
I agree. However, it is also wrong for a married man to allow himself to develop a relationship with a woman who is not his wife. His relationship with her did not become wrong when they stepped into a motel room. It became wrong when he dated her. Dating started the process. Unless he is immoral without conscience, Dinesh did not spend the night with her purely for sexual reasons. He spent the night with her because of his emotional bond with her.
That bond resulted from a relationship that had no right to exist.
Therefore, if we wish to take a moral stand against a married man – even a separated one – spending the night with a woman who is not his wife, reason demands we take our stand against the process that led him there. Insulated immorality develops through a process over time. Preventing the process removes the possibility.
Unwise Actions Lead to Unhappy Consequences
I truly feel for Dinesh, his wife, and, though it may shock you, Denise. Clearly I believe that Dinesh and Denise should never have dated and that they crossed moral and spiritual boundaries. However, they likely are good people who never meant to do anything wrong. They probably started on the destructive path without realizing where it headed. By the time they understood the destination, they were not willing to abandon each other. Of course, I speculate because I know neither of them. Yet my speculation is more than wild guessing. At our organization, we help people with similar stories every day.
By the grace of God, we help most of the couples (3 out of 4) overcome and salvage their marriages.
Unfortunately, we cannot undo the consequences of their bad decisions. No matter how good a man Dinesh was, is, or will be, his actions cost him his position at The King’s College and may have driven the last nail in his marriage. His rise in reputation and respect in the evangelical community has been replaced by scandal. By God’s grace, he may overcome that, but it will take years.
The lesson for all of us – especially for separated men or women – is to consider the consequences. What did Dinesh gain? What did he lose? Every decision has a consequence. Every act a result. On our current courses, what will we gain or lose?
As often happens, when Dinesh’s world crashed around him, he listened to the wisdom of others, at least to the point that he suspended his engagement with Denise. That is not unusual. Commonly, when people reap their sown seeds they find themselves no longer in the relationship that led them there.
I do not write this to cause Dinesh any greater difficulty. Instead, I would be happy to help him and his wife save their marriage if the opportunity presented itself. I will rejoice when he rises above the current situation and God uses him again.
No, I do not wish to add to his burdens, but point to his consequences as a warning to others.
If you are separated, please seek the help to salvage your marriage. If you date others, admit to yourself the purpose of dating…or at the very least, the destination of dating. If you wish to be free, and are not willing to salvage your marriage, be honest and talk divorce with your spouse. Be honest with yourself, your mate, your children, your church, your relatives, your friends, and your life.
Truth sets you free. Deception destroys.
Publication date: November 16, 2012