Should Christians look for a new relationship before a divorce is final? Should a single person go ahead with a relationship with a person whose divorce hasn’t been finalized yet? Dr. Jim gives advice about the consequences and what is the best approach for situations like this.
Is it okay to begin a new relationship before the divorce is final?
The scenario is usually presented to me something like the following. The individual has been diligently searching for someone where there are strong compatibilities and attractions. One is found in their search and they enjoy a great initial experience. The other person then shares that they are going through a divorce and the papers are not yet final. Often what follows is a story of why it is taking so long or the many trials and difficulties that divorcing the other person is creating. These facts are not lies, although there may be some embellishment out of their own perspective and needs.
What do you do? Do you continue the relationship – but with caution? Do you say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ and distance yourself? These are big questions and an answer needs to be developed upon a solid foundation.
Here are some factors that I invite you to consider:
1. There are two conditions or relationships – single and married. Either a person is one or the other. Until the divorce is final in every legal sense of the word, the person is married.
2. If you begin to develop a relationship with this person, I believe that you are setting yourself up for difficulty in two areas:
a. Emotionally: The first relationship that a divorced person enters is seldom the one that ends in another marriage. This is especially true if the new relationship was begun before the divorce is final. Humans are very complex and the convergence of our emotions, intellect, physical and spiritual parts command to be brought into balance.
A person undergoing a divorce (or for some time after the divorce) is more focused on their emotional/physical needs. However, as reality sets in and the consequences of a new relationship begin to unfold, this person often ‘bails’ out. It is not that they have been untrue, they are just not in a healthy enough place to make permanent choices. I have found that it takes at least 2 years AFTER a divorce before they may be healthy enough to make such choices.
1. God loves marriage and hates divorce. (He does not hate the person who divorces, just the act of divorce!) In marriage, God mysteriously unites the two into one flesh. In divorce, this joining is ‘ripped’ apart what He has joined. There is pain and debris left, when His plan was for joy and unity. God hates divorce because He loves us and not that He is judging us. Christian Divorce: How Does God Relate to Divorce?
2. In keeping with this principle, God wants everything possible to be done to salvage a marriage. Not only is this true before the divorce, but I believe that it continues until the other mate either dies or marries again. I know of several marriages that have been restored during this time awaiting divorce and even after a divorce. I would not want to be the one in the way of God’s desire to restore a marriage. No matter what took place or how much anger and hurt is being expressed, God can and does restore marriages.
What should you do? There are several steps:
a. Ask God for guidance and clear direction.
b. Seek out the advice of your Pastor.
c. Find a Christian counsellor and share what is going on in this new relationship. They can be objective and factual, guiding you to make the best choice for you.
d. Pray about stepping away from the divorce.
* The words that you may hear ringing in your head ‘but if I let this one get away, I am getting too old to find another’ are a lie! Yes, I said a lie and I believe it is straight from Satan’s den. The fact is that almost 70% of second marriages end in divorce. A second marriage that is not well founded and given the time to develop is setting itself up to join this statistic.
* You may be standing in the way of this person getting closer to God to fill the void within them – that you can never fill.
* Your unselfish act to place the other person first may be the way that they find healing.
e. Seek the counsel of several Christians of your own gender, or Christian couples. They can be a very valuable resource and support for you.
f. If you feel led to step away from the relationship, do so with compassion – but with clarity.
g. If you feel led to stay in the relationship, take your time and keep your counsellors close and well informed. Do not hesitate to take wise input from counsellors, family and friends.
While we do not live in a black and white world, I do believe that some things are easier to see when one steps back and asks how God sees this.
God really wants the very best for you and getting ahead of His timing often leads to unnecessary heartache.