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DivorceWise Newsletter
Issue 11 - 2001 by Kari West - Garden Glories Publications
Dating Again

Welcome Survivor!

Dating after divorce is the focus of this issue. It is a topic rarely discussed yet one most of us eventually think about. Try as we might, we can't avoid it. Everywhere we look we see couples--strolling the mall, dining out, sharing a church hymnal, or holding hands. As we remember what we have lost, we yearn for what could be--and we wonder if somewhere out there love waits for us again.

In this newsletter you'll meet Lynn and Melissa, wise women who graciously open their hearts to share their corporate but separate dating experiences, the discoveries they made about themselves, and their advice about "the wrong man."

Here's what's new

May I recommend a good book? The Journey of Desire--Searching for the Life We've Only Dreamed Of by John Eldredge released in 2000 by Thomas Nelson Publishers. A friend recommended it to me while I was finishing the manuscript for my second book. Preoccupied, I took a quick glance, then relegated it to the bookshelf. Later, when I picked up the book again, I couldn't put it down. Each page speaks of our search for love, affirmation, belonging, and relationship.

Personal Reflection ... by Lynn in Florida

I remember the day a fellow teacher said to me, "You ought to get down on your hands and knees and thank God every night for your husband." That is how my ex-husband was viewed by EVERYONE: The Perfect Man. Godly. Handsome. Successful. Fun. A great father. He still opened my car door after 15 years of marriage. For many of those 15 years, it was an ideal marriage. We loved. We laughed. We played. And we raised a wonderful family.

However, as my ex-husband's career took off so did he. I found out that he had started having affairs while traveling for business. I was beyond shocked, especially when he didn't immediately repent and beg to restore our marriage. By the time I found out, his heart was hard and very much removed from our home. About 10 months after my discovery, he moved out of our home. I will NEVER forget the conversation with our children that proceeded his departure. I wanted to die at that moment, but I knew from that point on I was responsible for my kids and I had to survive.

The next couple of years were hard--and that is an understatement of incredible magnitude. Night after night of my children cried themselves to sleep asking me, "Why did dad leave?" I had no answers, and my faith wavered as God's silence taunted me.

For a year, I believed if I prayed hard enough God would bring my husband back. I did, but God didn't. I still don't understand why, but I do know that even in my disappointment, God never left my side. During that time, I learned that even when we can't see the hand of God, we can always trust His heart. Ironically, instead of God changing my ex-husband's heart, He began to work on mine. He called me to forgive the man who had betrayed me and He gave me the grace to do it. He beckoned me to trust Him even when the path was dark. He challenged me to hope again for things not seen nor even imagined.

Well, fast forward three and a half years. My kids are well and happy. My career is back on track. I have since bought my own home, financed my first car IN MY NAME, and have been doing the "dating thing." Ugh. Talk about feeling like I'm 13 again!!! Who knew at almost 40 I would have to worry about How do I get his attention? Does he like me? How far is too far? Will my children EVER go to bed so we can have some time alone? How do I handle another heartache? Are there any men who aren't married, gay, needy, or commitment-phobic?

During these years of being single, I have had one serious relationship. Unexpectedly, I fell madly in love, but with the wrong man. He was (and is!) charming, and wonderful, and everything I was looking for--except he didn't share my faith, not even a little bit. I desperately tried to make things work. It was so nice to feel loved and loveable again. It was unbelievable to me that I could feel such deep, intimate emotions again.

I knew from the beginning that the lack of common spiritual ground would be an issue, but I was too afraid to let go. What if this was my second chance? There might not be a third. After a year and a half, we amicably decided to call it quits. Even though there was, once again, much heartache, I don't regret our time together. I learned that there is LIFE after divorce, that it won't always just be survival. I also learned that each person who enters our life has the potential to forever change us. This man left his mark on me, and in the process, I learned much about myself. For that, I am grateful.

Most importantly, I realized that love is worth the risk of rejection. Vulnerability is a small price to pay in order to fully embrace a loving relationship. Opening my heart and even having it crushed a bit is infinitely better than the numbness of shutting down.

I have no answers to my dating dilemmas. I don't even know if my "Mr. Right" even exists. But day by day, I am learning to give my heart to God for safekeeping until (or if) He brings the right one along. It's far too easy to throw your affections out carelessly in hopes that someone will return the attention that is missing after a divorce, but the end of that road leads to even more heartache.

So, I'm being more careful and looking at the big picture. The last chapter of my story has not yet been written, but I have big hopes and dreams--and I know my God is able even when I am not. I also know that my God will never leave me--ever! And I know that He loves me with an unconditional, everlasting love. That knowledge helps me through those days that are hard and lonely.

Yes, there are still "those" days, but they are less frequent and less intense. The aftermath of divorce does not go away quickly or easily. It truly is two steps forward, one step back. But I'm heading in the right direction. And my future looks bright.

Personal Reflection ... by Melissa in Florida

After careful thought it seems to me that we come into problems in three areas: wrong person, wrong reason, and wrong time.

Wrong person: Even though I had repeatedly taught my own teenagers and other youth group teens that they should never date a non-Christian, the first person I went out with was not a Christian. Because I had convinced myself that I was "mature" enough to keep things on an even keel, I compromised my convictions on several occasions. It wasn't really anything earth shattering; but upon reflection, I realized that I saw movies, went to concerts and clubs that I would never have considered going to before my divorce.

Because I was reeling from the rejection of my husband, I, a normally very outspoken person, did not speak up about the fact that these activities did not really fit my lifestyle because I didn't want my date to think I was "weird." I felt weird enough without having someone else confirm it!

I also was involved more physically than I wanted to be because I didn't set boundaries beforehand based upon my biblical convictions. It's really hard to explain to someone your Biblical convictions when they don't even know what those ARE! It was a real struggle for me; and although I managed to extricate myself from the relationship, it was NOT where I should have been. With a little wisdom, I should have avoided this trap entirely.

Wrong reason: This also relates to the wrong person but in a different way. One of the reasons I went ahead and accepted the first date with this person was that I was flattered that he had asked. After having my husband leave me for a woman 14 years my junior, it really didn't take a PhD to figure out that I was trying to "show" him that someone still found me desirable.

It's a dumb reason to go out with someone! So are: I'm lonely, he's the only one who asked, and I don't have anything else to do. By examining my motives and lifting the whole situation to the Lord, I was able to really see where I had gotten off track and take steps to get back on the path I needed to be on.

I was desperately lonely in the first couple of months after my husband left. I never realized how much you could miss having someone to snuggle with before going to sleep, take your hand in a movie or just give you a hug and a kiss whenever you arrived home. These things all contributed to my saying "yes" to a relationship that should never have happened.

Wrong Time: Another reason for not dating right away is that you can cover up a lot of self examination by staying busy and not taking the time to examine your heart before the Lord. I found that I kept looking to a man to give me things that really only God can give us.

Because I had met my husband at such a young age (16) and had been married for so long (20 years) I really had never had an identity apart from him. Because I was dating and "looking" for someone, I wasted a lot of time that should have been spent in quiet contemplation of where I was and where I needed to be in my life and in my children's lives.

I now realize that my sufficiency will never be found in a mate and I will never be made complete by a man, there is only one Person who makes us complete and that is the Lord Jesus. We can have companionship and love with a future mate but before we can really come to a new relationship whole and healthy we need to be sure that we have done the necessary soul searching, repentance and forgiveness required by God. For me, dating so quickly obscured that focus.

Help for today ... by Kari

Perhaps you relate to Lynn and Melissa. You know those up-close-and-personal fears and longings of the dating scene and that desire to have an arm around your shoulder and a hand clasped in yours. Sometimes you vacillate between getting involved with someone just for the sake of it to wiling yourself to wait until you can navigate better through your topsy-turvy emotions. Maybe you are railing at the unfairness of your singleness while you fantasize about marrying in haste so you won't be alone. Wherever you are in the dating scene, know that you aren't alone in what you are experiencing.

For some of us, the pain of having been promised belonging and acceptance and receiving instead betrayal and rejection is so overwhelming that we may vow never to get involved with anyone else ever again. Others of us truly wish to remarry, if only we could find "Mr. Right." And most of us, if we would admit it, aren't sure we can trust our judgment anymore. We question our ability to distinguish the counterfeit from the real. Betrayal and rejection have left us with a loud message that we are not enough, that we are unlovable and unworthy of love even if it came our way.

The truth is that you are more than enough. Loveable. Loving. Worthy. There really are men out there who are looking for someone just like you--men of fidelity and integrity. I know. One came my way. We celebrated our 11th anniversary last fall. If God wills, it can happen to you too. Don't give up the desires of your heart. Don't close your mind to the possibility of remarriage. And never be embarrassed to pour out your fears and longings to God. He already knows your thoughts. Take time to cultivate your relationship with Him. Don't rush His plan for your life. In the meantime, nurture your gifts and talents. Stay active and involved in your community and church, with family and friends. Be open to new friendships and great relationships--and dating. You'll know when the time is right.

Lynn and Melissa remind us that it is possible to reenter the dating scene--and that we can reenter it too soon in our quest for belonging and acceptance, affirmation and love. But how soon is too soon? I don't know the answer. No one does, except you. Many experts advise waiting one year for every five years that you were married. In other words, a four-year wait after the end of a 20-year marriage. What helped me work through the dating dilemma is this: Pray about your particular situation and for patience to wait. Seek wise counsel from credible people who respect your values and beliefs. Study scripture. Remember: Healing the wounds of your heart may happen quicker than you expect or take longer than you think. While you wait, don't put your life on hold. There are things to do, places to go, and people to bless. Trust your instincts--and God. You deserve God's best. And you are wiser than you think.

A promise you can trust

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. ---Zephaniah 3:17

Please stop by again soon. In the meantime ...

Please let me hear from you. I answer every letter and e-mail. Be encouraged to share what helped you through your divorce so others know they are not alone and that they too can and will survive. E-mail by Clicking Here or write Kari West, Garden Glories Publications, P. O. Box 11692, Pleasanton, CA 94588.

Copyright 1998 - 2002 by Kari West