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Marriage disruption is an expected outcome in today’s culture. Getting a divorce used to be a stigma. In some places, it still is, but for the most part, it is an acceptable “option” for a lot of folks when relationships begin to crumble.
Christians are not immune to this laissez-faire attitude about divorce. Many believers have adopted our culture’s “right” to marry and divorce willy-nilly. This wrong attitude is one of the reasons I appreciate your question.
You are asking because you want to do what is right. This desire speaks to your humility as well as your hope to honor the Lord in this next phase of your life. I appreciate your carefulness about remarriage and your wisdom in seeking counsel.
I do not have to tell you about divorce. You understand. If a person cares about God and family, he knows that separation and divorce are two of the most painful events in life.
Nobody gets married to become divorced, but when it does happen, your life is forever and immutably affected. You wear the “scarlet D” on your chest for the rest of your life. If you have children, the effects of divorce will be passed along to them. This sad reality is unavoidable.
This repercussion of divorce makes remarriage serious business. You no longer believe you will not be divorced. You have lived through it, and you know it can happen again. Apart from the Lord, there is nothing that can keep you from being divorced.
If one of the partners begins to lose interest in God, they can divorce you at any time, for any reason. The culture certainly does not care, and our court system processes divorce like cattle going through a stall.
Integrity, honor, right, and wrong do not always matter in a court of law, especially when it comes to dissolving a marriage. Once the partners go into the system, it is up to whoever has the best lawyer, the most money, and the mood of the judge. It is a dangerous game we play when we center our lives on something other than God’s Word.
I hate divorce with a passion. I do not hate divorced people, but I hate the idea of divorce. I have spent most of my adult life dealing with divorce, divorced people, and divorced children.
There are no winners, and the biggest loser of all is the Lord. When a couple makes a vow before God and others to stay together until death, and afterward they change their minds and become divorced, they slander God’s name.
You can read the Vital Health Statistics published by the Center for Disease Control in July 2002 to get their statistical take on the matter. They did a study on cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the United States.
Statistically speaking, you will see how the stats are all over the place, depending on many data points like race, income, region, decade, and duration. Your chances of staying married a second time can be anywhere from single digits to over fifty percent. These numbers go in the “for what it’s worth” department.
The one factor they cannot measure is God. Though there can be some merit to the stats, I would prefer you default to biblical wisdom. Humble yourself before the Lord and seek counsel, which you are doing.
I have written many articles on the various challenges involved when a person is thinking about divorce or is divorced and is working through the unending aftermath of the disruption. I recommend you read them on our website.
As for a second marriage, it depends on several things. The first question you have to ask is whether your divorce was biblical. Did you have a biblical divorce? This means, was adultery involved or were you deserted by your spouse?
According to Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7, there are only two reasons a person can divorce a spouse and be permitted to remarry. If you are biblically divorced, you are biblically free to date and eventually remarry.
I am going to assume you are biblically divorced and, thus, will move on to your question. You are free to date, but I would give you several cautions for you to ponder.
As a general rule, I have found it best for folks to wait a year or more after their divorce before they begin to date. Of course, you can do as you wish. I am not mandating anything here, but only speaking from personal and counseling experience.
I will lay out my reasoning for you, and you can measure your heart as to where you are and what you should do. I also recommend that you speak with someone who is close to you, who understands you and your situation, and has the grace and courage to talk about the truth to you (Ephesians 4:15).
Emotion – Divorce is an enormously emotional experience. As I said, nobody plans or wants one. When you are going through it, all kinds of feelings are in play. Some people have erroneously thought once the divorce is final, they will be able to think clearly.
This perspective is not so. The end of the divorce is not the end of the divorce process, especially if you have children. Being divorced is as new as being married. But it is harder. In many ways, divorce is not the finish line but the starting line–you are beginning a different kind of marathon.
When you were married, everything was optimistic, hope-filled, and communal. When you are divorced, everything is eerily different, uncomfortable, definitely “uncharted waters,” and there is the isolation factor. The loneliness of being alone or the fear of being forever alone can motivate you to make a hasty decision.
Subjective – Like marriage, you cannot know what you do not know, and there are a zillion things that you do not know about being divorced. Coming out of the fog of the divorce proceedings does not mean you are out of the subjective dangers.
In one sense, you will never come out of the fog because the residual effect of being divorced will always be with you. While you have to press on with life by making some decisions, it is generally not wise to make big decisions during and right after traumatic events. Years from now, you will reflect on these days and realize the subjective fog that surrounded you.
Children – Your children have never been here before either. This situation is no longer just about you. Last year they were living with two parents. This year they are shuttled between two parents.
This new kind of life is disconcerting and life-altering. Dating too soon is one too many life-altering events for them to process. They do not have the mental or spiritual capacity to work through these kinds of changes. Give them time to acclimate to their new life. Give them your best qualitative and quantitative time.
Before you add another person to their dysfunctional family system, let them get used to the new system. This transition is especially important at this time in their lives.
They are moving from “dependence” to “interdependence,” which means there will be levels of insecurity, unrelated to being divorced kids, that is working in their hearts as they go from being a child to becoming a young adult. Give them time to stabilize–as much as they can under these circumstances.
Dating – A person like you is especially vulnerable because of your age. All divorced people who are not cynical toward relationships are tempted to think that time is their enemy, which can compel them to make a quick decision.
Typically a person like this will meet a girl who is so unlike his ex-wife, and it will seem so right. I would say you could meet almost anyone, and she would be different from your ex-wife. Not hard to do, based on your current opinion of your ex-wife. You have a skewed ability when it comes to thinking about “Mrs. Right.”
Integrity – In many cases, a person who begins dating soon after divorce already had thoughts about dating while he was still married. Even if he did not already know who he wanted to date, he had already indexed forward to his next relational opportunity.
This worldview is not only unwise and immature, but it is a character flaw regarding the covenant that he made with the Lord. I am not saying this is the case with you, but I have seen this pattern many times.
A person who does not fight for his marriage down to the bitter end but chooses to mentally plan the next season of his life with another relationship is not thinking clearly or biblically. To give up hope before the marriage is over is a presumption against the Lord’s ability (Psalm 19:13; James 4:13-17).
A girl should be careful about marrying this kind of person. One of the things you want to see in a leader is persevering grace. I would want to marry a person who fought to the end rather than a person who gave up before the Lord biblically closed the books on their marriage.
If this is the case with a person you are thinking about dating, investigate to see if this is a pattern in her life. If it is, when your new marriage hits the rocks, which it will, you will be unsure how long she will persevere with you.
Rush – If the Lord wants you to be married, He will bring the right person to you. What is the rush? What if you gave some time to seek the Lord? Why do you have to marry? Another relationship on the heels of divorce is a distraction from a season of clarity you desperately need with the Lord.
You need a “relational break” more than you need a “relational attachment,” which is common sense thinking that applies to many things we do in life. I am a runner. When I finish a run, I do not start another one. I take a break.
Taking a break is natural and expected. For example, people love weekends. But this is not a two-day retreat; there are not many situations where the stakes are higher than marriage, divorce, dating, and remarriage. A break is prudent.
What if you gave yourself some time to be lonely? What if your next big relational adventure was with the Lord rather than with a girl? As far as planning the rest of your life, undistracted time with God would be amazingly profitable and biblically wise.
Weaker – In my experience and almost without exception a divorced man is quicker to date than a divorced woman. I have seen a few reasons for this trend.
Girlfriend – In situations where there are children, the prospective girlfriend and her parents (in appropriate cases) should be involved in the decision for her to date a divorced guy.
If she has not married anyone yet, she will become an “instant mom.” As you know, new moms are nervous and naive about rearing their babies. It is exponentially more difficult for a new mother to step into a situation where there are older children in the mix.
A common question that comes through our Membership Forum is related to the problems that arise from blended families. It is painfully challenging to make something right that has been made wrong by divorce.
Making a good marriage from a lousy marriage takes a woman with a unique gift mix and skill set, plus a mature walk with Christ. She needs to be stable through and through her walk with God. Marrying a divorced person will test her like no other time in her life.
She must also be willing to sacrifice the newlywed part of her marriage. There will be no husband and wife time. She will become involved with parental responsibilities before her honeymoon begins.
Reconcile – What if the Lord wanted you to reconcile with your spouse? Divorce does not have to be final, even if your ex-wife committed adultery. What if you waited for her to close the door officially? What I mean is, what if you waited until she remarries?
I am throwing this out there for you to ponder. As I have said, you are free to do as you please if you have a biblical divorce and if your conscience is free in the Lord. I am thinking about the grace of God here, as well as the reconciling power of the gospel.
What if God authentically and objectively gave your ex-wife a new heart, and she wanted to reconcile? The gospel is about reconciliation, and if she “got her heart right with God,” what a powerful testimony that would be.
I have given you nine things to think about and apply to your life. These are random thoughts. That is all. These are things any person should think about when counseling a divorced person.
I want you to be free in the Lord to do what He is calling you to do. I also want you to give some credence to self-deception. We are all self-deceived to a degree. We cannot know the depths of the cunning contrivances of our hearts.
This reality is why we must come to the Lord in broken and transparent humility. You must not hold back your real thoughts no matter how much you may want something. Most of the time, we are not willing to reveal all our cards.
This season is the time for you to be honest with yourself and others. We all have secret thoughts and desires that we hope nobody will put a stick into and stir up what we have hidden. Do not be like this. Fully trust the Lord.
He will give you the desires of your heart, but if you try to gameplay Him on this matter of remarriage, it will come back to bite you. Other than these few thoughts, be free, my friend.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).