There are few situations that cause as much pain as the break-up of a marriage. So many factors are involved, especially if there are children. Often the individuals feel like failures, even when holding their partner at fault (a whole other subject). The feelings are confusing, the process is confusing, and the future is uncertain. And there can be a lot of moral confusion as well. This question often comes up:
“When am I really free?”
Usually this question means “When am I free to date again.”
For many, there has already been a long period of emotional disconnection. They have felt alone and separated from their spouse for years and their desire to be close to someone is intense. For some, their spouse may have been involved in an affair, which contributed to the break-up. The rings may have already come off their fingers (prematurely). And then I deliver the painful answer:
“You are not free to date until the divorce is final. Up until that point you are still married.”
This time period between deciding to divorce, filing for divorce, and waiting for the divorce to be final is very unsettling. Often people are still living together, sharing finances, operating as parents together and still engaged in uneasy conflict. Others are separated and adjusting to dramatic changes in their daily routine.
This is the time that they are probably the most vulnerable emotionally.
One of the things I tell married people is never to have a secret “back burner” person. That is a person that you might want to pursue in case the current relationship fails – someone for whom you keep a tiny flame burning (just in case). This always impedes counseling and reconciliation, or in the case of divorce, readjustment.
Attaching to a new person too soon prevents us from going through a normal and healthy grieving process. It does not allow us to face our own shortcomings and to make corrections where necessary. As a result we then bring the same problems into the new relationship. Like it or not, we are always a part of the problem (even it is only that we have a blind spot for choosing a good partner).
For most married couples sex has been a regular part of their life and the thought of waiting until re-marriage seems nearly impossible. I feel for them. That is real suffering. I can only pray for God to give them the strength and grace to endure. And I remind them that this is the struggle that all single people are faced with.
Our goal is always to keep marriages together unless there is a seriously compelling reason to the contrary. Usually this is possible when surrender occurs, hearts soften and forgiveness flows. In other words, when we are able to embrace a level of maturity we do not feel.
Matthew 19:6-8 (NIV)
6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”