In last week’s blog I began my series about dating after abuse by looking at what the bible says about divorce and remarriage.
This week I will help you decide if you are ready to date. This is an important question for someone who has previously been in an abusive relationship because women* who move too quickly into another relationship often involuntarily choose another abuser. I’m sure you don’t want to do that again. Here goes.
The first question to ask if you’re leaving a marriage is, are you actually divorced? Is the divorce final? If not, in my humble opinion, you are not ready to date, because you are still married!
If you are officially divorced, feel at peace about remarrying, (or you are marrying for the first time), you still need to decide if dating is wise for you right now. How can you discern this? I can’t answer this for you, but I can give you two categories of questions to think through.
I. Have you spent enough time and energy seeking healing from the abuse you’ve suffered before considering another relationship? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you spend a lot of time each day thinking about your ex?
- Are you still very angry with him – do you often think about getting revenge for the pain he’s caused you?
- Are you suffering from serious anxiety or depression? (A little bit of this is to be expected.)
- Are your children very unstable and needing a lot of your time and attention?
- Are you looking for someone to: build your self-esteem, or protect you from your ex, or help you financially?
- Do you want someone to help you “forget” the pain of the past or do you believe once you marry you won’t have to continue doing the hard work of healing from your abuse?
If you answered, “yes” to any of these questions, I encourage you not to begin dating yet, and to continue seeking healing for the pain your abuser has caused you. You and/or your children are probably not yet ready.
I answer this question differently than many people do. Like Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye**, I don’t believe in “dating” in the way most people in the modern western world date. Today, most people jump quickly into romance because it “feels good.” Often, this includes sexual intercourse, sometimes on the first date. There is little consideration about whether this person is the one God has chosen for you for a lifetime. People rarely think about what is best for the other person. Instead, romance is enjoyed for romance’s sake, no matter what the cost to those involved. Couples often move in together with no discussion of marriage. Two, three, even five years later, they are still living together. In the United States in the year 2010, forty percent of all children were born outside of marriage[i]. This is not the way God designed romance and the family to work.
I believe a person has no business dating someone unless they are willing and able to marry him/her within a fairly short amount of time, say a year or so. I realize to some people, this is a radical stance. Let me explain.
I believe beginning a relationship with someone you don’t ever intend to marry is simply playing with someone else’s heart. Often when you do this you will also unexpectedly be hurt in the process because you will become emotionally involved whether you expect to or not.
To begin a relationship with someone who doesn’t ever intend to marry you is probably even worse. Often a man won’t advertise the fact he isn’t serious about marriage.
In his book, Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship,[ii] Joshua Harris introduces the “old fashioned” concept of courtship. Though courtship brings to mind horse and buggy days, I believe courtship can be extremely helpful for today’s Christians, especially for women who have been abused. Simply put, in courtship,
The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment.
Courtship is a relationship between a man and a woman who are actively and intentionally together to consider marrying each other. It combines biblical principles of loving each other as you love yourself, the priority of sexual purity, and the need for the wisdom and perspective that comes from having a relationship within a loving community of other Christians.
Joshua Harris describes asking his future wife out on their first date, and asking whether he could “court” her. My relationship with my second husband didn’t happen that way. We had known each other for over a year as friends in an adult Sunday school class. We went out on a few dates, and decided we could potentially have a future together. We then dated seriously, and exclusively for about four months before we officially began “courting” each other. Mr. Harris says the words you call your dating process don’t matter as much as the way you live. Are you trying to honor God with your dating life, or are you just looking for “romance?”
In summary, I believe dating should have a purpose, that is, one should date in preparation for marriage. I think in the hearts of most women, we all want the “fairy tale,” the “happily-ever-after” love that lasts a lifetime. Many of us have given up on this hope because of the abuse we have experienced. I believe your hope can be reborn. Check out my next blog.
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.
Song of Solomon 2:7
Until next time, my blessings to you.
*In this blog, I refer to the abused person as “she”, and the abuser as “he”. The same principles apply if the abuser is the female and the victim is the male.
** Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Romance and Relationships (Multnomah Publishers:Colorado Springs, CO, 1997)
[ii] Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship (Multnomah Publishers:Colorado Springs, CO, 2005) 26-27