SOURCE: Leslie Vernick
Question: My abusive husband left me 2 years ago, and I am so grateful that God took him out of my life after 27 years of trying so hard to make a one-sided marriage work. I have read 3 of your books, and feel like I am thriving. My question is how will I know if I am ready to date again?
At first I felt I would never want to date or marry again. I am so happy, blessed and content, but also feel that God made marriage, and it could be a great blessing to actually be in a good marriage. I have so many wonderful friends and feel so close to the Lord. In some ways, I just want to stay in my safe bubble. But maybe God wants me to grow and learn and have a “do over.”
Can you give us some pointers if we have been freed from an emotionally destructive marriage? Is there a way to know if one is ready to try again? Are there some tips, timeframes and pitfalls you could give us? Thanks for all you do to help those of us who want to grow and be free in Christ.
Answer: Your question is a good one. Many professionals recommend giving yourself a year of healing for every five years of marriage. Therefore, in your situation, they would recommend five years of staying single before marrying again.
However that does not mean that you cannot date during those five years. Let’s look at the seven indicators that show you are ready to take the plunge into the dating world.
1. Do you have a good sense of yourself? Your strengths? Your weaknesses? Your good parts and not so good parts? This is crucial work you must do for your own emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. You want to enter this new relationship as yourself and not as what you think this other person wants you to be.
Some women do not do the hard work to know themselves. Others are insecure or afraid to be themselves because they fear rejection. Rejection is painful, but far less painful than a second emotionally destructive marriage and/or divorce. If you live out of your false self, or you are constantly worrying about your image, you have more internal work to do before you are ready to date.
2. Do you recognize your own personal blind spots (such as being swept up by charm rather than looking for character qualities, or being nice to your own detriment)? Are you aware of what still trips you up in relationships such as a strong need for approval, a fear of conflict, people pleasing, and/or over-functioning? Are you working on changing these things?
3. Are you able to speak up for yourself? Can you say, “No, I don’t like R rated movies”, or “I’m a city girl and would never want to live in a rural area.” Are you able to give someone constructive feedback like, “I feel scared when you drive fast in the snow” or “Please don’t talk with me that way, that makes me uncomfortable.”
4. Do you have personal boundaries and are you able to state them with the current relationships you have? If not, start working on having healthier friendships with the people you are in relationship with before you open yourself up to dating. What are you prepared to do if they refuse to respect your boundaries or pressure you to loosen them? Have you already shown you are capable of doing that in your current relationships?
5. Have you made a list of the qualities you are looking for in a potential partner as well as your deal breakers? Do you know your own top core values and are you living by them in your current status as a single woman?
As a Christian, we want to be God-centered women not man-centered or self-centered women. In order to have a good marriage, people look for partners with compatible values not necessarily compatible likes and dislikes or even personalities.
You know the old saying – opposites attract and that’s true. But you don’t want opposite values in a marriage. For example, if you value close family ties and he values being independent and free to travel all over the world as you get older, there may be a lot of conflict because your core values do not line up. Or if you value God and biblical truth and he does not, (or says he does but doesn’t live it) then marriages don’t do well.
6. If you have underage children, (or he does) have you thought through when you will bring them into your relationship? For example, I usually tell people that when you are casually dating someone, children should not be involved. That makes it tricky when you have visitation every other weekend and you can’t spend time together. But children of broken homes have their own issues with their parents dating and they don’t need to get emotionally invested in someone before there is a true commitment of a long-term relationship.
7. Do you have a core group of good friends or family that you trust to help you “see” whether or not this person is a good potential life partner for you? Are you willing to allow them to give you feedback on some of the red flags they may see that you don’t?
These seven criteria may seem rather tough to live up to but they will protect you from making a huge mistake. When we were young and in love, most of us didn’t really think through these things. But when you’ve already lived through 27 years of a destructive marriage, the last thing you want to do is walk into another relationship with your eyes closed.