July 13, 2011

Warning: Dating the previously married

By Anthony Buono *
Many single Catholics who have never been married have no interest in considering someone who has been married before as a future spouse. Not even those eligible for sacramental marriage who have a decree of nullity.

And why is this? It’s not an unreasonable thing for a person never married to want someone also never married. But can we go as far as to have this as a preference or an insistence? Are previously married people some sort of second class citizen? Do they have to stick to their own kind? Never marrieds(NM) marry other NM, and divorced marry the divorced?

Are we absolutely positive that God does not want us to be open to someone divorced who is now eligible for sacramental marriage via their decree of nullity?

I had a very interesting conversation at our recent Ave Maria Singles retreat with a woman who was communicating with a man who had on his profile that he only wants to date women who are NM. Being a divorced woman and in the annulment process, she let him know she was, in fact, previously married and wished him well. She told me she also gave him a piece of advice:

“Not all of us who have been through a divorce end up bitter and nasty with baggage. Many of us know all too well what a marriage should and should not be.”

I applauded her for offering him this advice. More singles who have never been married and adamant about only marrying someone NM need to hear this advice. There is nothing wrong with wanting that, but there could be everything wrong with being so narrow-minded.

If you are a NM, I would like to offer you some fair warning about those who are presently single (divorced) with annulments:

Annulled Catholics often make the best spouses.

There it is. And don’t say I didn’t warn you. Not the warning you were expecting? That’s probably because too often the warning you hear is to stay away from those who are presently single(PS) because they are scarred, bitter, carry a lot of baggage and are basically incapable of being in a successful marriage.

There is no denying that many who go through divorce have suffered a great deal, have things to resolve and need healing. Some never quite get past the negative experience of divorce and are not ready (maybe never will be) for being open to a relationship and marriage. You should definitely make sure you are not dealing with a PS who is not quite ready for a relationship.

But there are many divorced Catholics who have come out of the bad experience positive and are ready for real love and an authentically Catholic marriage. They are free to marry in the Church and have much to offer.

They have spiritualized the sufferings they have endured and grown through them. They have found healing through the annulment process of the Catholic Church. They’ve learned a great deal about themselves and about what marriage should be.

There are so many incredible divorced Catholics eligible for sacramental marriage who are past what is fantasy and unrealistic about marriage, and have simplified their expectations. They know the value of having and being a good spouse, are easy to please, anxious to serve, and know how to be content. They know what is important and are no longer distracted by false senses of love. They will not make the same mistake twice.

They are at peace with themselves and focused on God. They want real love and know how to give it. They are level headed and not easily fooled. You can’t help but notice as you date them how clear minded and wise they are. They have so much to give, except their time to waste. They long for real love but will sooner live without it rather than marry again despite it.

This is not to make the presently single(PS) out to be better than someone who is a NM. But it is definitely to encourage the NM not to avoid the PS.

God is the cause of every person who comes into our life. Keeping an open mind and heart is to live in trust of God. The more we try to control, insist, prefer and demand, the less God can do for us, and the more blind we become to those God is influencing to cross our paths.

It is not unlikely that God would want you to be open to someone PS who is eligible for sacramental marriage. After all, in the eyes of God, a person with a decree of nullity has never been married.

So be careful, never marrieds. It is totally possible to find a PS who captures your heart and is better than any NM you have dated. You just might find out that by being open to a divorced Catholic with a decree of nullity, you have discovered love like you never imagined, and live a marriage more blessed and exemplary than you ever could with another NM.

Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.