As a single Pastor, I sometimes get asked questions that other Pastor's are not asked simply because they think that my marital status will change my perspective on the issue. What they don't realize is that I am a pastor that has made more than his fair share of mistakes in my life. I don't just speak from a theoretical position concerning the issues that surround divorce and remarriage, but I speak from experience as well. I have made the mistakes of trying to take shortcuts and they ended up just being another trip around the mountain spinning my wheels. So as I write this article, I just want to encourage you to take a deep breath, quiet your heart and emotions and listen to the still small voice of the Lord concerning this issue.
3 Critical Issues Concerning Dating While Separated.
In order to understand this subject we are going to look at 3 issues related to dating while separated. We are going to look at 1.) The purpose of dating, 2.) The purpose of separation, and 3.) The realities of divorce.
What is the purpose of dating?
Whether you call it dating, courting, or as I sometimes do, "Russian Roulette", the fact remains that people date in order to find a prospective mate. Because it has this purpose, then it only goes to reason that both parties must be free to marry in order to date. Someone who is still married, even if they are separated, is not free to marry. They are bending the purpose of dating to their own emotional and possibly selfish desires.
Because dating is a precursor to marriage and is part of the process that we use to find a prospective mate, it is only logical to take into consideration the value and esteem a person places upon marriage, even one that may be heading towards divorce. If they will not value the sanctity of marriage even though their own marriage may be failing, then they will not value the sanctity of marriage in their next marriage.
Although a person may have emotionally detached from their marriage, and even if they are just waiting for the divorce to be final, the fact remains that it is not final and that finality is very important as I will get into later in this article. Dating while separated is extremely unwise at best, (assuming there is no sexual involvement going on, including kissing and hand holding), and emotional adultery at worse. You are not keeping your vow to God to give yourself only to your spouse. It was a vow to God and your spouse, not to man, government, or based on circumstance.
What is the purpose of separation.
Separation is not pre-divorce as many see it today. It is actually meant to be a time where both parties separate so they can have space and time to make a very important decision that will affect their life and the lives of those around them. It is not the time to be looking for the next person in your life. You are about to break your covenant with God and your spouse. It is supposed to be a time of deep introspection and gravity, instead of feeling "free and ready to play". When you treat this time in a flippant manner, it reveals the true condition of your heart because the heart of God is breaking.
Separation is to be the time where we give God time to work a miracle and save a marriage. If you clutter that time with other hearts and attractions you severely cloud the waters and make it obvious that you have no desire for reconciliation. Reconciliation may not always be possible, but do not make it impossible by your actions. Do not put yourself in the position of choosing between your spouse and your new love interest. The real choice is between being married to your spouse or being single. Trust me I know. I now have been single 12 years.
The realities of divorce.
I have already addressed issues on this website like what God says about divorce and biblical reasons for divorce. So I am not going to go into those issues. What I am going to address is the realities of divorce.
Divorce is the literal tearing of one couple into two separate entities. This is a spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical ripping apart of all that made the couple one. It has huge consequences on a person's life. They seriously become wounded and needy in many ways. Damage to a person in this drastic of a manner takes a season of healing before they will be ready to marry. It doesn't happen overnight. Not only does it take a season of healing, but it takes a season of dealing with the issues that caused the divorce in the first place. It is never 100% one person's fault. It takes two to make a marriage and it takes two to end a marriage.
If you are dating while separated, you are not doing the things you need to be doing to heal up and deal with the issues that caused the divorce. You are replacing one mate for another. You need to return to being single and embracing that before you ever seek a new spouse. You need to walk the process out to finality.
The need for closure.
While you are separated, there are many things up in the air. The final outcome is not decided yet. The consequences of your choices may not yet be felt. Things like finances, child custody, and just getting used to not having somebody around all the time. Until you have gotten to a place of finality and closure you are not ready to move on. If you do it before then, then you are not bringing all who you are and will be to the table. You are bringing a broken person. Bringing a broken person into a new relationship is a recipe for disaster.
Do yourself a favor and listen to a person who has walked this path imperfectly and only by the grace of God was spared making a bigger mistake. Don't date while separated. Take the time to honor your marriage vows to the end. Take the time to heal and become whole as a single Christian before you try to be united into one again with another.
This issue is not about whether we find a biblical line not to cross and if we don't cross it then it is not "sin". This issue is about whether or not you really want God's best in your life or you want to indulge yourself.