HOW MUCH SHOULD WE HEAL BEFORE DATING?

August 13, 2022

Cathy and I often advise those who have been through a traumatic relationship loss to take some time to heal before venturing back out into the dating world. Sometimes, I think we might have overdone this.

We recently attended weddings for two middle aged couples, both of whom had done a lot of intentional healing work and a lot of intentional dating. They were both active in mid-singles groups that are oriented toward personal development like this one. They each chose partners who were committed to personal development. I believe both couples will beat the odds and have lasting marriages.

During our mid-single years and the years since as we have worked in the mid-single community, we have noticed that those who are moving on, remarrying, and rebuilding their lives are the ones who are affirmatively working on healing and putting themselves out there and making an effort.

While it is important to give yourself some time to heal, there are a couple of common ideas among mid-singles which I think are not serving us very well:

(1) "I am just working on me." Sometimes the idea that I am just working on myself is a convenient excuse to avoid risking my heart. In the beginning, when you are very raw and cannot get through a conversation without bringing up your former spouse, it is probably best to hold off and give yourself some time to heal. After a year or two, if you are still blaming your former spouse and talking about him or her to anyone who will listen, you are not working on yourself nor healing. Working on myself does not mean passively waiting. It means reading books, having counseling, intentionally seeking greater understanding of ourselves and our unhealthy relationship patterns, accepting what is, and affirmatively deciding who we want to be going forward. This is harder than dating because it requires us to self-confront even more.

(2) "It will happen in the Lord's time." While it is literally true that it will happen in the Lord's time and we need to be patient; this does not mean we need to be passive. The Lord cannot guide our footsteps if we are standing still. As I said, the people I see moving on to happy marriages are the people who are affirmatively self-confronting, working on their own approach to life, and making affirmative efforts to date great people. I have generally not seen people move on who are passively waiting for the Lord to drop something in their lap. Zig Ziglar famously said that "success is where preparation meets opportunity." It is up to the Lord to deliver the opportunity. But it is up to you to prepare for it, and even to seek it (See Matthew 7:7).

When we get right down to it, the biggest barrier in the way of happiness is fear. Fear not only steals our happiness directly, but it prevents us from moving forward into uncharted territory. It prevents us from being vulnerable, which is essential to create connection.

While I do recommend taking some time for healing after divorce or the death of a loved one or even a serious break-up, I do not want to overdo this advice. I would not be serving you by doing so. The first step to breaking out of the prison of complacency is to admit to yourself and to others what you really want. Don't just say "it would be nice." Don't just say "if the Lord brings me someone." If you want the blessing of marriage, you need to admit it to yourself and to others. The second step is to radically accept the discomfort and even fear associated with taking emotional risks. If you wait until you are no longer afraid, you will wait forever. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is moving forward even while feeling fear.

I hope this helps. God speed!

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