This post is based very much on my opinion, on my instinct, and on years and years of my thinking being shaped by youth group and Christian college and Scripture and sermons and the Church and living within community and the Holy Spirit, along with years of working with women who are separated/divorced and remarried.

I believe that these principles are for those who consider themselves to be Christians, which I define as someone who believes Jesus died for her, is trying to follow him by living according to Scripture, and has the Holy Spirit dwelling within her.

And my final disclaimer: there will be a lot of can’s and should not’s coming at you. It’s not because I’m bossy or mean – you all know I don’t typically write that way – but it is because I love each one of you and care about you and your precious hearts so much.  Okay, Beth, gosh…..just go.

If you are single and never married:
I believe you can date*.

(When I say that I believe you can date, I therefore mean that I believe you can marry/remarry.)

If you are currently married:
I believe you should not date anyone other than your husband.  For the love.

If you are separated:
I believe you should not date anyone (other than your husband as part of the therapeutic separation plan) until divorce papers have been signed.  And even then, for the health of your future relationship but more importantly for your full healing, I believe you should not date for at least a full year beyond your divorce date.

Here’s why I believe this. I believe that a covenant is broken when unrepentant unfaithfulness or abandonment takes place. But I believe a covenant is severed only when the divorce is legally final. A broken covenant can be repaired; there is still hope. A severed covenant, on the other hand, means the marriage is officially over, and though anything can be resurrected in God’s economy, a divorce would require the relationship to begin from scratch with a new marriage covenant being entered into. This is why I believe dating should not happen while there is still a chance that the marriage can be brought back to life.

Lastly on this point, if you are dating someone while still technically married, I believe you are dishonoring your estranged spouse, dishonoring the person you are dating by not being able to fully commit, dishonoring God, and not respecting yourself by acknowledging your very real and profound need to grieve and heal, and this will only serve to come back and bite you later.

And I’m not the only one who believes this: DivorceCare says that you are married until you are divorced. To be clear: if you are not yet divorced, you should not be dating. Period. There is no wiggle room here.

If you are divorced and were the covenant-breaker (meaning: you were unfaithful or abandoned your spouse through abuse or addiction) and were unrepentant and did not try to reconcile:
I believe you should not date and that you should remain unmarried until you have taken steps to repent.

If you are divorced and were the covenant-breaker but were repentant and took steps to reconcile but they were not received:
I believe you can date.

If you are divorced and were not the covenant-breaker and did all you could do to try to reconcile:
I believe you can date.

To further clarify things…

If you are single:
I believe you should not have sex.  Sex when you’re not married is called fornication and the Bible talks about this.

If you are currently married:
I believe you should only have sex with the person you are married to.  Sex with someone else when you’re already married is called adultery and the Bible talks about this.

If you are separated:
I believe you should not be having sex with anyone, including your estranged husband.

If you are divorced:
I believe you should not be having sex with anyone, including your ex-husband.

I know these are not popular stances. But I’m never written for popularity. This is what I believe God lays out. Not because he doesn’t want us happy or doesn’t want us having fun or doesn’t want us having sex (HE CREATED IT, oh my gosh), but because he loves us and knows what’s best for us and our hearts.

Listen, you can go ahead and do what you want…..some of you live your life that way anyway..…some of you have no intention of following what I’ve laid out here, and I get that. But I would bet that even if it doesn’t seem to faze you right now and even if you think I’m old-fashioned and it’s no big deal to date before your divorce is final or to sleep with anyone you want, I dare say that it will catch up with you…..either physically or emotionally or relationally or spiritually, you will be affected by these choices. And one day (hopefully sooner rather than later for your benefit) you’ll realize that God, who loves you completely, has just been looking out for you all along.

And…..and this is a super important and…..if you have already messed up along the way in any of these areas, or if you are right now, it doesn’t mean you are permanently benched. At any point, on any day, you can start fresh, you can start over. You can change direction. You can resolve to live differently.  It’s called grace, and God pours it out in abundance. It’s never too late to make a better choice for yourself.

If this post encouraged you, you will benefit from my upcoming e-course, Looking for Mr. Right. 

Life isn't always how we want it. When change seems elusive, and we're stuck in old routines, a gentle push or some self-reflection can make a difference. Let these questions be that nudge to get you moving.

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