When New Relationships Cloud Your Judgement
Frequently, single-again adults who have been through a divorce jump too quickly into romantic involvement, long before their emotions have healed. This may be true for you, and in this state, you are more vulnerable to sexual temptation. A new relationship can quickly hinder your ability to make wise choices about intimacy. And when you’re a single parent with children, it is even more crucial to make good decisions.
If you choose not to acknowledge deep hurts and refuse to work through obstacles to regain emotional health, you become vulnerable in relationships. Single parents are often weighed down with emotional baggage that affects self-esteem and self-respect. Some of the baggage might include anger, depression, fear, loneliness and guilt. Overcoming these afflictions takes time.
Dating again, or any attention from the opposite sex, can cause an overwhelming feeling of happiness and fulfillment after surviving a painful divorce. As a result of the physical and emotional high that accompanies a new relationship, it becomes easier to push the limits of sexual intimacy and rationalize actions with thoughts such as:
• It’s natural.
• I deserve it after all I’ve been through.
• This relationship is nothing like my last one; we’re truly in love.
• I need to escape the pain and emptiness inside.
• I’m afraid I’ll lose him or her if I keep saying no.
• I’m going to prove to my former spouse that I’m sexually desirable.
• I’m not a virgin anyway.
• God will forgive me later.
When you feel the need for affirmation of your attractiveness or virility, you increase the danger of losing control. If a former spouse has chosen to end the marriage, it may leave you feeling worthless. So when a new person comes along and finds you lovable and attractive, you may want more of it. You might even try to fool yourself into thinking that bonding with this person through sex will fill the emptiness inside.
If you act on that misguided thought, there are consequences. Look beyond the temporary gratification of sex and consider how your actions affect your relationship with God, your children and others:
• Unrepentant behaviour poses a threat to your moral and spiritual commitment and compromises your walk with the Lord.
• You set a poor example of sexual purity for your children.
• Your Christian witness is discredited and negatively impacts your children, your ministry and your integrity.
• You hurt the other person involved because you are giving your body out of wrong choices.
Responsible and accountable
When you commit to working through your vulnerability and to regaining emotional health, you make a choice to depend on Christ as your restorer. He asks you to guard your heart in Proverbs 4:13 and 23, “Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life” and “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Accountability to fellow believers is important, too, because it helps you maintain sexual purity. When you think you’re ready to date again, limit your social situations to group and safe places, which will keep emotions in check and allow a healthy and balanced relationship to grow.
Groups: If you are attracted to someone, arrange to spend time with him or her in group settings. Your friends provide a safe place to get to know the person, to be yourself, to observe his or her interactions with others, and to gather observations from your friends.
Safe places: When you do begin to see the person alone, go to casual places with lots of people and activity—coffee shops, restaurants or sporting events. Be cautious of going to romantic restaurants and movie theatres when you’re still getting to know one another. Certain environments can mislead you or your date into thinking the relationship has advanced to a deeper level when it hasn’t.
Once a relationship has grown and you need some privacy to become closer, choose parks, quieter restaurants, day trips or your home (when others are there, such as your kids or friends).
If you are deliberate about time together, you build respect, strengthen the friendship and increase interest in each another.
God has called you to experience something better and more satisfying than the rush of permissive sex. He has a specific purpose for you to fulfill for Him that will not be possible if your focus is on things other than God.
Set aside time today for a focused, sincere talk with God. Pray about new relationships, whether you’re in one now or hope to be. Include every physical, mental and emotional path you will travel down that can ultimately lead to sex. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment in the decisions you make.
It is never too late to turn back if you have had sex outside of marriage. Understand that your judgement may be clouded right now, and ask God to clear your vision. Pray for the courage to take action and change what you know is wrong.
Jesus is right beside you, waiting to strengthen and fill you. He can meet your every need. His transforming power is far more desirable than sexual relationships that merely mask the pain.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Kathy Leonard is the editorial director for The Church Initiative, Inc., and co-author of Through a Season of Grief and Divorce Care: Hope, Help, and Healing During and After Your Divorce. Kathy and her organization have done extensive research about people facing separation and divorce. Deborah Welsh Landers assisted Kathy in the writing of this article.