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Never thinking it might happen, many adults are stunned, and frankly, devastated to find they are single after a long-term marriage ends in divorce or their spouse has passed away. Losing a spouse to divorce or unexpected death was not the outcome they had anticipated for their happily-ever-after story. Deciding whether to find a new partner or not is a deeply personal decision, and one that must be prayerfully considered. Some may choose to remain single for the rest of their lives, but for those that wish to remarry, dating will be on their horizon.
The following is Part One of a Three-Part Series dealing specifically with dating after a long-term marriage has ended or been put on hold by the loss of a spouse.
Previously, the possibility of being single had never been more than a tiny blip on your radar. But when, whether by divorce or death of your spouse, you find yourself without a partner, the realization blows in like a hurricane, tearing through your life with gale-force winds and flooding everything in its path. It’s a heart-wrenching and life-altering experience to witness the mighty waters of divorce or death flood your home and family. No one is truly prepared for it.
Unsure how to navigate these strange new waters, you feel lost, drifting out to sea. You long for the familiar shores of marriage—having a constant companion in life and being part of a “we” instead of this raw and starkly singular “me.” The longer the marriage, the more disorienting the swells and currents feel from the Sea of Singleness.
As you watch the once familiar landmarks of the marriage shoreline disappear in the fog, you must now face a new reality—navigating life alone. Even in the case of a lengthy illness prior to a spouse’s death, or a long separation before divorce, once you find yourself alone, it is eerily unsettling. For those who escaped an abusive marriage, (the leading cause of divorce among Latter-day Saints) where divorce was the only safe option, there is certainly gratitude for the rescue and safety of a new life raft, but it is still frighteningly overwhelming. However and whenever the storm hits, the survivor is justifiably horrified at what has happened, and terrified of what could be next.
Then, when the winds have died down and you think the destruction of the hurricane has passed, the storm surge of singleness—with its accompanying loneliness—floods into your life. The deluge pours over and through every aspect of your life, soaking everything in its path. The storm has swept away the person you had always talked to, leaned on, worked with, and kissed goodnight. You find it challenging to slosh through day-to-day activities and interactions with others. Now, even in a crowded room, you feel totally and completely alone.
Movie theaters, church pews, restaurants, even your own home have become awkward and constant reminders that you are living life alone. Your singleness seems to stick out like a throbbing sore thumb; it clumsily and painfully bumps into everything in its path. Everywhere you go, it feels as if the crowds part when you approach—like a giant spotlight glares down on you, illuminating your solitude.
Of course, this isn’t reality, but for someone accustomed to a constant companion for years and even decades, the starkness of this new singleness is shocking.
In order to combat loneliness, many single adults assume that if they simply begin dating, and find a new partner, they’ll feel much better. Unfortunately, this is not the case and often leads to more problems. You’ve already experienced a broken heart. It would be unwise to jump into a situation that will likely result in another one.
You must first address the hurricane and its aftermath. The destruction left behind can seem overwhelming to tackle, and it takes time to assess the damage, clean it up, and build a new life. But, if taken one step at a time, and done at a pace that is comfortable for you, it is possible.
And here’s the best part—you don’t have to do it alone! The most crucial and beneficial decision that can be made is to invite your Savior, Jesus Christ, to be your partner. Partnering with the Savior will give you strength, wisdom, and courage beyond your own abilities. He loves you completely and perfectly, and because He loves you so, He invites you to partner with Him.
He wants to heal you. He wants to help you build a new life for yourself. The Savior has extended the invitation to “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you.” (D&C 88:63-64) If you would be truly healed, you must draw near to Him, diligently seek Him, and accept His divine invitation.
The Savior suffered all things so that He could support you in all things. He can ease your sorrows, carry your burdens and help you create a “new normal” for your life. “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11)
Partnering with Christ, and most importantly, submitting your will to His, will enable you to be guided correctly while building a new life. It will allow you to have a clearer perspective for your future: decisions will not be made based on neediness, nor will they be clouded by the overcast of loneliness. This is so essential in recovery! Once you have partnered with Christ, you can experience the same conviction as the apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) With the Savior as your partner, you will have the strength, courage and fortitude to accomplish every needful thing.
This process of assessing, cleaning up and building a new life will take many months, if not years. If children are involved, the work is even more complex and labor intensive. But it must be done before joining your life with a new spouse. Loneliness and/or desperation for someone to help you clean up after the storm are not legitimate reasons to begin dating. Desperation always leads to poor decision-making. No one should dump his/her soggy mess onto a potential new partner.
Take the time necessary to fully recover from the storm that has swept through your life. Invite the Savior, Jesus Christ, to be your new partner. He is the Only One who can calm the seas and silence the storm. “…Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:38-39) The Savior calmed the storm for his disciples and He will calm the storm for you, as well. “Peace, be still,” He said, and the winds and the waves obeyed His will.
Partnering with Christ and accepting His Atonement for you, will bring peace to your life. He is the Prince of Peace. Allow His infinite Atonement to heal you from the life-altering storm that has dramatically changed the landscape of your world. You owe it to your next spouse to enter the relationship partnered with Christ, healed, healthy, and standing on firm, dry ground.
Laurie A. Smith is an Interior Designer who lives happily among the red cliffs and palm trees of St. George, Utah. She is the Momma of three adult children and the Nana of the most adorable grandchild on planet Earth. She is currently writing a book on healing after divorce through accepting and applying Jesus Christ’s Atonement.