I am dating a good Catholic man who is divorced and has a son. I am a Christian who is becoming Catholic (I’m in RCIA) who was also married before and have a daughter. We were friends through his divorce and starting dating after his divorce was finalized. His ex-wife is hard to deal with for both of us. I love him, but have apprehensions about my ability to deal with this kind of drama. I have believed God brought him into my life, but I am starting to wonder if God has something else in mind. What do you think?
Thank you for sharing your situation. It probably would not surprise you to know that there are many Catholics in similar situations. Divorce is an ugly thing, no matter what angle it is approached. We would like to think there are no victims and no one is at fault, and that the people involved should just be able to peacefully move on, but that is not the reality.
The reality is you are in a drama that probably will never end. Whenever you are involved with someone who has a past of any kind, in this case a past marriage, you are taking on all the people involved as well, and the history. How successfully you deal with it depends on many factors.
But first, it starts with yourself. You must consider all the factors and determine if you can accept them. Just because you are in love with someone does not mean you can (or should) proceed with that person toward marriage. It is false interpretation of true marital love to believe that the feelings of being “in love” are what matters the most, and must discount all other factors, no matter how difficult or questionable.
True love considers the good of the other first. Sometimes, despite what we want and how we feel, the best thing for the other is that the relationship NOT proceed further.
That is my general overview of handling situations like you are in. Now you need to confront the specific factors before you can make an informed and wise decision. I don’t have enough details of your entire situation in order to fully help you, so I will make some assumptions.
I will assume you are a baptised Christian at this time, based on your becoming Catholic. That is a wonderful thing, and should be your primary focus above all things in your situation. I pray that you will not let anything or anyone disrupt your steps toward being received into the Catholic Church. That is certainly what God wants most. Your entering the Catholic Church is the worst thing that can happen to the devil, so what you are going through is likely going to be used to shake your faith and perhaps attempt to get you to not become Catholic. That would be the biggest tragedy of your situation. Please consider that.
I will assume your boyfriend and his ex-wife are both Catholic and were married in the Catholic Church. I know that he is Catholic, but you did not mention that she is. I also do not know if their marriage took place in the Catholic Church. I am just going to assume it did and the marriage was not annulled.
This would be the most important and objective aspect of your situation that I hope will give you clarity and also rest your mind, because it is a very liberating reality. Your boyfriend is still married in the eyes of God. His ex-wife is still married in the eyes of God. And probably (assuming you were married to a non-Catholic Christian and not a Catholic) your marriage was also sacramental, according to Church teaching.
As I’m sure you know, a civil divorce does not dissolve a sacramental marriage. All it does is help settle the legal obligations to each other at the civil level. It most certainly does not do anything to their moral obligations at the spiritual level. Their vows before God cannot be dissolved by a civil court. Only a Church court (i.e., the Diocesan Tribunal) has the authority to investigate a marriage and determine if it was, in fact, a sacramental marriage. If they determine it was not sacramental, then they issue a degree of nullity. The Tribunal has the authority to impose on the individuals whether or not they are free to marry in the Church, even with the decree of nullity.
Until a decree of nullity on your marriage and your boyfriend’s marriage, you are all still married in God’s eyes. Therefore, you are dating a married man, which you are not permitted to do.
God cannot call a person to a vocation when they are already in a vocation. So if you want to do the right thing for your boyfriend, and for yourself (and for the children and all others involved), you will end the dating relationship. This is the right thing to do, and it will make God happy and He will bless you accordingly.
Maybe He does ultimately have it in mind that you will be married to this man in the future, but that is not for you to assume, nor to plan, nor try to manipulate. You need to step back and let God make this happen the right way, if at all. By ending the romantic relationship, you are telling your boyfriend that you love him enough to let him go, and give him to God. And you tell God you love Him above all things, and respect the institution of marriage more than your own desires.
Your boyfriend needs to get his situation straightened out first, and so do you. First things first. I know it will not be easy, but I advise you to tell your boyfriend that you have to step aside and allow him to focus on resolving his own situation without the distraction of the two of you as a couple. Encourage him to approach the Tribunal of the Diocese he belongs to and begin the annulment process. (And once you become Catholic, you need to do the same).
Go back to just being friends, or take a long break from him where you do not see him at all while he sorts this out, with the understanding that you might never see him again. Your being in the picture can only distract him.
I realize that you are in love with this man, but he is not yours. And until he is free to marry, which means he is free to date, he cannot be yours to exchange hearts with. If he proceeds with the annulment process, you can be a friend until it is finalized. However, as long as he is married in the eyes of God, there is still a chance that he will (or should be trying to) reconcile with his ex-wife. That might never be possible or has already been tried, I don’t know. But for your purposes, it is about allowing God to work this out without your influence.
Be a positive influence. End the dating relationship, tell him you will be praying for God’s will whatever that may end up being, and that you find peace and joy in doing God’s will.
Remember what St. Augustine said, “Peace is the tranquility of order.” By stepping back and putting proper order to this situation, you will find the peace you desire and need.
I truly hope this helps. Know that I am praying for you every day, and am here if you have any other questions or concerns.
Yours in Christ,