Question: "I am in the process of getting a divorce. Can I start dating, or do I have to wait until the divorce is final?"
Answer: The question of dating during the divorce process is very difficult to answer for several reasons. For one thing, the concept of “dating” as we know it today is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. Most marriages in Bible times were arranged, and any contact between two prospective spouses was strictly monitored. In addition, no matter what view one takes on the issue of divorce, it is important to remember Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the LORD God...” According to the Bible, marriage is a lifetime commitment. “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). No decision to divorce should be made lightly.
There are three situations in which dating during the divorce process might occur. The first is the case of a spouse who has biblical grounds for divorce. Either the innocent spouse has been abandoned by his/her spouse or else is the innocent victim in an unrepentant adulterous affair. In either case, the innocent spouse is mostly likely in a state of emotional turmoil and vulnerability. Most people going through a divorce, even when it is not their fault, and even when they have biblical reasons, are usually shattered by the circumstances and not in any frame of mind to be “dating.” Nor would they be able to make good decisions while “on the rebound.” Casual dating in this case is neither wise nor prudent. While the abandoned spouse may be lonely, making clear and godly relationship decisions in such a situation is often very difficult, if not impossible.
The second situation is that of a person who divorces his/her spouse for non-biblical reasons. A divorce in this case, in the words of God, is due to “hardness of heart” (Mark 10:1-12). A divorce, therefore, is a spiritual failure and a time when the focus should be upon the Lord and not upon seeking to replace the one being divorced. The third situation is that of a person who causes a divorce, i.e. the “guilty” party in a divorce. All of the biblical allowances for remarriage after a divorce relate to the “innocent” spouse in a divorce with biblical grounds. There is no biblical allowance for remarriage for a spouse divorced for unbiblical reasons or for a spouse who caused a divorce, whether by adultery, abandonment, and/or other possible grounds. The Bible nowhere states that the “guilty” spouse in a divorce is allowed to remarry. Therefore, in situations two and three, since the purpose of dating is to find a spouse, it would not seem that there is any biblical allowance to begin dating, ever.
Since the purpose of modern dating to find a mate or to seek companionship with the opposite sex, biblically speaking, a married man or woman is not free to engage in that process, even if there is a pending divorce. Even for the innocent victim of an unwanted divorce, until the legal or formal end to a marriage, one is still married, and forging a relationship outside of that marriage gives the wrong appearance. First Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to “refrain from even the appearance of evil.” Therefore, the better choice is to abstain from any action that could endanger one spiritually or give the impression to others of a careless attitude toward marriage.
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