Dear single lady,
I try to keep from sharing my personal life on this blog but I was watching Jordan and Jessica again recently and thought about a guy I knew some time back. There was something about that video, and God’s ability to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that anyone can ask or imagine, that got me to reflect on how Christian women choose so often to settle because deep down, they think God is unwilling to bless them with their heart’s desires.
We’ll call this guy Caleb. I don’t know why that video reminded me of him and of my frustration during our short friendship. After cutting him off somewhat ruthlessly, I spent some time trying to tell myself that I had extended grace to him and I was trying to seek God’s agenda, and not my own, for him. I couldn’t figure out if I had hurt him or if he had inwardly laughed the whole thing off.
I developed a crush on Caleb as soon as I realized that not only was he educated and saved…. He could spell, and he punctuated his texts. It was a beautiful, brief crush that ended with one phrase:
“My soon-to-be ex-wife.”
Caleb was one type of frustratingly unavailable man (perhaps I should do a post on ten types): he was in the process of getting a divorce. I instantly relegated him to the friend zone. He would have quietly stayed there had he not been who he was… and had I been able to shake off the feeling that God was not okay with my pursuing this friendship. Presented below, dear single lady, are the reasons why I ended my very platonic friendship with Caleb, and my thoughts on why single women should avoid the soon-to-be-divorced man.
1) Soon-to-be-divorced = still married.
See, I wouldn’t have minded if Caleb and… let’s call her Ava… were no longer together – officially. He would probably have made a great friend. And if it led to more, then hey. As a woman gets closer to 30, she realizes that she might not be her husband’s first wife, especially if, like me, she likes ‘em older (and no, I don’t mean “first wife” in the Jacob Zuma sense). As you’ll see in this post, I’ve come to understand that while God hates divorce, He loves the divorcee and His grace is extended even to – His Blood was shed even for – those who have been divorced. There are situations in which the Lord permits remarriage.
But just like almost saved is still lost (see Acts 26:28) and almost true is still false, soon-to-be divorced is still quite married. No matter how you slice it, Gary Chapman’s words ring true: if he is not free to marry, he is not free to date.
2) Temptation always comes in desirable packages.
This man could spell. He had a great career. Few things are more attractive than an articulate, good-looking African-American man who not only has a clue who God is, but is also trying to walk with Him. He had the most interesting laugh and was extremely polite, even when he disagreed with me. By our second conversation, I knew that this friend zone business was a lie. At that time, schedules, proximity, and the freshness of the friendship meshed wonderfully to keep things simple and cordial. Nonchalant. The works. But with time, if our interaction continued, and when the proximity-limit deadline arrived, it would graduate from refreshingly new to dangerously intoxicating, and, therefore, suffocatingly complicated. What I’m trying to say here is that like the prudent man of Proverbs 22:3, I had seen trouble far, far ahead and knew that I was going to fall in love with this man if I did not push him away.
Because the soon-to-be-divorced man has been married before (is still married, rather!), he knows what words to say and what buttons to push to get women to react the way he wants them to. Why is this dangerous? Because if you can get a woman to connect with you emotionally, you can get her to connect with you in every other way.
3) You are probably one among many options.
While most stories I hear end up with the man not getting divorced and the single woman ending up hurt, the truth is there are those rare cases where this man is serious about leaving his wife and the divorce is just taking its time. If the latter is the case – and without some serious divine revelation, you really cannot know for sure if it is – then technically, you are not “the other woman.” You are more likely similar to one among a bunch of Persian women lining up before an embittered, Vashti-banishing Artaxerxes (Esther 1). At best, you’re just a person he can talk to until he heals and moves on. At worst, you’re a potential booty-call and/or emotion dumpster; someone to warm the bed and soothe the loneliness while time creates distance between him and his wife.
Every woman deserves to be her man’s first choice. A woman should come second only to God in her man’s life. While men can juggle the Persian ladies, women usually tend to zoom in on one man and become attached to him. The sad thing is that if you hold on to this relationship, you will let other men come second to this soon-to-be divorced man, and, in so doing, risk missing out on the man who is truly meant for you. If this man you think is yours decides to reconcile with his wife, you will be left in the cold.
Be the only choice, and not a “just-in-case”, an “I-guess-she’ll-do-for-now,” or one option among many.
4) If loving him is wrong, trust me, you want to be right.
Ignore the silly songs. Ignore those feelings that tell you you’re being too intense and overthinking things. If a man is not free to marry, and you met or are pursuing a relationship in or a context in which there is an impression that you are more than just friends, then try to create some distance. What starts out as a boss dropping a subordinate home soon turns into sneaking into hotel rooms at lunch, buying penthouse condominiums on the outskirts of town and justifying convenient but sinful arrangements using scripture.
When I thought about the sad destination at the end of the road I was considering embarking on, karaoke on a New York evening did not seem so amazing anymore. Sin always starts out innocent, but if it is not nipped in the bud, it causes death (James 1:13-15).
5) He needs time to hurt – and heal.
Caleb and Ava were together for years. At one point in time, nobody could tear them away from each other. They vowed before God to have and to hold, to honor and to love each other for life. They didn’t walk into their marriage thinking it would end this way.
This was the type of season where he needed to grieve and heal without any interference from those who would love to help but would end up making him feel judged instead. Caleb is a very strong man, but he was also vulnerable in this moment. I would be lying to him and to myself if I called myself a woman of God and yet was busy trying to charm him away from his marriage under the guise of friendship.
If you try to rescue the pupa, you will kill the butterfly. You cannot be the balm that only God can be. Come to the realization that there will be nights when he will be lonely and might dial your number. He will miss his wife’s touch, voice, and cooking and he will try to find something to fill that void. The person for him to reach out to at such times is not a human friend, but the One who is called Wonderful Counselor, because He provides wisdom and grace; Mighty God, because He does the impossible; Everlasting Father, because He meets needs beyond dreams; Prince of Peace, because He calms the soul. There is a God, and no matter how much your nurturer instincts cause this man’s situation to tug at your heartstrings, you need to get out of the way and let him grieve and heal. God gives beauty for ashes, and this man is His child; your attempts at “helping” Him can only cause destruction.
6) There’s the issue of possible reconciliation.
Caleb emphatically told me that reconciliation was impossible. I knew what had happened, and I believed him. But I also know God. And I was sure Ava knew what she had lost. I was sure she was nursing the kind of hurt that can actually cause a woman to change her ways. God can change people. I didn’t want to risk complicating things if she showed up and decided she wanted to reconcile.
It is God who will show a man whether his wife is truly repentant and willing to change for life, or just regretting that she lost and wanting to win for the sake of her pride. It is also God who will cause a man to realize that he was wrong and he needs to return to his role as his wife’s covering and his children’s father. If that happens to find you in the thick of a relationship with him, there will be emotional drama. That does not have to happen.
7) You are a woman of God.
You can tell yourself all sorts of reasons about why God brought him into your life. I personally do not believe in coincidences. But the same God who created the hand said that if it causes you to sin, you should cut it off (Mark 9:43).
This man might be going through a rough patch in his life, and your desire might genuinely be to help him. But when it’s all over and he looks back, what will he think of you; what will your witness as a Christian woman have been in his life? Do you want to be that saved woman that causes him to say we are all predators and pretenders? My desire is that he will look back on your friendship and realize that you made a difficult decision, but it was worth it, and it was honoring to God, and there are still some God-fearing women in the world. If he does end up getting divorced and deciding to remarry, he will want a woman who is principled.
8) You might end up paying for his wife’s mistakes.
Caleb made it clear that he wanted to keep it simple. No pressure, nothing but friendship until further notice. Cute and convenient, like sin always is. But I could tell that he was putting feelers out; trying to determine that I was the furthest thing from Ava that I could possibly be.
I could tell that he did not want to go back to what he was walking away from, but I was not really sure what that was. I knew he wanted to guard himself. And you, too, might justify a man’s requests for things like a prenuptial agreement, premarital cohabitation and/or sex, as just him looking out for himself. (First of all, this just goes to prove that he needs to heal, because marriage is not about guarding your interests to avoid things you fear will repeat themselves.)
Ask yourself why he is adamant about any “checks and balances” that he insists on putting in place before he remarries. Is he being wise? Is it because he is still too hurt to be objective, or is he speaking out of a type of fleshly hindsight that seeks to correct his mistakes? It is really difficult to tell in this season. Only what God glues together will stay together.
9) He might be running from a giant that “lies within”.
How will he know what the real issue was in his marriage if he does not take time to figure it out?
I say give him time to rediscover him. He’s not the young man he was when he got married years ago. He’s lost something. There are years of history, love, and broken dreams to grieve over. There’s the learning how to deal with this for real – not by using the Band-Aids that alcohol, sex, superficial friendships, and revenge can be.
He did not get divorced out of the blue. He contributed to this situation. I say this carefully: he chose his first wife – if she is “evil”, what does that say about his judgment, seeing as she was his choice?
He needs to take time, in my opinion, to transition into a period of healthy singlehood and to be single for a while; to get to a place where he is certain that no other woman will pay for anything his wife did to him, or anything he did to his wife. He needs to take time to trust again without prenups and making a beautiful woman compromise her values to prove she is worth his love and partnership. He needs to remember that while we do receive in marriage, we go into it mostly to give and forgive.
He must get to that place where he understands, truly understands that he is not alone in this, and that God is more than willing to help him.
10) You deserve better.
When you end things with this soon-to-be divorced man, do it for yourself as well. You can be a man’s only choice. You do not have to be lined up in some friendship parade or do anything crazy to prove that you qualify to be “wifed”. You don’t want to give your time and emotions and yet be so afraid to rain on the friendship parade by asking where things are going. If you are single, then you want to have no question marks regarding any potential suitors – don’t let this married man potentially block the doorway through which your very own man could walk, any day now. You also don’t want to have an angry woman on your case because she feels robbed of a husband that is still hers.
Yes, you might like him, and like Caleb, he might be tall, handsome, educated, and suave, but remember that as you water this friendship, you are sowing towards your own marriage. The Bible talks of a people who sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, and Jesus said that what we give will come back to us, full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
He may be in the process of a divorce, but he is still married. That’s the wind. To reap your actions in this season as a whirlwind, pressed down, shaken together and running over, would be your own husband in Caleb’s shoes, opening up to a beautiful woman, but with you both still very “happily” married, and the chemistry between them twice as thick. He is getting a divorce now; if he ends up marrying you based on this relationship, and if, per #9, the giant he is running from is his own unresolved issues and not his current wife, then you might end up in his wife’s shoes sooner or later. Think about the impact on any children as well as your extended family.