Dating during divorce process

I am a 29 year old woman and I am currently going through a divorce. I did not initiate the divorce and I did my best to be a faithful and good wife to my husband despite his unfaithfulness, lack of financial provision and other issues. 

The one thing I want most out of life is to be a wife and mother. My question is: is it ok to date while the divorce is still pending? I was living in the US with my husband but since the divorce I have moved back to my home country (the United Kingdom). 

I am a Christian but would be interested to hear your point of view on this.


Dear Hannah,

It sounds like you have been through a number of very difficult and disappointing years. We pray that the future holds much happiness and fulfillment for you as a wife and mother.  If you handle things correctly from here on and God blesses you, there is every chance of the good life awaiting you up ahead.

For people of faith, marriage is entered into by engaging in two separate processes.  One is obtaining a civil marriage, according to the laws of one’s country. The other is spiritual; more of a covenant that includes God in the new relationship.  We usually think of it as the religious ceremony  in contrast to the civil contract.

Now how about the termination of a marriage?  Not surprisingly, two processes are helpful here as well.  One needs a legal divorce that conforms to the civil laws of the land in which you live.  But there also needs to be a severing of the spiritual bond  A marriage contract is between only two parties but a marriage covenant is between husband, wife, and God. We see this when Ezra tells the Jews simply  to separate themselves from the foreign wives they had taken.  (Ezra 10:10-11)  No spiritual ceremony of divorce was needed because no spiritual bond was formed in the first place between the Hebrew men and the pagan women.

When both husband and wife have a relationship with God, the marriage sadly still might need to end.  And when this happens, God weeps.  (Malachi chapter 2) And when this happens, the marriage should best be ended by both a civil, legal divorce which is what you are now going through, as well as a spiritual conclusion to the marriage.

If your former husband will be willing to cooperate (which is not always the case in an acrimonious divorce), the best thing (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)  would be for him to write a short note in front of two members of his faith community saying, “I, ______ do hereby divorce my wife ____________ as of this date at this location___________ in the presence of two witnesses whose names appear below,” and for him to convey that note to you.  Once you receive it, you will write upon it that you hereby retain no further connection to this man in the eyes of God and are entirely free to marry anew.  You sign and date it also and put the document away with your other important papers.

If involving your husband is not possible, we would recommend that you sign a slightly reworded document in the presence of two people who share your faith. Doing this acknowledges that the marriage was not only a state matter, but also a religious one. We would encourage you not to date  until the divorce is final in both these ways.

The spiritual side might require more creativity on your part. Perhaps the assistance of wise friends or a pastor can be enlisted.  We are certain that once both these processes are complete, you will truly feel that you have broken the emotional bonds of your marriage.You will then feel able to wholeheartedly give of yourself to another man.

We hope you have had some counseling to examine what led you to choose your (soon-to-be-ex) spouse and what patterns of your own behavior you should be aware of before remarrying. We sympathize with your strong desire to be a mother and recognize the realities of biology, but we urge you to enter into a new relationship with skills and awareness so that it may be one that flourishes and nurtures a life-long commitment.

Looking forward to hearing good news soon,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

26 thoughts on “Dating during divorce process”

  1. My mother has been divorced now for well over a decade. She still has a broken heart at times and dreams of my dad frequently and is upset by this. He committed adultery and is now remarried. I’m hoping your suggestion could be the missing link for my mom to have the spiritual ties removed so she can move on. Also…if my Mom was cheated on and divorced…if she remarries is she committing adultery in the eyes of God? My mom has been rather upset about this through her bible studies. Thank you for any insight.

    1. This must be very hard for you to watch your mother go through as well as your own pain regarding your father. We can only say that divorce and remarriage are allowed in our system according to the Bible. We can’t speak for your mother’s spiritual system and have heard different things from pastors we know. May you all find healing and peace.

  2. I was delighted to read your counsel to consider what in her brought her to this place by her earlier choices.
    So few even consider that issue in coming out of divorce before considering even dating
    Thank you
    Blessing & Shalom

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Sher:-
      Ancient Jewish wisdom which is the source of all we teach is very big on recognizing that we ourselves are the architects of our destiny and that we ourselves are chiefly responsible for the shape of our pasts. (Modern psychotherapy prefers explaining to its inevitably life-long clients that others are always responsible for their mistakes.) You can’t possibly hope to sculpt a better future if you haven’t confronted how you misshaped the past. It takes a maturity to face up to one’s earlier choices but it makes such a difference going forward.

  3. As always, I enjoy reading ancient Jewish wisdom. As well as listening. I know you have a cold listening to your pod cast. I hope your feeling much better.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear John:-
      Thanks so much for your good wishes. I did have a silly little cold which messed up my voice, as you heard. But I’m now just fine, thank God and preparing the newest podcast which will be released shortly. Best place to hear them (without commercials) is right here: CLICK I hope you enjoy this newest one.
      Best wishes,

  4. Because the question is from a Christian, the Christian perspective needs to be known. Jesus spoke about the written divorce decree of Deuteronomy saying that it was the civil divorce. The spiritual end of the covenant only comes with death or certain, persistent adultery. Therefore the persons taking advantage of the civil divorce without the conditions for a spiritual divorce would be committing adultery by taking another spouse.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Stan–
      Thanks for writing but with respect, we disagree with your opening premise. The issue is not the faith of the person asking the question (Which we usually do not know). In this case the questioner did reveal that she is in fact a Christian but she explicitly asked for our perspective. In any event, the issue isn’t her faith. The real issue is to whom is she posing the question. If she had wanted a specifically Christian answer, we suspect she’d have written to one of the many “Ask The Pastor” venues. Wouldn’t you agree? Since she in fact wrote to an explicitly Jewish “Ask The Rabbi” site, asking for our perspective we felt comfortable providing her with the guidance we did. Based on the huge number of responses we have received from Christian readers, it would appear that our approach is acceptable to most of our readers.

      1. Hi Rabbi,
        I don’t believe that you expect the comment area to contain only accolades, but instead thoughtful discussion from different view points. She was wise to ask for your point of view. I have appreciated it many times myself. I feel that Christians have a very poor understanding of their Jewish heritage.

        Therefore it didn’t seem unreasonable to introduce the view point of another Jew, Jesus.

  5. Rabbi Daniel, your response to Hannah’s question really touched my heart. I have watched a number of family and friends go through the anguish of broken marriages. All of them understand the civil obligations of severing the marriage contract, but very few fully understand how to deal with the spiritual ties that have been torn asunder. Your recommendation for a written and witnessed document recognizing the end of the covenantal relationship is inspired as it gives a clear signal to both parties that they can move forward with the rest of their lives and that they can do so with a sense of being at peace with God. What a blessing in the aftermath of disaster.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Joyce:-
      A centerpiece of Susan’s and my work is helping people grasp that we live in a dual world of spiritual and physical reality. Proverbs 9:10 in original Hebrew says that the beginning of wisdom is seeing (not fearing) God. In other words, it is really challenging for a completely secular person (and they are few and far between) to have wisdom because 50% of reality is concealed from him. Thus, when it comes to forming and terminating marriages, the spiritual dimension becomes crucial.

      1. How I love the eye-opener that SEEING God is the beginning of wisdom. So many Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, are raised in trembling awe of ‘The Big Black Book’ in which the all-seeing eye of God records all our deeds and misdeeds and has his left forefinger on the button that activates the trapdoor to Hell. Thus they regard God with fear and trembling, as they are taught. Yet isn’t fear incompatible with love? Loving God is so much better than fearing him. Don’t we get much further by loving God?

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Dear James:-
          Few criminals fear the absent policeman but if they see him, well, they also fear him. So in the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word means see but in some contexts it can also mean fear as in Leviticus 19:3 A man must fear his father and his mother meaning fear as in honor and respect. Fear is not necessarily incompatible with love, is it? I can both love and fear my father. In fact, my fear is generated by my love. If I didn’t love him I wouldn’t care what he thought but since I do, I very much care what he thinks. I fear disappointing him. We have to always love God but loving him enthusiastically while sinning voraciously doesn’t quite hit the spot, does it? There are many who commit hideous act of sin while assuring themselves that they love God and He would approve of what they are doing. Spoiled children have the same view of their parents. No, I think it far safer and truer both to love God and to fear Him. That way, even when He occasionally sends bitterness and sadness our way, we still love him because the fear ensures that our love is not conditional. Likewise, God’s love for us doesn’t preclude him whacking us if He knows that is what our souls need for their fullest development.

          1. Aha! Then it does in fact seem as if the original Hebrew verb has a double meaning. This is what I was going after, by playing devil’s advocate. All languages have denotations and connotations.
            Moreover, all ancient languages seem a morass of myriad meanings, some of them hidden from view, to emerge only under many years of study. I much appreciate your response and clarification.

  6. Dear Rabbi Lapin.
    Thank you for a most interesting response to Hannah’s situation.
    I would also encourage Hannah to read the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 7.
    In it, Paul talks about divorce and especially when a spouse demands a divorce from the other.
    I am an avid follower of your and Susan’s TV show on TCT (What a great channel) and have read and listened to most, if not all, of your books and audio recordings.
    May G-d continue to bless you, your family and your ministry richly.
    I know I am not alone when I say that you are an integral (and daily) part of the spiritual journeys of many people including my own.
    As a Christian follower, your expounding of the Jewish wisdom of the Tanach brings the Gospel to life in 3-D color.
    With your permission, could I expand your take on prenups because you have a wider audience than just the USA?
    I must accept your criticism of prenups being divorce focussed in the US because I don’t know much about the situation there as I live in Cape Town, South Africa – your former hometown and country, I believe. Prenups are necessary instruments in South Africa to alter the default marital regime (being in community of property) to a marriage that is out of community of property. This allows each spouse to retain ownership of and control over his or her estate, protecting it also from the creditors of the other spouse.
    Also, while heaven makes marriages, they will come to an end here on earth by death and not necessarily by divorce only, and we should, I believe, avoid always viewing prenups as having divorce as the sole marriage-ending event in mind.
    In a recent case, a South African court held that prenups help advance fidelity in marriage. In that case, before re-marrying her husband for the third time (the marriage had broken down on both prior occasions because of the husband’s infidelity), the prenup contained a substantial award of property to the wife out of the husband’s estate were their third marriage to fail because of the husband’s infidelity. Leopards don’t change their spots and, of course, it wasn’t long before the third marriage also broke down because of the husband’s philandering. In trying to avoid paying the hefty sum promised in the prenup to his soon to be ex-wife, the husband attacked the prenup as promoting divorce instead of protecting the marriage and was thus against public morals.
    The court disagreed and refused to let the husband off the hook.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Reid–
      My parents, whom I frequently visited, lived in Cape Town and I sure loved those occasions when I visited their home on the slopes of Table Mountain. We are both delighted to hear that you are a regular watcher of our TV show on TCT and very much appreciate your encouraging words. I found it interesting to hear what a different function prenups serve in South Africa and certainly do acknowledge that circumstances can arise that make one desirable. Life can be complicated but it beats the simplicity of death. We appreciate you taking the time to write and we’ll be thinking of you there in South Africa while doing our Ancient Jewish Wisdom show. Please do visit our website also, okay?

      1. Thank you for taking the time to reply personally Rabbi. It speaks to your passion for your audience and ministry. I am a lawyer and negotiation coach and regularly refer to your teachings, in particular, those in your book “Business Secrets of the Bible” which is a real favorite of mine. Your cousin(?) Raphael and I follow each other on LinkedIn as we are both interested in the negotiation skills space. His articles are excellent. With my very best wishes to you and your family from sunny (if drought-stricken) Cape Town, Reid

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Dear Reid,
          Raphael is actually my little brother!
          Hoping Cape Town soon solves its water crisis.

  7. Rabbi Lapin, When I read your weekly questions I take a big deep breath and ask myself ‘ How would I answer this question? ‘ Then I ask ‘ What do I think Rabbi & Susan Lapin’s answer will be ?’
    Sometimes I am close or on the right track . Sometimes you take me down a totally different thought process. I always enjoy your insight & perspective into God’s word and mind . Thank you for your unique insight!

    PS – This question and answer I was totally off on the answer ! You took me down a path of new knowledge.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Jeff–
      Of course I know who you are and I know how much you do for so many people there in the United Kingdom which makes your kind words all the more precious to me. Thank you so much for your profoundly encouraging words. When Susan and I do not feel that we have God’s guidance in formulating answers to the important questions our correspondents ask us, we defer responding until we do. That is how we know it is not our insight at all. The most we hope for is to be accurate transmitters of ancient Jewish wisdom; windows into the past. We both cherish your friendship and look forward to seeing you again soon somehow.

  8. Simcha L Weinberg

    I wish that every spiritual leader would read this important lesson and incorporate it into pastoral care.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Magdalena–
      We are very cautious about prenuptials because they can sometimes contribute to a self-fulfilling circumstance. For instance, we do not allow arguing couples we are counseling, to threaten divorce. That is violating the rules of marital arguing because there is no way to counter the ultimatum of divorce other than by saying “Do what you feel you have to do” and before you know it, the marriage is over for no reason at all. Similarly, a prenup poses the issue of divorce as feasible right up front at the start of the marriage. We have found that this embeds a dangerous flaw into the marital foundation just as surely as cutting half way through a few reinforcing steel bars before they are used in the prestressed concrete foundation of a building introduces a potentially fatal flaw into the building’s foundation. That said, we acknowledge that there are circumstances in which there is no option but to negotiate a prenuptial agreement.

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Thank you Louis–
          I particularly enjoyed your alluding to my rebar analogy which I know wouldn’t have resonated with everybody. Yet it is accurate and relevant.

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