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The Plight of the 21st Century Divorcee

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

(Subcribers: I know this isn't the lofty, activist writing I promised in my recent letter...That's still marinating.)

Remember how I said I was contemplating being a nun to cope with my abandonment issues, but decided against it? Well, I'm scheduling my habit fitting any day. As pink and red fly off the shelves, I estimate I'll need four yards of boiled black wool for the giant gender-neutralizing protective tent effect I'm trying to achieve. This being a newly-minted divorcee in the modern age is a bit jarring.

The ink's barely dry on my divorce and so far, I've been hit on by two delusional, "highly spiritual" married men (yuck), a few school boys (double-yuck), a painfully awkward church chap pew hunting (yuck squared), and a kinda-married-littleboy-sneaky-scaredy-cat-playuh who was "intrigued" by me (You'll have to do better than that, dear one ;-).

"Uh, gee, no thanks. I think I'll pass." (Read: I'd rather have my molars pulled with rusty pliers.)

The nunnery's looking better than ever.

I have a few newly divorced friends who are blazing the trail ahead of me, doing the dating equivalent of Lucy's memorable candy conveyor scene, minus the chocolate satisfaction. They report racing through piles of prospects, swiping and sampling themselves to death. They recount tales of hopeful texting with "nice guys," and then first dates where said "nice guy" crudely propositions them before the foam flattens on the latte. Some gals consider this an "obligatory" pre-screening romp (picture me recoiling in horror).

Are you kidding me? I was with the same guy for nearly 20 years. I'm practically a virgin.

Maybe a few of us will join together and get a group rate at the convent.

Alas, again, the nunnery just isn't a good fit for me and my body-conscious Italian-girl wardrobe, salty humor, or my beloved children. These things are mostly frowned upon in convents. And of course, there's also my currently-quiet longing to be unified with Mister Right, whoever that turns out to be.

I'm still in period of singledom. Sharing custody 50-50, I'm enjoying the abundance of solitude and freedom I haven't had in 20 years as a stay-or-work-at-home mom. I'm also intentionally allowing myself ample time to grieve and heal the shoulda-coulda-woulda's, honoring the memory of the 17-year marriage that produced two wonderful children, among other things. Moreover, in this moment, I'm not entirely fit for human consumption as I revisit all manner of other heartbreaks. At some point, though, I expect that will shift, and the desire for company will well up.

But is this my inevitable fate as a 21st century divorcee? Meeting macho men on Match and a lame litany thereafter? Posting airbrushed pictures of myself looking fetching with a well-written blurb that omits my untidy underbelly? (I actually really don't airbrush since my schtick is authenticity but I really want to, crows feet be damned!) Or where the predatory troll picks his favorite picture from 1991, with the light just so and a full head of hair, only to proudly present himself with his badly-balding-beer-belly, sloppy shorts,and trunk load of unresolved baggage? Do I sound cynical? Sorry.

Uh, gee, as tempting as you are, Adonis, I think I'll pass. (Read: I'd rather have my kneecaps shattered with a mallet.)

Shoot me now.

Despite the dismal and disappointing digital dating world, I've had some dear, heart-hungry friends throw me under the bus for a chance to win the love lottery. Standing me up repeatedly, looking for love in all the wrong places. In one instance, even as she unconsciously flung herself at my estranged husband, bosom heaving. Beautiful, precious women who settle for so much less than they deserve, forgetting who's their daddy. This goes for those wayward fellas, too.

Aching for love can, has and will drive people nuts. Still, there but for the grace of God go I. Actually, I've been there. Oh, how I've been there!

The human longing for love, romance, sex, and the culmination of marriage, is designed by God partly to mirror the perfect union with him we'll have over the rainbow. If you doubt me, read the steamy Song of Solomon, in which real-life lovers pine as a picture of Spiritual Oneness. It's no accident that we seem to be at our very best and love ourselves most in those heady early times of human love, though it doesn't last in its intoxicating form. In perfect parallel counterpart, loving God and receiving his love is the path to loving ourselves...and others.

Jesus is the only Divinity who repeatedly describes himself as a bridegroom, and us as bride. The Bible contains many Hallmark-worthy tales of romance and a few that foreshadow Christ's passionate, white-horse rescue of his bride. Significantly, Jesus did his first miracle at a wedding, making sure the best wine flowed for the celebrants.

God invented love cuz he is love. He's pro-LOVE in all its forms. But as noted as the number one no-no in spiritual terms, he's not in favor of us having stand-ins for himself. Our loves are not meant to be replacement gods or Higher Powers of any kind. Not our kids, parents, bosses, friends, lovers or anyone (or anything) else. It just goes badly.

This isn't God being a party-pooper or egomaniac (nothing God says is ever meant to spoil our fun or self-aggrandize), although he does say he's a jealous sort. This is a loving God protecting us from the inevitable trouble that comes with hanging all our hopes on mere humans. Making people, places or things our source of satisfaction or identity never satisfies. It often depletes us and our partners with the expectation it will—along with a bunch of other collateral damage. In fact, the sampling can leave us longing for more or scarred, scratching an itch no amount of swiping will satisfy.

After years of relentless recovery, therapy and Bible study, I'm hoping I've grasped this at the cellular level.

Guercino, c.1640-1641

I can't help but think of the woman at the well, shame-filled and skulking about in the heat of the day to meet a fundamental need: Water. Jesus, in a gently revolutionary way, engages her in characteristically care-full, confrontational dialogue, bluntly exposing her secret: She's been married five times and now is living with a sixth guy way before it was ok. Jesus totally gets her longing and promises her living water that will totally quench her thirst.

Note that he doesn't tell her to leave her man--or become a nun.

In my busy, exhausted brain, I've finally come to believe the more I simply lean into God to meet every need, the more fulfilling He proves to be. There is no doubt there's some (loads of) pain getting there, as he strips away or otherwise tarnishes the other idols we've sought as stand-ins to his Living Water.

This isn't a grand hustle of religious busy-ness, whereby we make-pretend being satisfied with God or bust our butts trying to be. This restful contentedness results from the sincere seeking and surrender that comes only from desperation. There, we make delighted discovery that it's really true: God is all we need, when God is all we have. Being fully satisfied in God makes us truly comfortable in our own skin. It's impossibly, parodoxically easy in the elusive way the Gospel is.

If you cast Jesus as your leading man, he may deliver the right guy or gal, right on time. Or you'll find you're just fine all by your lonesome. Or your chronic pining will drive you to him to take the edge off. And Jesus never critiques our cellulite, beer bellies, crow's feet, or Everest-sized widow's peaks.

In the meantime, you get to live and enjoy your life undistracted by the seemingly endless and erosive quality of digital dating, random hook-ups or serial relationships that leave you longing or lost.

Much love, hugs and hope + Happy Valentine's Day,

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