The Catholic Guide to Dating After Divorce
by Lisa Duffy
The Catholic Church is often called a nourishing mother, and those of her children who suffer through a divorce are no less deserving of her guidance and support. For this reason, Lisa Duffy’s book The Catholic Guide to Dating After Divorce offers a compassionate lifeline so many Catholics need to help direct their lives after divorcing. Perhaps a more accurate title might be The Catholic Guide to HEALING After Divorce, because this book is so much more than a “how-to” book on finding a perfect mate; rather, this guide offers an entirely holistic approach to help the divorced Catholic find healing and peace. Those reading this book will be affirmed in Christ’s love, fortified in His teachings on marriage, and encouraged by Duffy’s own personal journey.
Lisa Duffy’s friendly and uplifting tone radiates off the page. The book’s opening chapter encourages the reader, first and foremost, to draw strength from Christ and not to turn away from His Church during this difficult time. Duffy knows firsthand the isolation that can come after a divorce, and she admits that it was a constant struggle for her to remember that God’s love is unconditional. God has a unique plan for each person and Duffy asks the reader to be open to discovering that plan.
To further the deep, personal evaluation necessary for healing and growth, each chapter ends with both a quiz and reflection questions. Duffy also encourages the use of a journal as one reads this guide, because as she advises, “getting these thoughts and ideas out of [the] head and onto paper will not only provide a cathartic experience but also help [one] assess [one’s] self more objectively.”
The Catholic Guide to Dating After Divorce shares five qualities that free a person to love, and the first crucial quality is availability. Duffy writes honestly about her own mistakes; she began dating before she was truly available both in the eyes of the Church and emotionally. By God’s grace and some serious soul searching, she eventually did the very important work necessary to be completely available to date and fall in love. Duffy points to three things that will help a person to discern their availability. First, she advises individuals to consider the possibility of reconciliation with an ex-spouse. Second, she encourages readers to go through the declaration of nullity (or annulment) process. Duffy explains that receiving a declaration of nullity about one’s first marriage is not merely necessary for marrying in the Church, but “if approached with a heart that is open to seeking God’s will and desires healing,” the annulment process itself can help an individual grow in self-knowledge, learn from mistakes, and grow spiritually while gaining complete confidence in the direction of one’s life. Third, Duffy emphasizes the importance of healing spiritually and emotionally in order to be available to love another person unconditionally. Spending time in prayer and giving of oneself through volunteer work in the Church or community are aspects of the healing process. The quality of availability discussed in this initial chapter acts as a springboard for the other qualities discussed by Duffy, and thus this chapter is by far the most important of the book, and the most likely to help the reader rebuild after a divorce.
The next three chapters discuss being affectionate, being a communicator, and being faithful. Of these important qualities, the chapter on being a communicator is most valuable. Divorce, as Duffy points out, often involves a breakdown of communication. Learning to avoid harmful patterns and foster healthy communication skills are keys to a successful future relationship. Learning to identify particular areas of struggle and then applying a practical way to overcome those vices with the corresponding virtue is one of the many nuggets of wisdom found in this chapter. Duffy attempts to cover a great deal of material in one chapter, including the four temperaments, the five love languages, as well as communication pitfalls and bad habits. While the scope of the book does not allow for an in-depth look at all these topics, the author provides a very thorough appendix of helpful books that discuss these subjects in further detail.
In the chapter “Being Faithful,” Duffy shares her own experiences with God’s mercy in her life through Eucharistic adoration and reception of the Church’s sacraments. The reflection questions in this chapter are great points of consideration for any Catholic thinking about entering into another relationship, because as Duffy explains, “as faith grows so will confidence, trust in God, peace of mind and happy disposition.” A person at peace is a person ready to give and receive love.
Magnanimity or largeness of spirit is the final quality discussed in Dating After Divorce, and Duffy reiterates that a magnanimous person is capable of moving past hurt, even forgiving someone who has wounded them deeply. As Pope Francis says, such a person has a big heart open to God and others. A magnanimous person knows their life has a greater purpose; this is both attractive to others and a recipe for a successful future relationship.
Lisa Duffy concludes her guidebook by sharing her own joy in meeting her husband and experiencing the miracle of motherhood. This book weaves together personal stories, clear Church teaching, and great practical advice in an empathetic and abundantly hopefully manner. The Catholic Guide to Dating After Divorce provides a much-needed support to Catholics that need healing after divorce.
About the reviewer
Kathleen O’Beirne is a wife, mother of four, a freelance writer and works as a volunteer in the Marriage Preparation Program for the Arlington Diocese.
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.