Without an annulment, is it OK to date as long as we are chaste?

By November 15, 2014 18 Comments

Full Question

My husband and I married in the Catholic Church, but now I am separated from my husband and in the process of divorce and annulment. Priests have told me that I can date and still receive the sacraments if the relationships are pure and entered into prayerfully. Is this correct?


No. Currently you are not even legally divorced, much less have you received a decree of nullity from the Church. Until the latter happens, you must presume that you are a married woman and may not date anyone. Once you are legally divorced, you will no longer be married in the eyes of the state, but you will be married in the eyes of the Church unless and until you receive an annulment—and there is never any guarantee that an annulment will be granted. If you maintain a life of chastity appropriate to your state as a married woman legally separated from her husband (the Church considers civil divorce the equivalent of a legal separation), and otherwise remain in a state of grace, you may receive the sacraments. Once an annulment is granted, then you will be free to date.


  • how about a widow, what is the right thing to do for her if she has fallen in love with a man
    but can’t marry him for several reasons?

  • Tamsin Geach says:

    It depends a little what you mean by ‘date’, because people mean anythign from having coffee together to going to bed with them by this phrase, and having been divorced by ones spouse does not condemn one to a lifetime of no normal social outings. If you mean a romantic dinner involving you in what would be objectively the kind of occasion that a spouse could REASONABLY be concerned about, this is not permitted if you are or think you may be married to someone else, even if you are separated and in the course of seeking a nullity decree. But if you mean can you have dinner with someone of the opposite sex in a way that a married person might cheerfully with a close friend, and then be equally cheerful about sharing the details with their spouse, that is alright, unless for you this is an occasion of unjustified temptation.

  • Tamsin Geach says:

    A widow however is a single person, and the rules that apply to her are the rules that apply to any single person.

  • Anonymous says:

    Pray for discernment and follow your gut. If after praying you still have a nagging feeling u shouldn’t do it than don’t. If your priest knows the specifics of your situation and says it’s ok than listen to him. But it sounds like you still have concerns so follow your gut if you keep feeling uneasy than listen to that feeling.

  • Ignore this. Do what your priest says.

  • with-a-z says:

    You are presumed married until told otherwise by the marriage tribunal. So ask the question this way — “I am married – is it ok if I date?” — that is a “DUH!!” moment if I’ve ever heard one. Of course you cannot date. Your marriage is considered VALID until you the case is finalized and settled. PERIOD.
    You do not need to place yourself, or even worse, someone else, in a state of mortal sin because you can’t wait for a final decree. There is NO guarantee that they will find the marriage is invalid. Do not count on that. You need to proceed as if you are married (because you are) and with the presumption that it may be this way until your death. Seriously — you really do need to prepare for this possibility. I do not know the details of your situation, nor do I care to know them. But you, and everyone else going through the nullity process, need to approach it with the same mindset. EVERY marriage is presumed valid and permanent until death until instructed otherwise.
    And yes — I’ve been through it myself.

  • Rudy says:

    Question, how is it that most marriages outside the church for example; getting married in vegas in a courtroom, are usually not considered a sacramental marriage, but yet a divorce has to go through the annulment process as if it were?

    • CygnusX1 says:

      It doesnt. If you are “married” by the justice of the Peace but not the Church you were never married. Marriage is a vow made to each other in front of God. The state recognizes a sacramental marriage but the Church does not recognize a marriage that does not involve God.

      • Bob says:

        Actually not quite. The Church does indeed recognize a marriage made outside the Church, even one not involving God. It depends. Let me see if I can remember how all this goes, it’s been a while.
        The Church does recognize a marriage of two non-Catholics as licit. That marriage is not sacramental though. It would require an annulment.
        Now if one of the parties is Catholic and one non-Catholic, the marriage is not considered sacramental or licit unless a dispensation from the Bishop is granted and the marriage takes place in the Church. With a dispensation, the marriage is both sacramental and licit.
        If both parties are Catholic and the marriage is outside the Church then it is not sacramental or licit. A Bishop will not grant a dispensation to be married outside the Church.
        If both are Catholic and married in the Church, then it is sacramental and licit.
        All this assumes that there are no other extenuating circumstances that would make the marriage illicit.
        If one goes for an annulment, it will (should) be granted in the case of an illicit marriage.

  • Disgruntled says:

    Such crap. I wouldn’t even be divorced if my husband hadn’t slept with another woman and left me. Why am I punished here. I am a lifelong Catholic, but it doesn’t seem fair that I can’t even date when I had no choice in the matter. Yes, I will get an annulment, but this is one of the things about the Church that I have some issues with.

    • Jane White says:

      I agree with disgruntled! Had no choice in any part of divorce! Heartbroken after 37yrs! Abandoned and now punished for keeping my vows!

  • Angela obi says:

    I married a divorce man can i be able to receive holy communion and can he still wed me

  • Bob says:

    Always single Catholic marry a divorced Jewish Woman???

  • Evelyn says:

    If you are separated and want to go to heaven, no more man issues for you. Its your new vocation. Tough but in the cross is salvation. No way out. There is joy in chastity. And grace will lead us home. And of course we have the sacraments.

  • Jules says:

    When you married him, you made that choice too. It doesn’t matter if he messed up or not…Its a part of the comittment you made. We really have to consider the “what ifs” before the I do.. There is nothing wrong with the doctrine of the church. It’s in your best interes. Jesus is the best spouse anyway! Seek him and date him.. You just might discover that He turns all things into good for those who love Him.

  • Frankie 7 angels says:

    A priest told me I could date a divorced woman just no sex so to me I understood that as just hanging out as friends nothing more. As a single midlife catholic guy just having the company of a woman to go get a bite to eat, see a movie or just hang out is enough. If I want romantic Ill go out with a single never married gal

  • Okoli obianuju says:

    On what circumstances should a marriage be annuled?

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