“Ask a Priest: Should I Date Someone Whose Wife Left Him?”

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Q: I am a Catholic and have been getting to know someone I recently met. This person brought to my attention that he was married at 19 after finding out that his girlfriend was pregnant (he is 25 now), and his spouse ended up leaving him. Neither of them is Catholic. The guy is actually agnostic but says he wants to believe. (In the past he dated a Catholic for three years.) But I do not want to create a relationship with someone who is considered still married, and I assume that since it’s a natural marriage he is still married. If this is true and the marriage is valid, do you think it is likely an annulment could be granted? Or should I just move on? – C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: There could be grounds for annulment. It sounds as though it was a bit of a forced wedding, and the subsequent abandonment by his wife indicates that she might not have been ready for a lifelong commitment.

Obviously, this kind of thing would need to be decided by a marriage tribunal. (Here I’m assuming that there has already been a civil divorce.)

It might be good, in any case, to proceed with a lot of caution.

Objectively you have a man who in six brief years impregnated a woman out of wedlock, saw his marriage crumble, and now seems to be developing a relationship with you. In short, he has been on something of a roller coaster.

You might want to pause and ask yourself if this is a promising prospect for a stable relationship.

For the record, if he went through a proper wedding, the Church considers him still married. He is still a husband. So you would want to conduct yourself accordingly. Enough said.

It might help to intensify your prayer life and sacramental life. It might be helpful to find a solid, regular confessor or a spiritual director who could guide you. It would help a lot to have a wise person who can give you some perspective.

A young man who has already been in and out of a three-year relationship and has seen a marriage crumble likely has some issues to deal with. It might take counseling, as well as your prayers.

This isn’t to say that you can’t have a good influence on him. But you need to consider the downside. You wouldn’t want to risk your own faith and emotional well-being for the sake of someone who might not be ready or able to pursue a lifetime commitment with you.

There are a lot of factors that need attention. You would want to be prudent and to take things one step at a time – and to look for signs of genuine progress in your friend.

For further reading you might consider How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul. I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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