I recall a chat I had following Sunday Mass with two divorced men I’ll call Tom and Joe. Back in the day, Tom had coached Joe in high school soccer, and they were longtime friends. Joe was now in his early 30s and recently divorced after a marriage of about seven years. Tom was in his mid-60s who had been divorced ten years earlier after a marriage of over 25 years. Both men seemed to be surprised at discovering in both of them a continuing deep hunger for love and intimacy. They were struck by the fact that the significant gap in their ages seemed to make no difference in the depth of their hunger. They wondered if this continuing hunger was “normal”.
Many, (perhaps most) people in the process of trying to recover from the painful end of their marriage in divorce wonder why they are still looking for love and intimacy even before their heart has been healed. In fact, their heart may still be quite wounded. And this thirst and quest for love can continue even several years after their divorce.
First of all, healing from divorce is a process that is mysterious and can seem to move forward or backward for no apparent reason. Also, the process generally takes a long time and, in any case, cannot be rushed or hurried. One of the most useless statements during a time of healing is “l/You should be over it by now!” as if one could place a mental stopwatch on one’s inner healing.
Secondly, no one should be surprised that she or he experiences a strong desire for love, even romance, no matter where one may be in the healing process. An inner yearning for loving relationship is an essential part of every human being. One may try to bury the yearning under a layer of work or other “busyness” but it will always be within each of us at some level as long as we are alive. The difficulty in this area of human experience is when one “aggressively” looks for love, romantic or otherwise. Unhappily, the highway of life is littered with the wreckage of people who desperately sought love in (it sadly turned out) all the wrong places!
Although the desire for love is the deepest desire of the human heart, no one ever has the right to claim “Life owes me love!” On the other hand, every human being is of love because, in the end, it is just life’s gift, and wilt always be a gift. No matter how many (what turned out to be) wrong choices one may have made, no human being can ever be unworthy of love. But as soon as one tries to demand the gift of love from any other person (even a family member, spouse, lover, or close friend), one unwittingly places a terrible strain on that relationship, no matter how long it has been shared.
Finally, the best way for anyone to be open to the gift of love is to always strive to make loving (compassionate, generous) choices in one’s everyday interaction with others. When one strives to be a loving person, one naturally tends to be attractive to other loving persons. Of course, potential friends (and lovers) are usually frightened off by desperation or any, even implied, demand for love. Love is always a gift!
Tom and Joe seemed relieved that, in light of my longtime pastoral ministry with divorced persons, believed that their ongoing deep desire for love and close relationship was quite normal. We parted smilingly assuring each other that there was no need to go into how borderline “normal” we all might be in some other aspects of our personalities.