Dating & the art of non-sexual affection

The pressure to have sex again after divorce is immense, but the challenge to resist is worth taking.

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What does the human heart truly long for?

Imagine standing on a busy city street asking random passersby what their answer would be to this question, and I’m willing to bet the most popular answer you would receive would be love. We can chase after a lot of things in life, but in the end, what we really want is love.

This desire for love is a yearning that was put in our hearts by God himself. It’s not just an itch to be scratched or a need to be met. We were created for love. This is one of the reasons why going through a divorce can be so devastating … the rejection and loss of the one you love is a deep, deep hurt to endure.

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But as you do the hard work of healing, like working on forgiveness for your ex-spouse, going through the annulment process, and making peace with the past, you might start wondering if you should get back into dating. If you feel your vocation in life is definitely to marriage, this would be a natural step to take. But, what you may not be ready for is the immense pressure there is to have sex when dating after divorce.

A challenge worth taking

Let’s face it, when you are used to giving yourself in that very intimate way in marriage, it can be a real challenge to say no to sex when you’re single again and dating. Often times, the struggle begins with even the most basic displays of affection … hand-holding becomes arm stroking, which turns into hugging; hugging becomes kissing, and whoosh! Before you know it you’ve slipped down that slippery slope. Many people just give up and give in, but I believe having a no-sex dating policy is a challenge worth taking.

Why? Because it means you, as a single person, have a unique opportunity to take showing affection to an entirely new level in the dating world. Instead of being just like everyone else who is out there having casual sex and expecting you to follow suit, show your date how awesome it is to be shown real affection, the kind that says I respect you. You are worth something to me. I will not treat you like an object. To do this, you just need to know how to show genuine, non-sexual affection.

I’m living proof

In the seven years I was dating as a single divorced Catholic, I first put this idea to the test with a guy named Eric. He asked me out on a dinner date, but that evening, he surprised me by preparing a gourmet meal at his house instead of taking me to a restaurant.

After dinner, we sat down on the couch in the living room and he began making some pretty bold advances. Before I knew what hit me, he was leading me toward the bedroom. I knew if I allowed him to continue, I was going to be in deep trouble. So instead of letting the situation get out of control, I decided I would turn it into something different.

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I stopped, turned around, and led him back to the living room where I grabbed a board game from his bookshelf. I sat down and invited him to play the game with me. He hemmed and hawed and reluctantly gave in, but once we got to playing the game, he softened up in no time. When the evening was over, he said to me, “That was the best first date I’ve ever had. Thanks!”

Imagine … Eric had never had a date that didn’t involve having sex and he found getting to know each other through playing a game refreshing. That was years ago and the way people date now has changed a lot, which means there are other men and women who would be willing to discover something new in dating … genuine affection and attention.

Earn an ‘A’ for affection

There are plenty of ways you can incorporate this idea into your dates, all it takes is a little creativity. So, if you want your date to know you are interested in them and find them attractive, I’d like to share some suggestions for ways to show non-sexual affection:

  • Call just to say hello. (Don’t text!)
  • Take a genuine interest in the things he/she likes and be part of them.
  • Speak highly of her in front of family and friends.
  • Compliment him on his accomplishments or good deeds.
  • Send her flowers. That never gets old!
  • Surprise him with a picnic instead of going to a pricey restaurant.
  • Keep a picture of her on your desk.
  • Send him a heart-shaped pizza. (I’ve done this!)
  • Spend time listening if you know she’s going through a rough time.
  • Anticipate his needs before they are stated.

These are just a few ideas that you can use or build upon.

Romans 12:10 speaks of the delight two people will receive in honoring each other: “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Who wouldn’t want a relationship filled with honor and genuine affection? I encourage you to take this challenge and see just how great your dates can be.


Lisa Duffy
Lisa Duffy

Lisa Duffy is a Catholic author, speaker, and divorce recovery expert who experienced the tragedy of an unwanted divorce in the early 1990s. She has more than 20 years of personal experience helping people rebuild their lives after divorce. Author of A Road to Healing: Daily Reflections for Divorced Catholics, The Catholic Guide To Dating After Divorce, and Divorced. Catholic. Now What?, she has also instituted the Journey of Hopeprogram for Catholic divorce support groups in parishes across the US and in Canada. She resides in South Carolina with her husband and three children.

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