How can I begin a relationship with a woman who has had a broken engagement?

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How can I begin a relationship with a woman who has had a broken engagement?

Oct 24, 2011 |John Thomas
Question

I'm a 26-year-old man who is becoming very attracted to a young woman my age from my church whom I have known for many years. I communicated very little with her during college, and when I returned home she was engaged to a Christian man, so I did not pursue a deeper friendship.

The engagement was called off a week before the wedding. She took the tickets for the honeymoon and used them to go on a Discipleship Training Course and a missions trip. Then she attended an internship on prayer. During this time we began communicating back and forth, encouraging each other as she ministered overseas and I began actively participating in church back home.

Seven months later, she returned home. We have both been active in church ministry and have been working together in leadership areas. I've been so impressed and encouraged by her insights into Scripture and her heart for the church and ministry. I believe her influence has greatly strengthened my walk with the Lord over the last few months.

There have been no romantic encounters, but I do believe a friendship is developing. I would like to pursue a relationship, and I believe that if it's not toward marriage (if she is not interested) that I would need to pull back because I wouldn't want there to be any confusion. I believe it's important to do this soon. Would it be appropriate to talk to her father first?

Answer

I can’t give you a specific time frame for when to pursue someone who has recently broken an engagement. Every circumstance will be a little different. I think you will get a sense for what is appropriate as you continue to develop your friendship with her.

Ultimately, she’s the one who decides when she’s ready, and that will be determined by any number of factors, including why the engagement was broken and how she's coming along with processing all of it. I assume that this was a definite ending of a relationship, not a postponement, and that she has no interest in picking it up again, meaning, she does hope and intend to marry someone at some point, just not the one to whom she was engaged.

If my math is right, she is coming up on a year since all of this happened, and so it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for her to begin a new chapter. So I don’t think it would be at all inappropriate for you to have that conversation with her.

But I want to stress that everyone responds differently to personal crisis (which I figure this was at some level). She might have been ready three months after the break up, or she might not be ready for a while yet. You’ll have to explore that through conversation.

If she’s not ready, I wouldn’t push. I realize you want to move forward with your own pursuit of marriage, but I would suggest giving her even a little more time to warm up to the idea, now that it’s a real possibility, of a new relationship. It might require a good bit of patience and understanding on your part.

I don’t think at this point you need to visit with her father. I would only advise that you do so if she’s open to your pursuit. If she is, then by all means connect and have a discussion with her father (and mother).

If things move forward with the two of you, don’t fear discussing the broken engagement. It’s there; it happened; it’s part of her history and shouldn’t be ignored. But at the same time, she doesn’t want to be defined by it, nor should she. Undoubtedly whenever she’s engaged again, she and others will think back to her previous history, but that’s normal, and we just keep going while God keeps writing His new chapter.

Every new couple brings a past to the table. God will take it all — valleys and mountaintops — and work them for His glory and our good if we let Him.

From here I would pursue a conversation with her about what you’re thinking, given you don’t discover some reason why it wouldn’t be advisable. Let her know how you feel and that you want to respect her timing of interest in a new relationship. Give her some time to think and pray it through.

At the very least, be sure to share with her what an encouragement her pursuit of God has been to you. Everyone needs to hear that, no matter who it is. It will mean a lot to her that even during a difficult season of her life, God shined.

Do all of this prayerfully while you stay close to God’s Word, listening for the promptings of God’s voice, whether to move or stay. You might also bring this to another older couple or trusted man who is close to the situation for their insight and advice. I’ll be in prayer for you as well. Let us know how it goes.

Blessings,
JOHN THOMAS

Copyright 2011 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

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