Where do you draw the line between "friendship" and "dating"?

My brother-in-law (a widower) is seeing a woman who is divorced but seeking an annulment, which our parish priest seems to think is likely to be granted. However, the process could take up to two years (according to the priest.)

Both my BIL and his friend have children (he has 3; she has 1) and try to spend as much time together because they are already thinking of marriage. We have tried to encourage a strictly “friends” type of relationship, but where is the line drawn regarding behavior? Are hand-holding, kissing (on the lips), standing with an arm around a shoulder or waist, cuddling on the sofa while watching a movie, etc. allowed?

I can’t help but think that this behavior would be frowned upon if I (married, of course) were to engage in it with a “friend” of the opposite sex. Is it different for my BIL’s friend because she has been “civilly” divorced?

Thank you for your patience. I hope to hear a defiinitive answer on this, because it is causing a great deal of confusion and heartache in our family.


Dear Blue,

The very reason an annulment is being sought is because there is a hope that what has been seen as a valid marriage is in fact not valid. But until it is proven to not be valid,
it is understood to be valid. It is quite inappropriate for one to show the affection you describe to one who is still considered validly married to someone else. Civil divorce has no effect on the validity of a marriage.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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