By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW
How can couples avoid the pitfalls that prevent the success of a second marriage? The key ingredients to a successful remarriage are selecting a partner who is a good match for you and both partners willingness to work through the inevitable hard times of marriage. With courage and persistence, you can defy the statistics that say your second marriage is doomed to fail and enjoy long-lasting love.
It’s normal to feel disillusioned about marriage if you’ve endured a divorce and gone through emotional pain and perhaps some financial loss. Then there’s the available census data telling us that second marriages have a 65% divorce rate compared to 50% for first time marriages.
But in spite of these facts, you might decide that you’re up for the challenge that comes with a second marriage. However, it’s key to pause and examine what went wrong in your first marriage – and create a vision for a successful second one.
Janette put it like this “I’ve learned that marriage is a work in progress and that you get out of it what you put in. I feel very connected with my husband and we’re working hard at keeping that connection.”
Janette and Todd have been remarried for seventeen years and each have two children (now grown) from their first marriages. It wasn’t always easy to blend their four children and they dealt with rivalries between their kids. Todd’s daughter never really warmed up to Janette but their relationship has improved over time. As his daughter Kristin has matured, she’s more willing to see that stepmoms often have a challenging role and that Janette wants to be her friend rather than to compete with her mother.
Truth be told, working as a team and creating a second marriage built on a foundation of tolerance, respect, and dedication to each other are essential to a lifetime of love. Todd says “We are a team and work together for the happiness of the entire family. We have mutual respect for each other and we know that we will be there for each other through all of the ups and downs.”
Create a New Vision for Your Remarriage
Creating a positive vision for remarriage is an important first step to making your second marriage a success. Everyone has baggage that can cause them to sabotage a new relationship if they haven’t healed and worked through the issues that contributed to the demise of their first marriage.
Add to that baggage from your first marriage is the realization that there are often a lot more players in a second marriage, such as kids from former spouses, stepkids and sometimes even new kids from this union.
Taking your time to decide the kind of marriage that would work for you can be a silver lining to divorce because you’ll be more likely to go into your second marriage with realistic expectations. And the fact of the matter is that you can create a happy second marriage if you give yourself permission to be vulnerable and take risks.
10 reasons second marriages are better:
- You have a clearer vision about what you want from a relationship. Divorce has taught you what relationship dynamic promotes your best self. A second marriage is an opportunity to approach commitment with your eyes wide open.
- You are making a decision based on strength and choice rather than fear of being alone. For instance, you may have felt a nagging doubt about tying the knot with your ex-spouse, but proceeded anyway due to feelings of obligation or fear of being alone.
- You are smarter about love. Since you’ve learned from the past, you’re less likely to repeat it. And you’ve learned to separate the past from the present and have begun to live in the present. Therapy and/or keeping a journal can help you achieve these objectives.
- You can allow yourself to take risks and be vulnerable with your partner. Healthy relationships don’t come without risk – so you freely extend to trust to your partner by expressing your thoughts, feelings, and wishes. Since you no longer have to walk on eggshells, you feel more relaxed on a daily basis.
- You’ve learned the value of having realistic expectations about a spouse. Your partner is not going to change. In other words, you can’t change a cat into a dog. Love just isn’t enough to significantly alter a person’s basic nature and upbringing. For instance, if you fall in love with someone who is reserved and you need outward signs of affection to feel secure, you’ll feel chronically dissatisfied. Most likely, these differences will probably erode loving feelings over time and diminish positive interactions in your relationship.
- Rather than trying to “fix’ your partner, you focus on improving your own life. Many individuals focus on changing their partner and avoid dealing with their own issues. Rather than investing your energy into fixing your partner, you’ve made a commitment to improve some of your undesirable traits – since we’re all flawed in some way.
- You’ve learned to communicate honestly about key issues in your relationship. Sweeping things under the rug usually doesn’t reap good results. In your second marriage, you make sure to be forthcoming about your concerns and express thoughts, feelings, and wishes in a respectful way. Challenging your beliefs and self-defeating thoughts help you to let go of hurt feelings. When we listen to our partner’s side of the story and process it briefly with them, we no longer need to hold onto hurt feelings.
- You practice forgiveness on a daily basis. As a result, you apologize to your partner when appropriate and accept his or her apologies. This validates their feelings and promotes good will. Forgiveness is not the same as condoning the hurt done to you but it will allow you to move on.
- You’re confident about your choice in a partner and your desire for a life partner comes from a place of strength rather than neediness. You’ve discovered that marriage will never be your sole source of happiness so you pursue your dreams to the best of your ability. However, you’re dedicated to your partner and have an optimistic long-term view of your marriage.
The best way to beat the odds and see your remarriage succeed is to risk being vulnerable with your partner and create a positive vision for your second marriage. Determination, respect, acceptance, and tolerance will greatly improve your chances of success in a second marriage.
Terry’s new book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome The Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship can be found here. Visit her and enjoy her blogs on movingpastdivorce.com.
Terry’s new book “The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around” was published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be ordered here.
This blog was originally posted on Huffington Post.