Making a second marriage work - what you need to know
Maybe the difference between first marriage and second marriage is that the second time at least you know you are gambling.
- Elizabeth Gilbert
Writing in her book ‘Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage’, is Elizabeth Gilbert’s view of second marriage an unduly negative one? Given the divorce statistics for first and second marriages it seems not – but isn’t there room for a little more optimism when entering into a second marriage?
Optimism is important, because the trap of believing that ‘you’ve failed once’ and ‘it could happen again’ is all too tempting. The first step to making a second marriage work is to understand why your first one didn’t. The second step is not rushing into remarriage; research suggests that divorce is much more likely in rebound second marriages – those in relationships that are less than a year old when the nuptials are toasted.
Besides optimism, the right attitude to adopt is a pro-active one. A second marriage won’t necessarily take more work than your first – but it certainly won’t need less! Marriage, as with all relationships, requires a careful and constant negotiation between you as a couple, with open lines of communication and a readiness to tackle problems as they come up.
It’s easy to underestimate the many unique challenges of being married for a second time; common problems include trust issues leftover from your previous relationship, unrealistic expectations, and blending your families together – particularly if you have kids or troublesome ex-partners still in the frame.
With that in mind, we take an in-depth look at some of the challenges facing second marriages and how to overcome them…
Understanding how you got here
There is much to learn from analyzing why you married each other and what led to experiencing a loss of trust, companionship, and love (assuming the marriage had that foundation to begin with).
– Dr Kalman Heller
Everyone has baggage. Given the fact that you’ve come through a separation or a divorce, or even bereavement, you’re likely to have more than a fair share of emotional weight on your shoulders. This is completely understandable.
There are many reasons a marriage falls apart, and a one-size-fits-all method of coping is impossible to prescribe. What you’re left with though tends to have some semblance of failure, guilt or feelings of inadequacy. It’s easy to become deeply depressed. But – as you may know by now – this doesn’t last forever, and often you can feel so relieved to not feel awful that you can’t imagine anything worse than going over it all in your mind once again.
Yet, some deep self-analysis and reflection on where your first marriage went wrong is really healthy – remarriage really isn’t advisable without it. Working on these personal issues is good practice too, since no marriage is successful without adapting to new problems and changes of circumstance. Don’t delude yourself into thinking a second marriage will be any less prone to these sorts of challenges.
In any case, if you’re still wondering whether you can ever love again then take the time to heal. Only when you’re really ready for a relationship can you tackle this possibility – the prospect of second marriage is (and should be) distant from your mind if you still have some grieving and acceptance to do.
Second Marriages: the gender divide
Men and women tend to act very differently after the breakdown of a marriage. Generally (and statically) speaking, Men tend to enter another relationship relatively quickly and are more likely to remarry. Women are much less likely to want such a serious relationship again, and very often will seek to reclaim their independence.
Both genders tend to have different approaches to the second marriage too. Writing for The New York Times, relationship expert Stephanie Coontz shares anecdotal evidence of how this difference usually plays out.
The men I interviewed tended to attribute the success of their second marriage to their having learned to be a more involved father and a more egalitarian partner.
– Stephanie Coontz
If a second marriage is an opportunity to right the wrongs of the first, it’s in this spirit that men tend to become fairer in their handling of family and domestic matters. Absenteeism is a classic and typically male contributing factor in the breakdown of marriage, so consider if this applies to you. Did your spouse complain of never seeing you? Did your career always come first? Perhaps your ex had a point, so be sure to reassess your priorities before entering into another, similar union.
The women, by contrast, usually reported that they had changed what they were looking for in a potential mate… they were drawn to men who listened to them rather than trying to impress them.
– Stephanie Coontz
Everyone wants to be heard. When you marry young, it’s difficult to anticipate what you’ll need in a partner as you grow old together. It’s only natural that your priorities change, and it’s common to be found wanting for something else; if your marriage fails to evolve (and it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault when this happens) then you have to expect this.
It’s important to get a sense of what those priorities are though before you enter into a second marriage after divorce. Have you picked someone like your ex? Are you falling into the same old patterns? If, for example, you need a partner who pays more attention to you – be sure your new partner really does have the time and temperament for that. Remember, unrealistic expectations are the number one killer of second marriages!