Published 10/20/13 by Rita Porreca, LMFT
Frank Sinatra sang “Love is lovelier the second time around”, but is that so? Maybe the lyrics should be “Love is more complicated the second time around”.
Most people marry at least once. Roughly 40 percent of first time marriages end in divorce and many other first time marriages end with the death of a spouse. Approximately 11 percent of men and 28 percent of women are widowed before they reach 70. However, research shows the married people are happier, live longer, have better mental health and are financially more secure. So, many will marry a second or even third time. For those 25 or older, 52 percent of men and 44 percent of women were remarried. Cherin (1981) says the new norm is “marriage, divorce and remarriage”. What does all this mean for those second time around marriages?
Remarriage is COMPLICATED! First time marriage can be difficult enough, but add children and relatives from your former marriage with possible legal issues and emotional baggage from the past and “complicated” seems to be an understatement. Statistics show that the divorce rate is even higher for second marriages. What can you do to increase your odds of living happily ever after, the second time around?
Don’t rush into remarriage. Take time to build a bond with your partner. Most people seem to wait between three and three and a half years before remarrying. Use this time to really get to know your partner and figure out what part you played in your divorce, if there was one. Talk about everything: children (yours, mine and ours), money, sex, exes and deceased spouses, prior relationships, family, traditions and holidays, parents and grandparents, household chores, roles of men and women and husbands and wives, religious faith, your expectations of your married life together, vacations, wishes, hopes and dreams. Make NO assumptions that you know what your partner thinks, wants or needs.
Learn how to communicate effectively. Communication skills are a valuable asset in any relationship, but are paramount for remarriage. Learning to communicate effectively involves being able to ask for what you need and want in a constructive manner without putting the other person on the defensive. Using “I” statements is a good start. Also learning to fight fairly and resolve a conflict are effective methods to reach a compromise and work out your differences. You may have to “agree to disagree” for a period of time until you can come to some resolution. The more you understand about each other’s “side” of the argument, the more you have to work with to arrive at a solution, compromise or agreement.
Keep your romance alive. Don’t worry about the wedding day, but about the years of marriage after the wedding day. Marriage isn’t a time for automatic pilot. Good marriages require work. Great remarriages require even more work. It might be difficult to carve out time for you as a couple with children, step-children, the children’s parents (your ex) picking up and dropping off, but time for yourselves is essential to keep the romance alive. You craved out time while you were dating, don’t let that stop because you married. Play together, snuggle together, and laugh together.
Consider the children. If you have children only introduce the children if you are in a serious relationship and are considering marrying. The introduction should be in a relaxed atmosphere. If you both have children, do not introduce the children to each other on the first visit. Let the children meet and get to know the person before introducing each other’s children. Children may feel disloyal to their biological parent by becoming friendly with the prospective step-parent and sad that their parents have not reconciled. The children’s dream of their happy, nuclear family is dying. Listen to the thoughts and feelings of your children. If you are the potential step-parent, let the parent take the lead. You are not replacing the biological parent. Let the children call you by your first name, not a parental title.
Coping with children from prior relationships is the biggest challenge in remarriage. The divorce rate for remarriage is 60 percent and jumps to 65 percent when children are involved. There is no honeymoon period for remarriage. The children are present on the first day, along with the exes. If there is baggage with the ex, the children can be pawns in the game of “sink the new marriage”.
According to Bill Doherty, “The dynamics of remarriage are fascinating. We all have a lot to learn. Remarriage hold the secrets to all marriage. Remarriage with stepchildren illuminates divergent needs and loyalties that are always present but often invisible in original families”.
Rita Porreca, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Wayne, PA. Licensed Marriage and Family therapists are uniquely trained to work with individuals, couples and families at every life stage and configuration with a systemic focus on relationships. Contact an LMFT for help with pre-marital counseling, marriage or family therapy, blended families, communication skills or a host of other issues affecting your relationships.