When you marry the first time, there’s usually a special feeling that it will last forever.
When you marry for the second time, however, that feeling may not be there because you’re keenly aware of that your first marriage didn’t last.
Sadly, divorce statistics don’t paint a more encouraging picture for those who have been married before. Some 67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.
With those odds in mind, is your second marriage just doomed to fail? Not necessarily, if you are aware of possible obstacles that may arise, and tools to use to help beat the odds.
The Obstacles to Success
In general, second marriages face various hurdles that first marriages don’t. What are some of those?
Three formidable ones are:
- Mistrust due to betrayal in the previous marriage
Many of those getting married a second (or third) time are unprepared to enter a new relationship when they do. Often, they are on the rebound, scarred by a previous betrayal, and simply have not allowed themselves enough time to recover from their ordeal. Without having reflected on their experience, and learned from their experience, they may repeat the same mistakes.
- Living in the shadow of the former spouse
Those getting remarried to someone whose beloved former mate has died may find themselves in a dilemma, living in the shadow of the former spouse. On the receiving end, some feel like they’re constantly being compared to their new spouse’s ex-mate. On the inflicting end, others find they can’t stop talking about their former spouse, eventually causing resentment in their new mates.
- Tension with extended family and friends
When two people unite that already have extended families and groups of friends, there are a lot more players who can make things stressful and challenging. Blending families, parenting strategies, divided loyalties, long-established activities—there are a number of opportunities for conflict and rivalries. Sometimes, it seems impossible to stay out of the crossfire. Under that kind of barrage, it’s no surprise that communication can break down and adversely affect their relationship.
How to Beat the Odds and Make Your Love Last
Clearly, a second marriage is not a casual undertaking. Despite the odds and obvious obstacles, though, many remarried couples have managed to find lasting love and happiness.
How can you achieve that, too?
- Nourish trust
Open and honest personal communication between you and your new spouse is vital for nurturing the trust in your second marriage. During these talks, learn to be vulnerable and freely share your concerns and feelings with one another.
If your current spouse was betrayed by their former mate, you can take deliberate steps to demonstrate you’re different. For instance, although you’re not the one who committed the betrayal, you could agree to limit private communication with the opposite sex and with your former mate(s) letting each other know when you will or have had contact with them.
- Create unity
It’s unrealistic to expect that either of you will simply forget your previous marriage(s). There are memories attached to every relationship we have in life. You can’t just erase them. What you can do, though, is create new and unique memories that build your new identity as a couple by regularly spending time together and focusing solely on each other.
If your new spouse needs to talk about their former mate, don’t hastily conclude that they’re comparing you to them. Instead, when you listen with compassion and empathy, you may learn that the conversation can help you draw much closer to your new mate.
If you’re the one finding yourself thinking or talking about your late ex-mate too much, try to focus on your current spouse’s endearing qualities. Reflecting appreciatively on what you love about your present partner can do much to help strengthen the unity of your new marriage.
- Practice empathy
You may feel awkward around each other’s old friends and extended family for a time. Try to put yourself in the others’ shoes—both those of your family and friends and your new spouse.
First, show empathy when your present mate feels analyzed by your friends and family members. Moreover, show consideration for your spouse’s feelings when you spend time with old friends so that your mate doesn’t feel excluded.
And, second, show empathy for your family and friends, allowing them time to adjust to new circumstances. After all, your marriage situation changed, so your friendship/relationship dynamics could change as well. Some may not welcome that with enthusiasm.
Most importantly, don’t give up easily. The strength you need to make your second marriage last doesn’t develop overnight. You must approach the situation with a mindset of endurance and a firm determination to stay together.
Many people are proving that they have learned their lessons the first time around. Some have found that putting this knowledge to use with the support of an experienced couple’s counselor, has helped to be even more successful at building a happy and long second marriage.
Jill Baumgarner, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Her counseling focus is helping couples through challenging times in their relationship. Contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.