Marriage the Second Time Around is More Complicated!
Were you or your spouse married before? Do the complications sometimes feel overwhelming? Do you even secretly wonder if you might have made a mistake?
You are not alone! In fact, almost one out of every three people who gets married today has been married sometime before. And we all face the same struggles: stepfamily complications, healing from the past, and not wanting to repeat our mistakes.
No matter how long you have been together — whether just engaged or celebrating seven years of marriage, it’s never too late to gain a new vision of your marriage, the way it was meant to be.
This book will help you:
— Stop the “blame game”
— Forgive your “ex”
— Get better at conflict
— Work through personality differences
— Bond as a stepfamily
Readers have called it “helpful,” and “encouraging.”
About This Book
My husband, Vern and I, have been married for nine years now. For the first four years, we weren’t sure if we would survive as a couple but through prayer, counselling and hard work, we can now say that we are “happily married.” To make it work, we have both had to overcome the major baggage we brought into our relationship. We are both people who like to help and in many ways, we tried to “rescue” each other. Unfortunately, rescuing each other almost led to both of us drowning. I started writing on this topic seven years ago with a simple little article designed to encourage others who might be struggling like we were, and was surprised by how many people were looking for help. I am not a psychologist but have a keen interest in human relationships and in helping those who are hurting. In this book, I share some very personal stories about our marriage and I want to stress that I do so with full permission from my husband. He is just as passionate as I am about helping struggling couples. In addition to our own narrative, I will also share the stories of three couples who trusted me enough to bare their souls and lives to the world. Their names and details have been changed to protect their privacy but their stories are still true. I think you will relate to much of what they have to share.
What You Will Get
This book is for people who are struggling in their second marriage. Chapter by chapter, I address many of the issues people have in a remarriage situation, such as healing from the past, personality differences and connecting with stepchildren. The following is a list of what you will gain from the book, Second Marriage: An Insider’s Guide to Hope, Healing and Love:
• A better understanding of why second marriage is so difficult
• Powerful strategies for letting go of your past
• Knowledge about how both sex and friendship are the keys to romance
• An approach for how to deal with personality differences
• Help in connecting with your stepchildren
Who This Book is for
• The main audience for this book are people who have been married more than once, and their partners.
• It is written for both men and women — gender pronouns are alternated throughout the book.
• Stepfamilies who weren’t married before but have children from a previous relationship
• Those involved in serving people in second marriages, such as therapists and ministers.
• Those considering a second marriage and wanting to know what to expect.
Prologue: Never Gonna Dance Again
When my first husband left me for another woman, I thought I would never love again. My mother told me that loving someone new would make me forget the pain. She was right. It took a while, though. Ten years and two failed relationships later, I finally found “the one.” He had been married before, too. We had that in common. We understood each other’s broken past but that did not make it easy. We struggled to make it work. Those of us who lose a marriage, lose a dream. After the dream dies, we don’t think we will ever dance again. Until slowly, we awaken and wonder … maybe? And we make that brave decision to try again. We are no longer young. Ghosts from the past haunt us.
Chapter 1: We Don’t Want to Marry Again But… Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. — Oscar Wilde
After my divorce at age 22, I stayed single for a long time. I was having fun and not interested in settling down again. That was on the outside. On the inside, however, I knew I could never bear the agony of going through a divorce again. One evening a group of my colleagues had gone out for dinner. As the desserts came to the table, the subject of marriage came up. Two of us at the table were divorced: my boss and me. “Do you think you guys will ever tie the knot again?” someone asked us. The two of us both shook our heads emphatically, “No, never again!” At the time, I meant it. After my marriage broke up, I couldn’t see myself doing it again. No matter how difficult my marriage got, I had been determined to stick with it. When he walked out the door and never came back, I cried every night for months. Many years later, I met my next husband-to-be. By then, I thought I was ready. I had finally met a nice guy. When we started to get serious, I brought up the idea of a wedding ring. His exact response was “marriage sucks,” and “I hate marriage – yuck.” He wanted no part of matrimony because he wanted no part of divorce. Once had been enough. That decision to walk down the aisle again is rarely an easy one to make for those of us who have already lost a spouse. A 2006 study conducted by Statistics Canada showed that only 22% of divorced individuals were positive about wanting to marry again, while 78% said they either did not want to remarry or they were unsure. Never Again? Can you remember back when you lost your spouse, to either divorce or bereavement? Did you think you would ever marry again? If not, what changed your mind? Our first interview couple, Angus and Betty Jones share their experiences with me. Angus is a tall man in his late fifties who works as a high school principal. He loves to meet new people and seems like the last person who would struggle with confidence. Immediately following his second divorce at the age of 40, he said this about remarriage: “Never again! I told myself that if I ever got married again, this time it would be for money. She could take care of me! I didn’t want to do it again. It was just too painful.” Angus had no desire to try something again that had failed not just once, but twice for him. These feelings are common for those who have gone through losing their marriage but like many of us, something changed his mind. In the case of Angus, the “something” that changed his mind was named Betty. When they met, Betty was a classy, 32-year-old kindergarten teacher. Although they were both educators, they worked in different school districts. They first noticed each other at a community event, where Angus would go on Saturday nights to listen to jazz. One night, she asked him to go for dinner and offered to pay for herself. Angus was smitten. Despite Angus’s resolve to never get married again, his stance started to soften. They claimed to be “just friends” until Betty was offered a job in another city. Angus knew he had to decide. “We started off as friends and it was really nice. We just chugged along for months as friends and I didn’t want to take it to the next level. I didn’t want to lose her as a friend,” he explains. But when Angus realized that Betty might walk out of his life forever, he decided to make a move. He recalls, “We were standing on a bridge together and I leaned over and kissed her. We walked away holding hands. After that, our love grew like a small seed.” Maybe Again? Only a small percentage of divorced individuals say they want to try again, but like Angus, most of us eventually do. According to a report called “Reinvestigating Remarriage: Another Decade of Progress,” 75% of people who are divorced eventually marry again. The statistics are similar for those who have lost a spouse to either death or divorce. A 2014 study from Pew Research estimated that approximately six out of ten individuals who were previously married (whether divorced or widowed) eventually remarry. These statistics are very interesting. It is notable that only about 20% of divorced people say they want to remarry when they first break up but then 75% end up doing so. Obviously, something is changing their mind about marriage and giving them the confidence to walk down the aisle, again. It is also possible that the people getting married again are doing so, in spite of some reservations, and this is part of their struggle. Thinking back, if you were unsure about getting remarried when you first lost your spouse, what was it that changed your mind? Is there still a part of you that lacks confidence in your decision? The more you are able to resolve any ambiguity, the more you will be fully present in your new marriage. Reflection Questions The following questions are for those who were previously married. If you were not married before, ask these questions of your spouse. If you would like to answer these questions in a fully interactive workbook format, simply go and download it, for free at: http://secondmarriage.xyz/sign-free-resources-page. 1. Immediately after losing your first spouse, which of the following best described your feelings about getting remarried? a. Never again! b. Probably not c. Maybe someday d. I hope so e. I am ready 2. How long after your bereavement or divorce did you start to consider marrying again? a. Ten years plus b. 5-10 years c. 1-5 years d. Less than one year 3. On a scale of 1-5, how ready do you think you were to remarry when you walked down the aisle? 1 2 3 4 5
Chapter 2: Most of us Remarry Quickly Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards. — Benjamin Franklin
Many people rush into second marriage. Think back to your decision to walk down the aisle again. Were you truly ready? Many of us aren’t ready but we do it anyway. The reasons why are understandable. We are hurting and lonely and another chance at love beckons us. But sometimes we make our hurt worse. There is still hope, though, when we reconnect with the dreams that motivated us to marry and the part of us that wanted another chance at love. Elise and Alex are our next interview couple. They are a vibrant couple in their early 40’s who have been married for ten years. Alex is constantly on the move and loves his job as a small restaurant manager. Elise works part-time as a home care worker quietly helping seniors with their day-to-day needs. When the two of them first met at their local church, Alex was immediately smitten. She definitely was not. She’d been alone for ten years and wasn’t looking for anyone. Alex was freshly divorced. Elise says, “He told me it was love at first sight. When he saw me worshipping at church, he wanted to marry me.” Alex proposed six months later and they were married within a year. Elise and Alex’s quick marriage is typical of second-marriage couples. A review of research done in 2000 found that almost one third of divorced individuals got married within one year and that number peaks at one only month after the papers go through. The same report said that of those left widowed, there are many who marry within 13 months of being widowed. The Reinvestigating Remarriage report also found that many couples are living together within a few months of starting a relationship. In this case, the relationship is starting even earlier but without a solid commitment. When a couple moves in together so quickly they are not giving themselves time to get to know each other first, before the very real pressures of a relationship begin. Like so many second-married couples, my husband and I were quick to jump into a relationship after we had just met. Because of this, we did not give ourselves enough time to get to know each other and plan out the complicated issues to come. In the next section, I will share our pre-marriage dating story. We messed up a lot of things but I hope others can learn from our mistakes. Our story shows there is hope for all of us. Our Moved-Way-Too-Fast Dating Story My husband and I met in the most modern of ways: through an online dating site. I was working as a teacher up in Northern Canada and he lived over 1000 miles away in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I had been burned before and was very nervous at the thought of meeting, never mind dating, anyone new. He had also been hurt deeply and was very cautious. When we started communicating, though, all of that caution was thrown out the window. Before even hearing his voice, I was smitten by his flirty, funny messages. A week after our first message, he asked for my phone number and we talked all night. After a couple of weeks of talking on the phone, I wanted to marry him. I felt a peace about him I had never felt before. He made me feel comfortable and safe. Two months later, he took a plane to where I was staying and helped me move across the country. I loved the way he took charge and helped me however he could. When our vehicle started having mechanical problems, he dug in and tried to fix it himself. We travelled across three provinces. It was an adventure. When we got to the city, I started looking for a place to live and a job. In the meantime, I stayed at his mom and sister’s house. He had just started staying there, too, trying to reconnect with a family he had never known. Unable to find full-time work in my field, the stay lasted longer than I intended. Nine months later, I was still there and we were fighting constantly. We were near strangers living in the same house, trying to figure out a new relationship. We were living with his family, whom even he didn’t know that well. He started drinking heavily. I was on edge and hard to live with. After nine months, I packed my bags and moved out one night while he was gone to a party. I stayed with a friend for two weeks and then booked a hotel room to live in because it was all I could afford. What a fall — from being a high school teacher living in a beautiful condo to living in a hotel, working at a call centre. I felt depressed and hopeless. For six months, we did not talk to one another but he was still on my mind. I saved my money and got myself an apartment and was starting to get my life together, when he called. He asked for forgiveness and genuinely listened when I told him how angry I was. It truly seemed like we were both changed people and we quickly rekindled our relationship. Two months later, he asked me to marry him and we were married three months later. The way we started our relationship led to problems. We got together too quickly and we were so focused on sorting out our own conflicts that we did not discuss how to handle the upcoming complications: finances and forming a new family, As well, we both still had a severe lack of trust from previous relationships. All of this came out in those first years of marriage. Hope for a Bad Beginning I share this time of our life with you to encourage you. No matter what your beginnings were, it is never too late to learn from them. Like many couples getting remarried, my husband and I forged right into the fire and learned things the hard way. We thought we had healed from our past, but our behaviour showed that we still needed deep healing. Looking back, more time spent planning our future would have helped but we didn’t realize how important that was. I want to encourage you that if you also married in haste, it is not too late to make things better now. Despite the mistakes we made, however, our hearts were in the right place. We really did want to love each other. We had a desire to make each other’s lives better. We hoped that we would be able to form a loving family together. To end this chapter, I want to remind you that you got married for a reason. Even if your marriage seems like one big mess, go back and examine the reasons that you originally got married. Was it for a second chance at love? Did you hope to have another opportunity for happiness? Did you dream of forging a new family unit? Most of us must have believed that our upcoming marriage would be a culmination of some of our dreams: perhaps happiness, love, a family. Do any of these hopes and dreams resonate with you? • You hoped your life would get better. • You hoped your children would love your new spouse. • You hoped your new spouse would understand you. • You hoped that you would have a happy marriage. • You hoped you would forget the past. Most of us have dreams and hopes when we enter marriage the second time but when things go awry, we forget why we ever married in the first place. The following powerful exercise will help you reconnect with your reasons for getting married. After we have been married for a while, we sometimes take it for granted and forget that we were searching for something. We needed someone. We were not complete on our own. “My Hopes and Dreams” Exercise Think back to when you were considering marriage to your current spouse. What were you hoping for? Another way of wording this is, what were you looking for? Pointers • It may have been something you didn’t think about consciously. • It could have been something general, such as happiness, or perhaps something specific, such as a partner to share your jokes with. • Be honest about your desires. Don’t censor yourself out of embarrassment. Here are some examples to get you started: • You hoped for a happy marriage • You wanted everyone to be a family • You wanted a companion to share life with • You desired sexual fulfillment • You wanted to share life with your best friend • You wanted an exciting life • You wanted someone who would share your hobbies These are just a few examples; yours will be unique to your life and personality. The reason for doing this exercise is to get back in touch with the real reasons that you got married. Then, when you feel like giving up on your marriage, take a look at the desires that drew you to wanting to spend the rest of your life with your spouse and remind yourself of how much fuller your life is, with your spouse, in spite of the problems! I was hoping for … Remember, if you would like to do this exercise with a fully interactive workbook, be sure to download the workbook at: http://secondmarriage.xyz/sign-free-resources-page. Part Two: Second Marriage Challenges This section is to help understand what makes second marriages so complicated: both the circumstances and the emotions we bring to the table. Chapter 3: Why are Things So Complicated? The course of true love never did run smooth. –William Shakespeare Have you ever seen someone use the “complicated” option for their Facebook profile page and wondered what their situation was? Well, if you are in a second marriage, you could probably tick the “complicated” box on your status and it would be accurate. (But don’t to that, because complicated on Facebook really means non-committed!) Dr. Ron J. Hammond in her book, Sociology of the Family, states that “Stepfamilies may well be the most complicated family systems on the planet.” Hammond then goes on to recognize that stepfamilies and remarried couples can be “emotionally battle-worn” from all of the complication. What is it about second marriage that can make it so complicated? These next two chapters will explain. The Former Spouse First of all, in a second marriage, one or both of you have been married to someone else and that is something that couples in a first marriage do not have to contend with. There are three possibilities for a former spouse in a second marriage. The Former Spouse of the Widowed The first scenario for a second marriage is that one or both of the partners is widowed. The former spouse is no longer on this earth but can still play a role in the remarriage through memories. A new spouse may feel like he is competing with a memory. Betty Jones had never married her former boyfriend but the memory of her former suitor still played a part in their marriage. Angus explains that even twenty-five years later, he sometimes feels like he can’t compete: I still feel that because Jordan died, he was taken away from her and I wonder if he is going to meet her on the other side. Will he be waiting for her after death? Maybe I am with her just while we are here on earth. A widower might feel guilt about moving on with someone else. In the movie, We Bought a Zoo, Matt Damon plays a newly widowed character named Benjamin Mee who has a line of single women offering to help the distressed widower with fancy-looking casseroles. Mee shows no interest in the band of sweet women coming to his rescue because he is still grieving the loss of his late wife. When he buys a zoo, however, he and the main zookeeper, played by Scarlett Johannsen, start to become dangerously close and Benjamin shuts her out, terrified that if he lets her in, he will be betraying the love of his life. She finally convinces him that his wife would have wanted him to continue living. Divorced with no Kids The second possible scenario is when two people were married but they did not have any children together. In this case, there may still be lingering effects from grieving the marriage but in most cases, there is no reason to have to keep seeing the former spouse. This was the case for my former husband and me. After our divorce was finalized, we only talked one or two times in total and then both went our separate ways. This situation is by far the least complicated of second marriage possibilities but it still means that the individual must cope with healing from the past. Divorced with Children Finally, the most complex situation is when one or both of the partners have had children with their former spouse. In this case, unless the children are all grown up, that ex is now permanently part of the marriage. This is my husband’s situation. He and his ex-wife had two sons before they were divorced. The other spouse will always be a part of the couple’s life and will have a direct impact on the schedule and lifestyle of the new couple. If the ex-spouse decides to go to court and requests a change in custody, their life can be turned upside down in a heartbeat. The individuals within the relationship must decide how to deal with this person who is now a permanent third wheel in their relationship. The Children Second marriages often have children from the first marriage(s), and this is never simple. Bringing these little lives into the mix means that the marriage is not just two people getting married. It is three, four or more people getting married, and bringing all your lives together. The adjustments and changes are extensive and there is no painless way around them. Take the adjustment of a newly married couple with no kids and magnify that many times over: that is the adjustment required for a second marriage with kids. The young married couple can dream of children sometime in the distant future but second-marriagers with children do not have this luxury. The needs of the children do not go on hold while the two of you have a honeymoon and get to know each other. Even if you don’t have full-time custody, the children will always be on your mind. So, to conclude, when you are dealing with children, it means that you are not just meeting each other’s needs; you are meeting the needs of the children while also learning to adjust to each other. When the baby comes after the wedding, couples have time to get used to each other before the pressure of children. In a blended family, the children are already there and the “becoming a family” thing happens all at once. The Courts and Government Another factor that can make remarriage more complicated is the possible presence of the courts and government in your life. Because custody and support payments are dictated by the court and enforced through a government department, an outside body has a big say in what happens in your life. The courts can determine several things in your life, including your schedule for having the children, where you can live and even where you can travel. This takes away the autonomy of the couple and hands it to an impersonal governing body. The Money Situation is Complex The financial situation for second marriages can be quite complicated. First, for many there may have been an expensive divorce. Going through the court system is rarely cheap and often can cripple someone’s financial situation. Child support also greatly complicates the financial situation of a remarried couple. When my husband and I first got married, we bought a small, inexpensive mobile home to save on costs. When we went to sell it, however, it was hard to get rid of. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts with realtors, we decided to sell it on our own. As people came to view the home, we noticed a strange phenomenon. Almost all the potential candidates were divorced men. It seems like they were the only ones willing to live in such a modest home and they were the ones who were the most broke. Reflection Questions 1. Look at this list of possible complicating circumstances, and check off the ones that apply to your situation: a. An ex-spouse b. Children c. Courts and Government d. Money complications How many of these apply to you? Remember that the more complications, the harder it is to adjust! 2. Out of the list of possible factors complicating your marriage, which has been the most challenging for you personally? Chapter 4: Complicated Emotions If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me. — Ralph Waldo Emerson Circumstances are not the only things that make second marriages complicated. The complication also comes from inside, from our emotions. On one hand, we are excited to be starting our new life together but on the other hand, we may still be suffering from the residue of our past marriage or other relationships. One part of us is looking forward to the future while another part is terrified of not making it. You may wonder if mixed emotions are a sign that your marriage is not working but please be assured these complicated feelings are normal. Excited but Jaded People in a second marriage may feel like everything has been done before. We (or our spouse) have had married sex before. We were called Mr. or Mrs. something. We may have signed mortgage papers with someone else. So, no matter how excited we are to accomplish something together, there may also be the lingering memories of having done this already, and the temptation is to compare our lives now to our lives then. We try our best not to compare, but it can happen without meaning to. As a spouse of a remarried person, we may feel a bit sad that we were not their first. At whatever it is. Every time you go to do something new as a couple, you wonder if your spouse is reminded of their past. In Chapter 11, I will give you an exercise to help you to accept your story, with all its imperfections. Passionate but Insecure The knowledge that our spouse has experienced married life before can lead us to the next set of mixed emotions: passionate but insecure. In fact, the more passion you feel for your spouse, the more insecure you may feel. The reason for this is that when we feel highly attached, it can also lead to feeling vulnerable and that vulnerability can make us scared of losing that person. There is an episode on the television show, Heartland, where one of the characters, Lou, is getting married to a divorced man, but it is her first wedding. Throughout the episode, she becomes more and more determined to track down information about her fiancé’s previous wedding. She wanted to know details such as where the ceremony was held and how many guests attended…
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