Your divorce is final. Your common assets have been divided; a parenting plan is in place and both of you live in separate houses. The kids know when they will be with Mom and when with Dad. Slowly, everyone seems to be adjusting to the new situation. It seems like the dust is settling down. At first you thought you were done with men, but as time passes, strong emotions are fading and you decide to start dating again…
After numerous dates… some humorous, some awful, some a simple waste of time… there he is… Mr. right. You hit it off and you just KNOW that this time it will be different. This time it will LAST…
Deep down inside you are scared to be vulnerable, to show this man the deep core of your existence, to open up your heart and trust again. What if it doesn’t work out? You don’t want to get hurt (again) and lose your newly found equilibrium. There is more at stake now. The kids need to like him too.
The statistics are suggesting that second marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first marriages. Not a very motivating thought to look for ‘Mr right’ once again or to put on your wedding gown for the second time?
Don’t let the statistics discourage you from moving on and finding happiness again. Your second marriage is not necessarily going to fail because your first one did. There are things you can do and consider to make the second time around a success. The following are some secrets to a successful second marriage:
1. Learn from your past relationships. We meet people not coincidentally. People we meet in our life are there for a reason. They teach us important things about ourselves and/or we need to teach them important life lessons. It is important to reflect and think about the lessons you can learn from you past relationships, including your marriage. If you reflect and use honest self introspection, with or without the help of a therapist, you will be less likely to run into the same type of issues or make the same ‘mistakes’ again in your next relationship.
2. Talk respectful about your past relationships, including your ex-spouse. Your new man will pick up on any resentments or bitterness left behind from your marriage and this negativity could carry over into your new relationship. Move on with a positive attitude. Wish your ex the best. If you have kids, it will be better for them to have two happy parents who show mutual respect and model effective and non-hostile communication skills.
3. Spend time together as a couple. Look for shared interests. If you have children, get a babysitter and plan a weekly date night out. If money is tight, try making a deal with a friend to babysit each other’s kids every other week one weekend evening.
4. Take time to get to know the other person, his interests, family, friends and find out what it important to him. The first months everyone is at their best behavior and you see each other through pink glasses. Red flags are missed at this time. Therefore, it’s better NOT to make wedding plans in the first 3 to 6 months. After the first butterflies settle down, you really get to know each other’s personalities. Before you tie the not, you want to make sure he is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. You need to know each other’s imperfections before you get married. Why the rush?
5. Give your new husband space for his hobbies or friends and claim the same time for yours. Alone time is as important for couples as together-time. You are two separate individuals with your own unique beliefs, interests and values. Autonomy doesn’t need to get lost after you get married.
6. Set “the rules” early in the relationship, to avoid building up resentments and a relationship pattern that will be hard to change over time. Make sure you address little annoyances early in the relationship to prevent them from turning into big issues later. For example, when you feel a slight irritation when your fiancé doesn’t pick up after himself, you don’t want to address this the first months. After all, you don’t want to be “a nag”. It is better if you DO address it early on (that is, if you don’t want to clean up after your husband for the rest of your lives together). Remember that if you start your sentence with “I feel…” and speak in a non-accusatory way, the other person will be more likely to listen.
7. Show each other how important you are for each other. This can be done by saying “I love you” and complimenting each other often. It can also be done by showing love and respect in actions. This can range from calling during the day just to check how your spouse is doing to coming home with a surprise gift. Be creative, don’t assume the other person knows how you feel because you are married together. After all, everyone needs some re-confirmation at times.
For communication strategies and quality time suggestions to help your marriage work, see chapter 3 of To Stay Or Not To Stay?, a self-help workbook for people considering divorce by Dr. Janne Lomasky and Danielle Jacobs, LMHC.