On paper, second marriages look like a great situation! The partners are older and wiser, have opportunities for date nights, are somewhat skilled at conflict resolution, and recognize past mistakes. Tying the knot for the second time should lead to some pretty smooth relationship sailing, right?
Oh, how naïve our thinking, which might explain the higher second marriage divorce rate of 60% and the staggering failure rate of 75% for third marriages!
As I face my own second divorce, I decided to list the reasons why Second Marriages Suck. You would think that someone as optimistic and in favor of marriage as I am wouldn’t have any sort of list in her head. Hell, I give Liz Taylor props for trying again and again! But while I’m a bit of a Pollyanna at heart, I’m also grounded in reality. Whether you want to admit it or not, there are downsides to being married to someone other than your Starter Spouse.
1. Being older and wiser makes you fearful and tired
I’ve heard it, seen it and experienced it. People who are hurting tend to run, not walk, into rebound relationships. And that includes rebound marriages. I had 3 years to get over my hurt and betrayal from my first marriage. Husband #2 did not. Did he rush into our marriage? To hear him tell it, yes.
2. A whole lot of stress
If you have kids from a first marriage, you know that the stress of childrearing is hard enough when you’re doing it with their biological parent. Get divorced and I can pretty much guarantee you there will be at least one Disney Parent to contend with. Guess what? That means battles between you and your new spouse about how the kids should be disciplined. Even if you both agree that the stepparent will take a backseat, there will always be situations where the kids try to play one of you against the other.
3.Failure to learn from past mistakes
The New and Evolved You promised to love and cherish your new spouse and never take them for granted. And maybe you were able to live up to that resolution for a few years, but eventually old habits and emotional baggage come into play. It is a constant struggle to overcome past issues and most people underestimate the amount of emotional energy it will take to enact true change and be a better person in this new relationship. And no one…no one…can push our buttons like our loved ones.
4. Familiarity with the divorce process
Once you’ve dug yourself out of the cold, dark Hell of the divorce process you discover one thing: you are a survivor. Now you’re stronger, familiar with the process and know that you will live after a divorce. The process of splitting up the second union, while not easy, doesn’t carry the same weight that it did the first time around. Regardless of which side you end up on, you know you’ll heal and somehow life goes on.
5. Not having the wisdom to kee your mouth shut
Now you know what you want and, by God, no one is going to stand in your way! You’ve fought long and hard to figure out who you are and no one is going to hold you down. Not even your new spouse. So we all feel entitled to vehemently voice what we want and how we want it. Unfortunately all of this assertion isn’t good for the relationship and the thought is that we have to put ourselves first in order to be happy. Somewhere along the line we forgot about conflict resolution and compromise.
6. Not growing up together
Most of us married our high school or college sweethearts the first time around. We have a wealth of pre-parenthood, shared experiences that helped us evolve into adults together. Even something as simple as telling the story of how poor Husband #1 and I were while we put ourselves through college gave us a common thread to laugh about and a point of comparison to see how far we had come. We were successful…no longer the couple sharing a can of soup in front of the TV on a Saturday night with only a nickel to our names.
When I married Husband #2, I was a month away from turning 40. My days of poor college student struggling were far behind me. Even though we built a business from the ground up, the struggles weren’t the same. Husband #2 and I were more cautious, calculated, and lacked the reckless abandon that Husband #1 and I experienced when we threw caution to the wind by splurging for a pizza. Yes, Husband #1 and I were that poor. We had to rely on each other because we couldn’t go it alone. Husband #2 and I didn’t have that dependence. We were two individuals who didn’t really need each other so we never got in the habit of holding on.
Recognizing all of these pitfalls, I still have hope of finding a partner for the future. Maybe I’m as optimistic as Ms. Taylor. Regardless of how things turn out with Husband #2, I’ve dedicated myself to recognizing past mistakes and working to become the best person I can be.