Getting married for the second time takes courage. It shows that whatever the reason your first marriage ended, it did not leave you jaded and anti-marriage. So now you have bravely embarked on a second marriage with hope and determination. Certainly there is an expectation that things will go better this time than they did last time around. Although statistics show that more second marriages end in divorce than first marriages, you do not have to be one of those statistics. With a good dose of reality and a long sober look at the genuine challenges that most second marriages face, you can have a very good chance at making this your second and last marriage of a lifetime. This article will look at six challenges of second marriage and how best to overcome them.
1. The challenge of putting the past to rest
The question you need to ask yourself is whether you are really and truly over your previous marriage. We all know the dangers of ‘rebound’ relationships, but perhaps several months or years had already passed since your last marriage and you thought you were home and dry. Actually, time alone is not always enough to put the past to rest, if you have not thoroughly dealt with whatever happened. It’s like stuffing all the toxic stuff into your emotional basement and hoping it will never surface again – but it does, and usually at the most inconvenient and stressful times.
Whether you experienced the death of a spouse or the death of a marriage, it is essential to grieve your losses before you can reach a place of acceptance. Forgiveness is a great help in putting the past to rest; forgive yourself, your former spouse, and anyone else involved. This does not mean you excuse or approve of what happened, but rather that you have decided to lay down your past and no longer allow yourself to be controlled by it. When you are able to do this you can focus fully on making a success of your relationship with your new spouse.
2. The challenge of learning your lessons
No mistake or bad experience is ever wasted if you can learn from it. In fact what you have learned from your first marriage can be some of the most valuable lessons which will make or break your second marriage. So you need to take a long hard look at what did and didn’t work the first time around. Be honest about the part you played – there are always two sides to every story. Are there some ways you behave which are difficult to live with, and how are you going to change those behaviours or habits? Be very clear about what it is that you could not tolerate about your former spouse, and then avoid getting involved with someone who displays those same traits. If you take up the challenge of learning your lessons well from your first marriage you could have a very good head start at making a success of your second marriage.
3. The challenge of children
Without a doubt, bringing children into a second marriage is definitely a challenge. Various scenarios include either you or your new partner having children while the other doesn’t, or you both have children. Whatever your particular variation is, you need think through all the implications very carefully. Bear in mind that it usually takes a while for children to accept their new parent (or stepparent). Some studies have shown that it can take around five years or more for two families to truly ‘blend’. Think about all the schedules that will need to be juggled around visitation times with the other parents involved, and holiday arrangements. An area which often causes a lot of friction is parenting styles and how to discipline children. This is where you and your spouse really need to be on the same page, especially when the biological parent is absent. If you can accept the challenge of raising children in your second marriage, with eyes wide open, then you can surely experience that children are a blessing and you can create a special blended family.
4. The challenge of ex-spouses
Second marriages usually involve one or two ex-spouses, unless you have been widowed. Although most divorced couples manage to be civil and decent with each other, this is not always the case. If there are children involved, remember that your new spouse will be obliged to have contact with his or her ex-spouse to arrange visitation, pickups and other practical matters. This brings us back to the first and second challenges – putting the past to rest and learning your lessons. If these two areas have been handled well, then you should be able to proceed smoothly with your second marriage. If not, you may be faced with codependent tendencies, especially where there had been abuse or addictions, and where there is a manipulative or pathological ex. Any form of over-involvement with an ex-spouse will cause problems in a second marriage. If you are struggling with this don’t hesitate to get help from a counsellor or therapist.
5. The challenge of finances
Money, money, money! We just can’t get away from it… and it is a well known fact that finances are one of the biggest struggles married couples face, regardless of whether it is a first or second marriage. In reality, money has a lot to do with trust. When a couple gets married they need to decide whether they will combine their incomes or keep separate accounts. When entering a second marriage, most people have already faced severe financial losses and setbacks during the divorce, making them even more financially vulnerable than in their first marriage. The best way to handle the challenge of finances is to be completely open and transparent with each other. After all, if you want to make this marriage last you will have to learn to trust each other and be honest about any expenses or debts you may have.
6. The challenge of commitment
The fact that this is your second marriage may consciously or subconsciously affect your view of divorce – in the sense that you have been through it once already, so you are more open to the possibility of a second one. Although nobody enters a second marriage with this in mind, there is always the possibility if things get rough. Some studies have shown that this ‘normalization’ of divorce can be one of the main reasons why so many second marriages fail. The way to overcome this challenge is to be fully committed to your second marriage. You may have been divorced once before but you can choose to view that as the first and last time. Now you are committed for life to your second spouse and you can both put your wholehearted effort into making your marriage relationship as beautiful and special as can be.