Fifty percent of all first marriages end in divorce. But for subsequent marriages the outlook is even bleaker. More than two-thirds of second marriages and three-quarters of third marriages fail to survive.
These relationships also end more quickly. Studies show that 37 percent of later marriages are over within 10 years, compared with 30 percent of first-time unions.
There are numerous reasons for these discouraging statistics. For instance, children from previous marriages can be the source of acute conflict. Since parents have longer and deeper ties to their offspring than they do to their new partners, they tend to side with the children in arguments or defend them against perceived accusations from the newcomer.
New spouses may not care for their mates’ children and interfere with visits or telephone calls. They can also disagree with their partner’s parenting styles and criticize what they say or do. Such behavior is usually met with hostility and quickly undermines the relationship.
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It seldom changes the interactions and instead creates an “us-against-them” scenario.
Finances are another source of conflict. Each person enters a second marriage with previous assets, debts and spending habits. Partners may want to protect what they’ve already earned or find a mate who can bail them out of financial straits. Some might prefer a yours-mine-and-ours accounting system. If these expectations aren’t successfully addressed before tying that second knot, the marriage is likely to come unraveled.
Although past marriages have supposedly ended, ex-spouses can still loom large in the newlyweds’ lives, especially when there are minor-age children to co-parent. No matter how unreasonable an ex-mate seems or how much animosity is shared between the divorced parties, the chaos and hostility contaminates the new marriage. The situation becomes even more unstable when there are several exes to contend with or when exes remarry and more adults are tossed into the fray.
Divorced folks often remarry similar, inappropriate partners. As much as they hate to admit it, they’re attracted to a certain, unsuitable mate. For example, a woman leaves an unfaithful husband then falls for a playboy with a roving eye. Or a man who divorced a dominating wife finds a new gal who’s equally bossy and controlling. Such relationships come with built-in problems that crop up before the ink’s dry on the marriage license.
The fear of being alone leads to rapid rebound remarriages. Not only do the recently divorced make poor relational decisions, but they are emotionally unable to be a partner for someone else.
Finally, breakups are easier the second time around. Once they’ve called it quits on a marriage, divorced people have fewer qualms about repeating the process. Of course, every split is painful. No one likes driving down that unhappy road. Therefore, it takes extra caution to avoid the same potholes in the future.
Tips for successful second marriages
What can you do to increase the likelihood of success in a second marriage? Start with these ideas:
Take your time. Couples who date at least one year before remarrying are less likely to divorce than those who wed sooner. You’ll have time to get to know each other and time to address potential pitfalls. Think slow and steady. Time is in your favor.
Identify where your first marriage went awry. Honestly assess what you both did wrong. Then make a list and discuss it with your new love. The more you know before you say “I do,” the stronger your union will be.
Discuss money. Honestly share your needs, expectations and habits. Decide if you’ll need a prenuptial agreement. Sensitive conversations on this touchy topic will set a strong foundation for your marriage.
Allow spouses to have relationships with their children. These are not your kids. They belong to your new love. Stay out of the way. Don’t make suggestions unless you’re asked. Even then, express your opinion once and zip your lips.
Get along with your partner’s family. Your job as the new in-law is to make nice with everyone in the family. Let go of any grudges or hurt feelings. Develop a workable relationship with each person. You don’t have to be bosom buddies.
But you must be pleasant and cooperative at all times.
Start fresh. Buy a new house instead of moving into his or her old one. Purchase new furniture.
Get rid of all mementos except a few pictures of your kids. Declare to the world, “This is my new and lasting marriage.” Then act as if you mean it!
Get into therapy. A few sessions with a counselor before you take the leap again can prevent you from repeating old errors. It’s always better to avoid problems than to solve them once they’ve occurred.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com