As if the 50% failure rate for first marriages isn’t horrible enough, the failure rate of second marriages rises to a staggering 67%. You’d think after one divorce, we’d be better equipped to make a success of the second marriage. So, what’s the deal?
Turns out, there are many reasons why the deck is stacked against a second marriage. Let’s take expectations, for starters. Maybe our unrealistically high expectations have something to do with the subsequent divorce. After all, we know what went wrong in our first marriage, so we are adamantly certain we won’t make the same mistake again. But that doesn’t shield us from making a different mistake. Factoring in emotional growth (or lack thereof), and our own arrogance about not making the same mistake twice, and I think we might be inadvertently setting ourselves up for a fall.
Now, let’s get specific. And by specific, I mean baggage. Admit it, we all have baggage we take to our second marriage. Issues about finances, children, aging parents, self-esteem, and trust are some of the biggies. Ironically, these are likely to be the same issues you faced in the demise of your first marriage. They don’t actually disappear, do they? The list just gets reorganized. And this time, you might not solely be dealing with your own. Your second spouse will also be bringing his/her own baggage into the marriage. Children and step-children also come with baggage, and that can cause serious blended family issues.
In my experience, both personally and professionally, I’ve learned that a second divorce is typically not as traumatic as the first divorce. Rightly or wrongly, there’s usually less holding a second marriage together than there was in the first. Raising children, acquiring community property and community debt, adjusting to different religious beliefs, fielding criticism by friends and family are either non-issues the second time around, or they’re not as important. We think we’re free and clear of our own contribution to the demise of our prior marriage because we’ve apportioned all of the blame on our ex. Probably untrue, and likely unhealthy.
Another issue that contributes to a second divorce is financial strain. It’s not an exaggeration to state that divorce is expensive, especially when you factor in your obligation to pay child support and/or spousal support (alimony) to your ex, which could take a huge bite out of your income. Many second marriages fail for the singular reason that the partners cannot agree about their finances.
So, what’s the solution? In a word, the solution is time. Taking the time to fully understand what went wrong in your first marriage might help you to avoid making the same mistakes the second time around. Also, taking the time understand your new partner’s concerns (i.e., trust, jealousy, and guilt, to name a few) might help you both to recognize a potential problem, talk about it, and come up with a solution together.
Do you have a second marriage success story? I’d like to hear about it.