What to Know Before Your Second Marriage
3 Important Factors to Consider Ahead of the Big Day
I’d wager every one of us walked out of our final divorce swearing off marriage. If the problems in the marriage weren’t enough, the roller-coaster of divorce certainly kicked you in the butt. Statistics show that we divorcées are 80% likely to do it all over again within 5-years’ time.
Timing has much to do with our high rate of remarriage. Most of us entered the first one while young (often too young), without being sure of our self-identity. Now, later in life, we have a better understanding of ourselves, the positives as well as our limitations. We’ve matured enough to know what traits we don’t desire in others.
When you begin to explore it a second time, some of your buddies will be excited that you found someone new to get on with your happiness. Others will be on the opposite side of the aisle, questioning your sanity for jumping off the cliff again. Ultimately, the decision is yours and needs to be a gut-check for yourself. We are grownups, responsible for making and living with our decisions.
How successful will your second-time union be? Some stats cite a higher divorce rate for subsequent marriages. While others claim these marriages, made later in life, actually see a divorce rate in the mid-30% range, which is less than the younger, first-time marriages. It all boils down to what you’re willing to do and what efforts you’re willing to put into it that will decide your ultimate fate.
Success requires some pre-work and soul searching. Take the time to analyze your new relationship and how marrying this person will fit into your life. Failing to do this will land you back in divorce court.
My recommendations are not wild or earth-shattering. They’re roll-ups of what I’ve found works. Consider my advice to be a little more than common sense. And (face it) when you’re in love, common sense isn’t always so common.
What to Know Before Your Second Marriage: 3 Important Factors
1. It starts with you.
Yep, another gut-check time!
Don’t dive back into the relationship pool unless you are confident in your understanding of the failures of your past. It’s hard for us to honestly answer our own questions about ourselves and our past decisions. While a professional therapist cannot and will not give you all the answers, he or she will guide you through your thoughts and interpret your reflections to help you arrive at the answers.
At a minimum, your gut-check should yield answers to the following questions:
- Why did your previous marriage fail? And what part did you play in it?
- What are your feelings towards and about your ex?
- Are you happy and comfortable alone?
It’s a lot. Here’s my guide for how to navigate each one.
Why did your previous marriage fail? And what part did you play in it?
These two questions generate a quick response, especially when fault is obvious and easily assigned. Often, though, bruises remain linked to unprocessed issues that linger, especially those that had some time to fester while hiding. Those issues (and how you had a part in creating them) are tricky to understand. It’s here that we need help.
Counseling will push you into those dark recesses. It’s critical that you fully understand the failures of the past, especially the part you played. How can you expect to move forward into a new relationship without a clear understanding of your faults in the previous one?
What are your feelings toward and about your ex?
Regarding feelings towards your ex, that’s a tricky one. For many, especially after the roller coaster of divorce, these feelings are stomped and done. For others, though, likely those who didn’t have a choice about the divorce, moving past the love that was can be harder.
Newsflash for those that laughed at this point: Just because a nasty divorce helped mask feelings doesn’t mean they disappear.
I’m not claiming you’re in love with our ex. Instead, you need to recognize that you loved your former partner. For the vast majority of us, none of those feelings are controlled by a light switch.
You must be emotionally past your previous relationship so you can give the one to come the best shot!
Are you happy and comfortable alone?
Your best foot forward will come from starting out in a place of self-generated happiness. First, get to where you can be happy alone. And then love will compound your happiness. Starting new relationships with excess emotional baggage sets the other person up for failure. They’ll try and fail to fill the void you feel. It takes more energy than anyone has.
Men remarry faster than women. Either we jump around to a rebound relationship or can’t be alone. Most guys can name a friend who moved quickly from one relationship to another. We can recall our initial judgments about it.
There’s no egg timer on the shelf beside you to tell you when it’s okay to move on. This is a gut-check only you can answer.
Do not seek happiness FROM someone! You’ll never find it in others. Nobody can make you happy or fix the brokenness inside you.
2. Put it all out there.
So you’ve done your self-reflection and are satisfied with your personal house. Now it is time to put all your issues and promises out in the open; both of you. There’s a great chance she’s not coming into your relationship without prior serious relationships or even a failed marriage (or two) in her past. She contributed to her failed relationships as well. As you’ve learned through self-analysis, she had a part in hers just like you did yours.
Enter into your new relationship by openly discussing:
- The past
- Your scars
- Your issues
- How you plan to work together
Along with all of that, you need to outline your combined vision for the future. The same topics from your first marriage apply. They are:
- Your future outlook
Think back to all the external stressors that once loomed over your first marriage. Those will still be there – just repackaged into new issues. My mother said it best, “Marriage is still marriage.” So it’s better to lay all the warts out in the beginning. The better you understand one another early on, the easier it’ll be to deal with arguably the most difficult problem we second-timers face: previous kids!
Ever notice how other people’s kids are a pain?
Sure, your kids are annoying. But they’re yours.
Experts claim 70% of marriages with stepchildren fail. That’s a huge number! The fact is, living with other people’s kids is difficult. It’s something we’ve covered in great detail, so I’ll spare you the repeat.
Communication is the key to successfully integrating a blended family. Kids must be treated fairly and uniformly so. Sounds logical and rational but it is difficult to execute. The road there will not be easy. And the end result won’t look like anything you saw on The Brady Bunch. Seek counseling from the start. Professional guidance will help all of you cope through the transition.
3. Prenuptial Agreement
You’re older now and aren’t showing up to the party empty-handed. That’s okay because she’s likely bringing in her assets, too. If it is not written down, documented, and agreed upon in a prenup, you can easily be facing another fun-filled divorce later!
If you both came from a previous divorce, deciding on your pre-marital agreement should not be difficult. Most people don’t like to walk into the same pain twice. Even if your first divorce was easy, that doesn’t guarantee the next one will be.
I worked with a corporate pilot we’ll call Gene years ago who was in his third marriage. He was extremely happy but was still sore about being taken to the cleaners following the demise of marriage number two.
When Gene and his first wife divorced, he didn’t have much. He had more in savings and owned property during round two. And it was that breakup that left him bitter.
The lesson there?
Never go into marriage planning the divorce. However, consider your past and the likely past of your soon-to-be-bride. Life changes. People change. Prepare the both of you for what can happen by laying it all out in writing. Don’t document the entire property settlement. But you should start by agreeing to protect each other’s starting point.
If you can’t reach an agreement, consider the following:
- Ask yourself why she’s resisting.
- Do you really want to be on the other side of the table again with lawyers?
The Vegas odds are not in your favor, so dig deep to understand the resistance and how strongly you feel about your success potential. I’m not telling you to walk, but remember the past and fight to avoid the worst elements of divorce in the future.
Morton Hunt, a famous psychologist and brilliant writer, once wrote, “Americans, who make more of marrying for love than any other people, also break up more of their marriages, but the figure reflects not so much the failure of love as the determination of people not to live without it.”
Little recharges a man like moving on from failure and finding someone with whom to share your life and happiness, especially after a painful divorce. Happy marriages can amplify your joy in life beyond measure.
Unfortunately, when the marriage is a subsequent one, there is almost always baggage. Your heart and head have it. You are likely bringing kids, and you could be showing up with assets now that you are older. Everyone, even your soon-to-be-bride has baggage. You can’t do anything about it, but the worst thing you can do is ignore it. Communicate with each other and iron out the issues that are you both are bringing into the marriage.
The odds are not in your favor. Help yourself by starting the marriage off open and with well-established communication channels. Work together from day one to build a successful future together. After all, being older, wiser, and a little more scarred now, we honestly should be able to have a better chance at a successful future marriage than the young ones just starting out, right?
Got any advice for second-timers, third-timers, or beyond? Share your expertise in the gray comments section below!