Once the divorce is over and two lives have been neatly divided, it’s difficult to comprehend saying “I do” ever again. Just because it didn’t work out the first, or even second time, there’s still hope for happily ever after. Take a listen to two gentlemen who are living proof that married again can be married for good.
John is in his late 60’s. Reclining on the sofa with a black lab at his side, he points at his wife and says, “She doesn’t put up with any of my bullshit.” Betsy laughs and continues about her business. But she doesn’t disagree. In a few months, the two will have been married 36 years. Betsy is John’s third wife, and he’s her second husband.
According to Time magazine, 2016 heralded the lowest divorce rates in 40 years, while marriage rates are on the upswing. Chances are, if you’re going out on a date, you may be dating someone that’s already gone through a divorce. While statistics may indicate overall trends, what happens with you personally is up to you. Here are two men that married again who are optimistic and realistic about their lives so far.
What’s different the third time around?
Everything. According to John, each marriage adds to the learning process.
“My first wife and I got married the day we graduated from college. Everyone was coming in for graduation; it seemed like a good idea at the time.” What wasn’t a good idea was waiting until after the ceremony to have sexual relations. “It turns out, in her mind, sex was for procreation. Period.” Following therapy and adoption, the marriage ended four years later.
Meet George. Retired, he’s finally found a long lasting marriage with his third wife. Like John, his first marriage was to someone his own age. Carol was young and amenable to everything George proposed. Years later, he admits she was a little too amenable. “She never held me accountable for my behavior. I never really appreciated her until years later.”
While some may point to multiple divorces and wag their fingers in disdain, others realize it’s simply a fact of life sometimes. Deborah Gaines, divorced several times, had a different take in her article for The Huffington Post several years ago, “After all, what makes a life well lived? Taking chances. Making mistakes. Loving others. And maybe even marrying the wrong person.”
Undaunted by their lack of success, both men married again for the second time, certain that their next marriages would be successful. John thought it was perfect. “I thought everything was going along just fine, but three years into the marriage she just left. I heard she had met a woman, but I was never sure.”
George went on to marry a much younger woman, blond and energetic, she loved the idea of an older man. Two children later, as he embraced a more settled existence, she opted to return to someone closer to her own age.
Both men point to changes and growth they experienced through trial and error. By his third marriage back in 1981, John says, “I had no clue what to expect in marriage. The whole gender thing and no sex before marriage was all a bad idea.”
Not so fast.
John and George were a bit more cautious when it came to their third and final marriages. Each chose mates that could be described as strong, self-sufficient and most certainly independent.
“You need to spend time apart before you can commit to spending time together,” explains John. In his case, a random meeting at a bank re-introduced the two who had met years earlier in previous relationships. They began to spend time together, but took it slowly. “I’d babysit her kids if she had to travel for work. And I had my own kids in another state. Our first official date was when I piled everyone in a van to go to the drive-in together. We dated for a few years before deciding to get married.”
George followed a similar path. Established as a local businessman, he was in no hurry to remarry. For years, he’d tell anyone his relationship with Toni was a “temporary situation.” Even after they decided to live together, it was years before they opted to marry. With everything going right, George was in no hurry to make any changes. To date, they have been together more than two decades and have no plans to change.
Keys to Success.
John attributes his 36-year success this time to a variety of factors. First and foremost? Learning how to stay out of each other’s way. Not everything has to be a team effort, according to John. “We live parallel existences in the same space, but we don’t do everything together.” While he maintains it’s important to share interests, that doesn’t mean everything. “I love theme parks, and I enjoy taking the kids. Betsy hates it, so she doesn’t go, and we’re both happy.” Betsy nods her head in agreement, “It’s way too hot for me.”
“We understand our strengths and weaknesses. We’ve learned what will mesh and what will grind,” says John. Both still love to discover new interests that they can share, citing the Pops Concert series with the local symphony as something new they both enjoy. “It’s a neat change of pace to find something new.”
Getting married again is not for everybody.
Both men agree that taking a little extra time is worth the long-term benefits. “Both people have to sit down and decide what they need from the other person and what they themselves are prepared to give,” says John. He cautions against jumping in with both feet, just because you think you should.
George’s desire to live together extensively before marriage the third time around provided that extra time both he and his younger mate needed. Separated by more than 20 years, they spent time making certain the match would last before they married again. They had realistic expectations and their caution appears to have paid dividends. Even George’s daughter from a previous marriage has seen a change, “For years, I had a really distant relationship with my father. But now he seems more grounded and interested in being part of my life.”
John recommends having open discussions about virtually everything. “Explore all aspects of life. Nothing should be taboo. If it is, alarms should be going off. Don’t think it will all work out. Don’t think you’ll be able to change the other person. That’s bullshit.”
How to Happily Ever After.
Can married again really be happily ever after? Both John and George think so. Interestingly enough, they don’t toss the ball in their spouses’ courts. Instead, they look to themselves, not as men who are inherently flawed, but as all of us should, as works-in-progress.
“Unless you are prepared to live with yourself, you’ll be a lousy partner for someone else,” says John. “Don’t feel like you can’t live without them. You need to be able to function independently. You need to remember you’re not seeking a replacement for someone else.”
George and his wife Toni mirror those same thoughts. There is no pressure to match the other step for step. The relationship is relaxed and easy. They smile at each other, gently ribbing and making summer plans to see the kids that are all part of their extended family. Married again has become married for good.
John and Betsy are also married for good this time around. Through surgeries and busy schedules, job changes and many children, together they’ve managed to mesh their varied experiences into one cohesive life.
For both men, and likely all their spouses past and present, it hasn’t been an easy road. Learning about yourself can be hard. But taking those life lessons into account, they are living proof that happily ever after starts and ends with you before you can share with anyone else. Married or not.
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