Second marriage pitfall #2: is your first marriage really behind you?

Posted in Marriage.

Pitfall #2: You haven’t fully healed from your divorce.

Getting married is a big deal. (Understatement, right?) Remarrying is an even bigger deal in some ways. Why? Because, according to statistics, it’s riskier—the divorce rate is higher for second marriages. From a statistical standpoint, your odds for success aren’t that encouraging. However, statistics report patterns and tendencies. They can’t predict your future and therefore shouldn’t stop you from reaching for your relationship dreams.

Your biggest gamble lies in assuming that your marriage will magically rise above the 60% of second marriages that don’t survive. The hard reality is that love wasn’t enough to hold your first marriage together, and love alone won’t be enough to hold your second marriage together. Does this mean you should live in a state of constant fear, ruminating about all the ways you can make your marriage perfect? Absolutely not! The goal is to approach your second marriage from a foundation of knowledge and understanding rather than fear and anxiety.

A common scenario:

You jump into a second marriage with renewed life and vigor. As your new relationship unfolds, the pain and trauma of your divorce becomes a distant memory. Your new marriage is humming along and you couldn’t be happier. Then something shifts. As the newness and excitement melds into the familiarity of a committed marriage, the comfort you anticipated is replaced with doubt. You start feeling cynical about the viability of the marriage.

Let’s look at why this can happen: As the intimacy of your second marriage grows, old wounds from your divorce can reawaken. This is especially the case for those who enter into post-divorce relationships too soon. When this occurs, a second marriage acts as smokescreen, temporarily quelling the pain caused by the failed first marriage. Those uninvited feelings of vulnerability that were such a part of your first marriage now return. Doubts and cynicism are ways to mask feelings of vulnerability.

As the intimacy in your second marriage deepens, you make yourself available to the unique gifts that greater intimacy offers. In part, you achieve this increased closeness with your spouse by trusting him/her. The irony is that you also open yourself up to greater pain if the relationship goes awry. It may seem counterintuitive, but often when you begin to feel closest to your new partner is precisely when the restless ghosts from your first marriage reappear, haunting and hollering, reminding you of those old emotional wounds.

Will you retreat from your spouse, in an effort to hide your vulnerability and protect yourself?

When you respond to intimacy’s call by pulling away, you sacrifice the marriage in order to protect yourself (self-preservation over marital-preservation).

Or will you communicate your fears and give your new spouse a chance to prove him/herself?

When you respond to intimacy’s invitation with greater openness (even when it scares you), you place the marriage above your fears (marital-preservation over self-preservation).

The decision is yours and yours alone.

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