How to make it work for the second time
While many couples see marriage as a second chance at happiness, statistics tell a different story.
According to available Census data, the divorce rate for second marriages is over 60%, compared to around 50% for first marriages.
Why are second marriages more likely to fail?
One explanation is the formation of blended families, which can cause loyalty problems with stepchildren and rivalries between parents, but there are many other difficulties and tensions that come with marriage.
A foundation of trust and intimacy is vital to overcoming the odds.
Everyone Has Baggage
When people remarry, they often bring unhealthy relationship patterns and trust issues into their first marriage, which can sabotage the new relationship.
Sometimes this baggage can make couples rush to tie the knot without really knowing each other.
For example, if you were cheated on by your ex-spouse, you may be overly suspicious and not trust your new partner.
Here’s how Karina said: “We’ve only been married a few years”, she paused, “But I’m already questioning John when he’s late for work – full of mistrust and accusations”.
It was clear that Karina was having a hard time trusting John due to her ex-husband’s affair.
It makes sense that the fear of vulnerability can be a real dilemma in a second marriage, but not expressing our innermost feelings, thoughts, and desires can actually risk a relationship because we lose the trust and intimacy that vulnerability offers.
Being vulnerable with your partner can make you feel exposed, but it’s the most important ingredient of an intimate, trusting relationship.
The Doctor. Brené Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”.
Given that definition, the act of loving someone and allowing them to love you can be the ultimate risk.
Dr. John Gottman writes in “What Makes Love Last?” that “life tends to improve for those who have the courage to trust others”.
Create Realistic Expectations
Accept that there are inevitable ups and downs in married life again.
New love is a wonderful feeling, but it doesn’t make up for the pain of divorce, nor does it automatically restore the family to its former status.
According to Maggie Scarf, an expert on adoptive families, “On the contrary, marriage will present a number of unforeseen design issues, such as bonds of loyalty, breaking parental chores, and bringing disparate family cultures together.”
A key issue for remarried couples is interpersonal communication.
This is especially true when it comes to finances, such as disciplining children and stepchildren, personality conflicts in the newly created family, and rivalries between family members.
Below are ten powerful rules on how to make a second marriage work, which I learned from working with married couples and my second marriage.
1. Build a Culture of Appreciation, Respect, and Tolerance
Author Kyle Benson says, “When you can express what you like about your partner. The idea is to catch your partner doing something right and say ‘thank you for doing this.
I noticed that you unloaded the dishwasher and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that.’”
2. Practice Being Vulnerable In Small Steps
Build confidence in being more open with your partner.
Discussing smaller issues like schedules and meals is a great place to start before tackling bigger issues like disciplining kids or managing finances.
3. Create Time And A Relaxed Environment To Interact With Your Partner
Ask for what you need in an assertive, non-aggressive manner, and be willing to see each other’s sides of the story.
In the Seven Principles for Marriage, Dr. Gottman encourages us to respond to our partner’s “offers” for attention, affection, and support.
This can be something as minor as “please make the salad” or as significant as accompanying our partner on a trip to visit a sick parent.
4. Discuss Expectations to Avoid Misunderstandings
Take a risk and deal with hurt feelings, especially if it’s an important issue, rather than holding back and shutting down.
In The Rules of Marriage, Harriet Lerner posits that a good fight can clear the air.
She writes that “it is good to know that we can survive conflict and even learn from it”.
5. Prepare for Conflict
Understand that conflict does not mean the end of your marriage.
The research of Dr. John Gottman on thousands of couples has found that conflict is inevitable in all relationships and 69% of marriage problems go unresolved.
Despite this, conflict can be successfully managed and the marriage can thrive!
Stephanie Manes, LCSW advises us to take a short break if we feel overwhelmed or overwhelmed as a way to restore positive communication with our partner.
6. Communicate Effectively
Accept responsibility for your role in a disagreement.
Listen to your partner’s requests and ask for clarification on issues that are unclear.
Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements that tend to sound guilty, such as “I felt hurt when you bought the car without arguing with me.”
7. Embrace Your Role as a Stepfather or Stepmother
The stepparent’s role is that of an adult friend, mentor, and advocate rather than a disciplinarian.
Learn new strategies and share your ideas with your partner.
There is no instant love.
When stepparents feel unappreciated or disrespected by their stepchildren, they will have a hard time relating to them, causing stress for the adoptive family.
8. Tune In With Your Partner
Eye contact and body posture demonstrate your intent to listen and commit.
Practice what Dr. John Gottman calls emotional attunement while relaxing together can help you stay connected despite your differences.
This means “turning towards” each other and showing empathy rather than “walking away”.
His 40 years of research have shown that happy couples have a 5:1 ratio of interactions during the conflict – meaning for every negative interaction, you need five positive interactions.
9. Establish Open Dialogue
Do not make threats or issue ultimatums.
Avoid saying things you will later regret.
Money is one of the most common things married couples discuss, and full disclosure about finances is key to remarriage success so resentment doesn’t build up.
10. Practice Forgiveness
Accept that we all have flaws.
Forgiving is not the same as forgiving the wrong done to you, but it will allow you to move on and remember that you are on the same team.
The best way to beat the odds and learn how to make a second marriage work is to create a culture of appreciation and respect in your home.
It’s also crucial to risk being vulnerable with your partner so you can build trust and intimacy.
Determination, respect, acceptance, positive communication, and a good sense of humor can go a long way toward ensuring that your second marriage lasts a lifetime.