It can be easy to assume that the second marriage will be easier than the first. After all, practice makes perfect, right?
And while this can be true in lots of ways, remarrying can come with its own range of complications and concerns.
Problems in second marriages – reliving the past
One of the risks in any new or new-ish relationship is carrying forward expectations, problems or behaviors from the previous one.
This can be especially relevant when it comes to marriages because, in these, any dynamics or habits can become quite lived in. By ‘dynamics’, we mean things like wanting your new partner to send you regular texts asking how you’re doing because that’s what your previous one did. Or arguing in a certain way – say, withdrawing and going quiet when there’s conflict – because that’s the way you ended up doing it in your last marriage. Or even finding it hard to trust your new partner because the reason your last relationship ended was related to a betrayal of trust. Anything that became a habit in terms of how you ‘do’ relationships.
We can find ourselves reliving the past in all kinds of ways when it comes to being a couple. But generally, it’s usually a good idea to approach new relationships as a clean slate: to accept that your new partner is a different person to your last, and indeed, that you’re a different person to who you were then too.
This can be trickier than it sounds – often, we don’t even realize we’re going about things a particular way until it’s pointed out, and even then, we might not realize that our behavior is being influenced by previous experiences. Also, if you’re a bit older, you may find you’re a bit set in your ways, and that you find it quite hard to change your habits.
Getting to know each other
With all this in mind, what can be really useful before embarking on any long-term relationship is talking together, openly, honestly and respectfully, about your expectations. It can be useful to do a little soul searching in the lead up to this: thinking about anything you find tricky when it comes to relationships, any fears or worries that might be left over from previous ones, what your hopes for the current one would be.
These conversations can be really useful for helping you to understand both yourself and each other better. You can get to know your partner and why they do things the way they do much more clearly. And it can also be really important in terms of the big stuff too. For instance, you may not yet know if you have the same ideas on living arrangements. Or money. Or even having more children. These might sound like obvious considerations, but they’ve tripped up many people embarking on second marriages before.
There’s no way of guaranteeing the success of a new relationship, but being both honest with yourself and your partner is the best way of giving yourself a good chance. If you’d like a little help, Relationship Counseling isn’t just for when couples have big problems. It can be a great way of preparing for marriage too.
Second marriages when there’s children
Another common issue when it comes to second marriages is negotiating the reactions of your (and your partner’s) children.
Even grown up children sometimes struggle to deal with the fact that mum or dad is now preparing to marry someone else. They may have never truly come to terms with their parents getting divorced in the first place, and may express this through disapproval of the new relationship. Or they may worry their place in their parents’ life is threatened by the new partner.
One particularly incendiary issue is that of inheritance. Sometimes, when someone meets a new partner, they want to change their will and write the person into it. This often causes real problems in families, with children becoming resentful that some of their share will now be going to the new partner.
If you have the opportunity, it’s a good idea to talk to your children individually about what’s going on. That way, you’ll have a chance to explain your perspective and they’ll feel like they’re being heard too. It can be a good idea to set aside time for this conversation and plan it in advance so they don’t feel surprised or ambushed. If you need help having difficult conversations, perhaps talking with a couple counselor will help. Call Couple Counseling DC 202 270 3937 for an appointment