Considering remarriage after a divorce? If so, you may be wondering how you can ensure this marriage lasts even though your first marriage ended. These tips can help you avoid a second divorce and make your second marriage better than your first. Here’s to your second marriage success!
It’s so exciting to find love a second time, isn’t it? It probably seemed impossible that you would ever find happiness in love again after the pain of losing your first marriage. And now, here you are, considering a second go-round at marriage.
If that’s you, congratulations! And you’re in good company. I’m in my second marriage as well, along with an estimated 80% of people who divorce.
The Bad News: Second Marriages Are More Likely to End in Divorce
It’s natural to assume that your second marriage will be happier than your first marriage. After all, you’re both wiser and more mature now. But I’m sure you’ve seen the grim statistics about how second marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
I often see a claim that 60% of second marriages end in divorce but there is some dispute as to whether the figure is really that high. That 60% divorce rate is from very old data and things have changed in recent years.
Why Do Second Marriages Fail?
Second marriages fail more often than first marriages for a variety of reasons:
- It can seem easier to go through a divorce a second time now that you know you survived your first one.
- One (or both) partners may still be carrying emotional baggage from the first marriage that carries over into their subsequent marriages.
- Disagreements about money are much more common in a second marriage. One spouse can carry resentment about the other spouse’s financial obligations.
- Blending families brings a unique set of challenges. Sometimes it can seem easier to just step away from the marriage.
The Good News: Second Marriages Can be Much Happier than First Marriages
However, I’m proof that your second marriage can be much happier than your first. In my case, before I remarried, I became very clear about what I wanted in a life partner and very picky about who I considered for the job. As a result, I was better able to pick a life partner who was right for me. And I was willing to do the work to be a good partner for my husband.
If you’ve been in a bad marriage, simply finding someone who makes you happy is cause for celebration and gratitude. Not everyone gets a second chance and I know many happy spouses in second marriages (including me), who are grateful every day that they were lucky enough to get a second chance to do it right this time.
15 Tips for Second Marriage Success
So, if you’re contemplating remarriage, what can you do to ensure that this time will be different? Well, the good news is that you’ve approved your odds of having a successful second marriage just by considering this question. Conflict and issues are inevitable in any marriage but you can come up with plans and solutions if you address any potential issues in advance.
Here are 15 tips that worked for me to make your second marriage better than your first.
1. Work to Heal from the Loss of Your First Marriage
If either partner is still carrying around unresolved feelings from their first marriage, it’s inevitable that this will affect the new relationship. If your marriage ended because of a betrayal, you may sabotage your second marriage by unconsciously distrusting your new husband. Similarly, expecting your new partner to make up for all the hurts inflicted in your first marriage puts too much pressure on the very human man you married.
It’s probably impossible to completely heal from past hurts. I certainly haven’t. But I did go through years of therapy to work through the traumas of my first marriage before I felt ready to get married again. Before you remarry, make sure both of you are healthy enough to enter into a new relationship with enthusiasm and optimism.
2. Get Married for the Right Reasons
During my single days, I used to joke about the men over 50 who contacted me on dating sites. It appears that many of them woke up one day and thought to themselves, “Oh my God, I’m going to die alone” and then proceeded to do anything they could to make sure that didn’t happen.
Their eagerness (desperation?) was apparent from the first message they sent. (On the bright side, these guys were much less likely to send a message with the single word, “Hey.”) These men wanted a wife to take care of them and they didn’t seem to really care who that was.
Some other really bad reasons to get married for the second time include:
- The desire to make your ex jealous
- The need to validate your confidence again after your ex cheated
- Hoping this time you can fix him
- You want to be taken care of
- You need money
It’s harder to define just what the right reason to get married looks like. I married my husband because I wanted to build a shared life together. Whatever your reason for wanting to get married might be, evaluate any potential marriage by this rule: “If It’s Not a Hell Yes, It’s a No“
3. Don’t Ignore Red Flags
I’m so fascinated by the recent glut of documentaries and podcasts telling the stories of people who fell for almost inconceivable scams from their romantic partners. In almost every case, these women continued the relationship despite multiple red flags along the way.
Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to become a victim of manipulation in an abusive relationship. Learn to identify the common red flags of an abusive relationship before you commit to a marriage.
The biggest red flag of all can simply be a feeling that something isn’t right. If you feel this way, slow down any marriage plans until you’re more confident.
4. Get to Know Yourself First
You can’t evaluate whether you’ll be happy with a potential partner if you don’t know what makes you happy. Spend some time getting to know yourself and learning what kind of relationship you want before you get serious with someone.
In particular, identify your non-negotiables. What are behaviors you absolutely won’t accept in a marriage? What behaviors do you need in order to be happy?
5. Take Time to Get to Know Your Partner
Ah, the early days of a new romance. You’re floating on air, your new love is the most wonderful person in the world, and the two of you will never have any problems or differences.
Hey, wait, did he just snap at the waiter for no reason? Did he just say that believes no man can ever truly be monogamous? Oh, well, he had a stressful day at work and he’s still in pain from the breakup of his marriage. He’s still perfect for me.
Are you sure about that?
The truth is you can never know what someone is like until you’ve seen how they act in a variety of situations. I’ve seen advice that says that you can really get to know what someone is like by traveling together and seeing how they react in new and sometimes stressful situations.
But that isn’t necessarily true. I’m a great travel companion and can handle travel stress like a champ. I’m not proud to admit this, but I’m more likely to fall apart when I’ve had a mildly stressful day and my favorite restaurant isn’t serving the dish I’ve been thinking about all day.
Take the time to get to really get to know your partner before you decide to get married. That doesn’t mean you have to date for years before you commit. You just need to take enough time to make sure you really understand what they’re really like in day-to-day life.
6. Learn What a Successful Marriage Looks Like
If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you might have started your former marriage without a good understanding of what a healthy and successful marriage is like. In my case, I had grown up seeing a healthy and supportive marriage between my mom and my dad, but I was also influenced by the southern evangelical culture in which I was raised.
Subconsciously, I believed:
- Everyone marries their high school sweetheart, ideally before they’re 25.
- Marriage is forever and there is no acceptable reason for divorce.
- Marriage is hard work; it’s really hard work.
- It’s the wife’s job to make the husband happy and any effort the husband makes is really just kind of a bonus.
You guys, it turns out that most of that is not true! Who knew?
I certainly didn’t know, but I should have. And when I finally got divorced, I wanted to make sure I knew how to have a successful second marriage if I ever got married again.
Here are some things that helped me learn how to make my next marriage work:
- Therapy. (You knew I was going to say that.) A good licensed therapist can help you work through any mistaken beliefs and figure out what went wrong in your past relationships and what a happy and successful marriage means to you.
- John Gottman Books. I found the advice from John Gottman to be particularly valuable for learning about what it takes to have a happy marriage. Gottman is the head of The Gottman Institute, which studies marriages and then provides evidence-based recommendations for making your own marriage stronger.
Start with Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last and follow up with The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert.
- Learning about Love Languages. The book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts taught me that love can look different to different people and how to identify my own love language and that of potential partners. It also taught me that it’s ok to explain to my partner what I need in a relationship in order to feel love.
Before I read that book and learned about the different ways people show and experience love, I sincerely believed that there was a right way and a wrong way to show love. I know now that no way is wrong or right, it’s just a matter of figuring out what works for you and your partner.
7. Be Open and Honest with Your Partner
When I say “Be Open and Honest with Your Partner,” I don’t mean just mean the obvious, like “don’t tell them lies about how many times you’ve been married before” or “forget to tell them that you’re currently six months behind on your mortgage”. (And if these are the kinds of things you are telling your partner, might I suggest that you take just a little more time to work on yourself before you get married?)
Instead, I simply mean be honest about your likes and dislikes, your fears and anxieties, and most importantly, what you want in a relationship. We’re all guilty of putting our best foot forward when we first start dating, but you can’t build a happy marriage on a foundation of pretenses.
You’re going to have problems if your husband-to-be is happily imagining the two of you spending every weekend fishing at the late, but you actually can’t think of anything duller than sitting behind a fishing pole.
8. Discuss Your Goals and Your Values
Couples in happy marriages share tend to have common values. If you value closeness and time together while your husband needs independence and extended time to himself, your marriage will be challenging from the very beginning.
Every person has certain values they live by, even if they aren’t consciously aware of what they are. This article has a good list of topics to discuss in order to see if you two are a good match.
For example, my husband and I discussed in the beginning of our relationship about how important our kids were in our lives. He understood that if my kids ever needed me, I needed to be able to be there for them, even if that meant disrupting plans or taking on an unanticipated expense.
Similarly, we talked about how we wanted our marriage to be a true partnership and what exactly that meant. That was important to us but another couple might decide that they really need to be able to make independent decisions and spend time doing their own things.
No one path in a marriage is better than the other. It’s just important to talk about what each person wants in their life and to make sure that you are both on the same page.
9. Work on Being Vulnerable in Your Marriage
You can be open and honest about your needs and have endless conversations with your husband about your goals and values, and still find yourself engaging in protective behaviors to avoid being hurt.
But if you want a marriage that feels safe and supportive, you’ll need to be willing to be vulnerable to your partner.
Being vulnerable means showing your partner the real you, especially the parts of you that hide from others. For example, I used to minimize all of my past traumas when I told my husband stories from my past. I would share something that happened and if he reacted strongly, I would immediately backtrack and say, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad.”
I eventually realized that I was terrified of seeming weak or acting like a victim so I minimized things that had happened to me. Learning to admit that, yeah, that really was bad and affected me for a long time gave my husband a chance to respond empathetically and helped me understand that this marriage is a safe place for me.
It can be so hard to show your vulnerable side. Start out by sharing a few small things you feel vulnerable about and gradually work up to the bigger issues.
10. Don’t Forget the Little Gestures
We all have little things that make us happy. It might be having your partner bring you a cup of coffee each morning. It could be when he takes the time to check in during the day.
Whatever it is, find out what little gestures make your spouse feel loved and supported and commit to doing them every day. It’s the little things that often make the biggest difference in a marriage.
11. Have a Plan – and Patience – for Blending Your Families
If one or both of you are coming into the marriage with kids, it’s important to talk about how the role each person wants their spouse to play in their children’s lives. Depending on the age of your kids, you may need to take an active role in their lives or stay more hands-off.
When my husband and I got married, my daughter was 16 and the only child who still lived at home. Instead of immediately taking on an active parent role in my daughter’s life, my husband and my daughter spent the first few years really just getting to know each other and developing a relationship with each other, while I continued to handle the parenting duties.
Experts seem to disagree about which relationship should take precedence when the kids have conflicts with a new spouse. In my case, I personally believe that the kids should always come first. After all, they didn’t ask for any of the family changes they’ve needed to deal with and nobody wins when one spouse forces another to choose between their marriage and their children. You might feel differently, but as always, it’s important that the two of you come to a mutual decision that works for you.
It’s helpful to have a plan for how you’ll deal with parenting, but it’s also important to be flexible and realize that your plans may need to change as your family dynamic evolves. And above all else, remember to be patient. It takes time for everyone to adjust to a new family situation.
12. Consider Family Therapy Before (and After) You Marry
You might think premarital counseling is only for young couples starting their first marriage. But second marriages often have even more issues and baggage to work through. Counseling can help you identify and address these issues before they become problems in your marriage.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist for continued help after you marry. Every marriage goes through rough patches. I’m a big believer in the power of therapy, both for the married couple and for each spouse.
If the two of you are facing disagreements, resentments, or other issues, talking to a family therapist can help you come to a resolution or at least help you learn to work together.
13. Offer Each Other Forgiveness When Needed
We are all, each of us, imperfect. From time to time, we all say we want one thing only to realize that we actually want another. We all have times when we’re petty, or grumpy, or resentful for no reason.
When that happens, give each other grace and forgiveness. You’re both human beings just trying to do the right things. Learn to let go of the little things and focus on what really matters: your love for each other.
14. Show Your Appreciation
Everyone blossoms when they feel their efforts are appreciated. Be sure to notice and acknowledge any of your partner’s acts of kindness. For instance, if they did the dishes after dinner without being asked, let them know how grateful you are that you didn’t have to deal with that.
Showing your appreciation makes your marriage happier for two reasons. Your spouse will thrive in your marriage when they see that you value their contributions. Plus, it helps you notice all the good things your husband does, rather than focusing on any petty resentments you feel.
14. Make Your Marriage a Priority in Your Life
It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day life that we let even the most valued relationships slide. Set aside time each week just for the two of you to relax together, connect and talk. This is your moment to honor and nurture your relationship.
Don’t forget to have fun together! Nothing connects a couple like a shared experience they both enjoy. My husband and I love going out to see live music and we both come home happy and content when we take the time to see a show together.
Your Turn Now!
What other tips would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments! And if you’re currently in a second marriage, I’d love to hear how it’s going and what advice you have for others.