Sharilee Swaity writes on family and marriage issues on her blog, Second Chance Love. She has written a book on the topic of remarriage.
Sometimes Second Marriages Feel Impossible!
Sometimes second marriages seem impossible, but this article has ten tips for making it more manageable. With exes, custody, and getting over the past, a second marriage can seem so complicated.
In fact, over 25% of marriages don't make it the second time around, and it's easy to figure out why. First, there is the other spouse hanging around, even if it's just in memory and the knowledge that your husband or wife has already gone down this path with someone else. Second marriages often have children that are hurting from all the changes, as well as legal and financial complications.
1. Let Go of the Past
This applies to both of you. You have to let go of what happened in your first marriage or previous relationships. And you have to let go of worrying about what happened in your spouse's marriage.
How? Sometimes it might mean talking about it. Maybe to your spouse, maybe just to a friend. But don't talk about it with the intent of just re-hashing and complaining. Talk about it, with the intention of letting it go.
You might want to write about it, in a journal, or in poetry. This is an excellent way to work through your feelings, and no one has to see it. If you're worried about snoopy eyes, burn it. One thing that I used to do was write on the computer, but put a password on the document, so I was confident that no one would be able to read it.
One of the biggest keys to letting go is forgiveness. Forgive yourself. Forgive your spouse. Forgive your ex's spouse. It is in the past, and any bitterness you still have will poison you in the present. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you approve, simply that you refuse to be controlled by it anymore.
So, let go of yesterday so you can start creating a better tomorrow.
2. Put Your Spouse First
Put your spouse before anyone else in your life, before any other people, including the children. If you are a believer, put God first and your spouse second.
Some people may have trouble with this advice, thinking that it's not right to put the second wife or husband before the children, but it is the best way to achieve long-term stability for both the marriage and the children. When they see the marriage working, they can rest easy knowing they don't have to go through yet another divorce and upset of their world. They've already had enough of that!
How do you put your partner first? By always asking them about plans that concern one of you. By making sure that you have time for them within your week. By not allowing anyone (including your children) to disrespect them, and by generally giving them priority in your life.
What does putting your spouse first do for the relationship? It honours the fact that this person has chosen you above all the other human beings on the earth to spend their time with. And it gives them the security to keep going in a difficult relationship.
Putting anyone else before your spouse, whether it be children, ex-spouses, in-laws, or friends, sends the message that they are not important and will always be "second." Being a "second wife" should not mean being second in importance, and if that message is conveyed, it can lead to a multitude of negative emotions.
Putting a spouse first does not mean putting children last. The children's needs are of utmost importance, and everyone's needs within a family need to be considered. But children should not be allowed to use the second marriage to demand things that are not appropriate for them as children, just because their natural parent feels guilty.
An excellent rule of thumb is to give children as much leeway as you would in a first marriage. Don't try to compensate because you feel guilty for the divorce.
So, putting your spouse first is important in making second marriages work.
3. Be Patient
Remember that it won't be perfect overnight. Statistics say that it takes seven years for a stepfamily to adjust fully. So, don't expect it to all be blissful in a month or even in a year.
There are a multitude of issues to work out with any new marriage: finances, household chores, lovemaking, personal independence . . . these are some of them. Second marriages also add ex-spouses, custody issues and hurt from a breakup to the mix. These things take time, and that's okay!
It's not going to happen all at once, but be happy if you're learning. Be patient with yourself and your spouse.
4. Meet Each Other's Needs
You need to meet each other's needs as much as you can. This isn't always easy, and not always possible, with all the commitments you probably are involved with (kids, work, housework, family and anything else,) but it needs to be a priority.
What are his or her needs? You need to be able to figure that out and make an effort at meeting those needs a good percentage of the time. There is some literature out there on this topic if you want to study this in-depth. The book His Needs, Her Needs is excellent at explaining these needs and why it is important to meet them. Or you can simply ask him: what's important to you? What do you want me to do for you?
Men tend to need respect and sex. Women tend to need love and affection. Other needs will vary according to each individual, but the important thing is to take the time to meet those needs and to not take your spouse for granted. We are called on this earth to meet our spouse's needs, and no one else can do that!
5. Grab a Few Minutes
With kids and stepkids and trying to adjust to a new life, it's often hard to find time to just talk and spend time together, but you need to. My husband works shift work, and when I was teaching, it was very hard to find time together. Now, we just find it here and there. Sometimes, it's an hour of coffee talk in the morning. Other times, it's a few minutes right before we go to sleep.
Ideally, couples should go out on a date once a week, but sometimes you just cannot do it. So, grab a few minutes together during these busy times. This will help to strengthen your second marriage and help you to stay together.
6. Let Go of the Ideal
This ain't no Brady Bunch, and this ain't no fairytale. This was something I had to come to terms with, as a perpetual idealist. Being in a second marriage is not the ideal. Period. It never will be.
As little girls, none of us go to sleep dreaming about being someone's second wife. No, it's always us falling in love with a wonderful man, getting married, and having kids. A second wife, someone else's kids, and a divorce settlement were never in our dreams.
This is not meant to be depressing but real. It is not ideal, and that's okay. It's reality, and it can be good, as long we let go of that other ideal that we had. Sometimes dreams can be bondages if they stop us from accepting reality.
We might have dreamt about something different, but God allowed this. And now we can take the broken pieces and see what can be woven out of them. You may have seen a mosaic art piece. It is created by putting together hundreds of little broken pieces from what was once whole.
Now, if the artist was to keep yearning after the tiles or vases that were once whole, he could never concentrate on the new mosaic art piece forming in front of him. So, it is with our lives in second marriages. We need to let go of the ideal and embrace the real.
7. Say "I Love You" at Least Once a Day
Say "I love you" at least once a day. Preferably a lot more. There's something about saying those words that remind both of you that you love each other, in spite of the challenges and the complications. My husband and I say it to each other whenever we leave the house, whenever we go to sleep, and many times in between.
I think it has helped our marriage to get stronger because it is a constant reinforcement of our commitment to each other. It helps even when we have a tiff and don't want to say it. It helps bring us back to the love we have for each other.
My Book on Second Marriage
8. Get a Pet or Some Other Project You Can Do Together
Having something you can do together makes it easier to be a couple. We have cats. For the first year and a half, my husband didn't care for the cats. He was finally won over, and now the cats are something that we love together, that we talk about together. You need to have things in your life that you share besides grocery shopping, bills and the bedroom. Maybe it might be a project that you take on together in the community or a game that you play on the computer as long as you have things that draw you together.
Second marriages have built-in separation (kids that only belong to one of you, ex-partners, separate financial history and so on). Therefore, things that bring together are especially important!
9. Get a Life (Of Your Own)!
The next point is going to sound like the opposite of the last one, but it's really not. It is both important to do things together and have things you do on your own.
Why is it important to do things on your own? It is because you will need an outlet for the inevitable conflicts and problems that come up. This is critical! You need to have things in your life that are separate from being a wife or a husband and are just "you." Whether it's going jogging, separate friends, a computer game, or knitting, just keep your identity! This is critical and part of any healthy relationship.
Being "you' will help you navigate the difficult times because you will know that you are a valuable person, regardless of what is happening in your marriage. They will remind you of your identity before you became a wife or a husband. And this is important in staying together in a second marriage.
10. Make New Friends
Make some new friends, friends who didn't know the exes and don't know you or your spouse before. Friends that will not compare this marriage to the first marriage or act like they have secrets from you regarding the first spouse.
You might make new friends by joining a new church, or a social group, or just by meeting people in your daily life and reaching out.
I'm not suggesting that you dump the old friends. Not at all. Old friends help keep you focused and keep your perspective, but old friends are always friends of one or the other of the spouses, and therefore it's not equal. New friends have known both of you an equal amount of time, making for a more equitable friendship.
These are some tips for staying together in a second marriage. I hope it helps. Second marriages are far from easy, but can be beautiful, too. Like anything good, they require a lot of effort.
My husband and I have been married for two and a half years. We met several years after the both of us had divorced. For the first two years, our marriage was a nightmare in many ways. We couldn't get past all of our hurts, and we couldn't get along.
This article is written from the experience of someone who has been through the struggles and is still working through them. Now, we are learning to love each other and make it work. I no longer dream of divorce and look forward to a future with my wonderful husband. I believe it is possible for others to be happy in their second marriage, too.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: It does not get better. After ten years hubby won't add me to the house title. It seems that he is saving it for his child, being evicted by my stepson when I am old is a really nagging thought. How would I go about fixing this? Should I get a divorce?
Answer: I am so sorry for what you are going through. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, as I have been away from the site for a while.
You are right; it doesn't always get better. There is no guarantee.
I realize it is six months later, but you could sit down with your spouse and ask him why he doesn't want to put you on the house title. Try to listen calmly, and really understand his behaviour. He might be scared of something, but don't assume that you are sure of his motivation until you talk to him.
I think good marriage counseling if both of you are willing can help work through an issue like this. It sounds like there are trust issues to deal with.
Question: How do you cope when your spouse wants to provide for his adult children?
Answer: That can be difficult. I think it depends on the circumstances, and how much money is being given.
Try to discuss it as a couple, to decide what is reasonable. If an adult child comes to you constantly, and gets money with no strings, it can make them too dependent and irresponsible.
The conflict can come when you don't agree on what is reasonable.
Question: How do second marriage couples work through financial issues?
Answer: Money issues are more complicated after a second marriage, and require a lot of communication and planning. If you are not married yet, it is a really good idea to talk about your finances before entering a marriage.
Even if you are already married, it is not too late to sit down and have an honest discussion. Look at where the disagreements are. about what both of you would like, and try to come to a compromise.
I would also suggest a joint, household budget that you try to follow. The key is that you discuss money, instead of letting resentment build up, and destroy your relationship.