For those of you who are divorced, the possibility of a second marriage failing is terrifying!… And it should be. Another relationship setback would be devastating not just to you, but to everyone in your family.
The fear of failure will be present whether you are a divorcee contemplating your future, or you have begun to date, or you are already in a new committed relationship.
Even if you blame your partner for the relationship breakdown… You will still harbor fears that it could happen again. And sadly it can.
In the US, the divorce rate for second marriages is 60% compared to 50% for first marriages. You have a right to be concerned.
Strengths you bring with you when you remarry
- You have more relationship experience. This experience can be a powerful resource in your second committed relationship. As well, you have acquired increased insight and self-awareness.
- You have worked longer in your career or profession. Likely you are earning more money which certainly makes life easier and naturally reduces some types of relationship tension.
- Typically there are fewer young children which simplifies the blending of families. Most people who marry a second time, do so when their children are older. This makes it easier to focus on your primary relationship with your new partner.
- In a second marriage or new committed relationship, there is increased autonomy. Being older and more skilled with life you will be more confident. As well, family and friends will be more supportive and will withhold putting unnecessary social pressure upon you, their son, daughter or friend. All of this will afford you with the opportunity to focus on building your new family and eliminate many potential relationship conflicts.
- There generally is increased motivation to make the new relationship last. Having gone through conflict, separation, and divorce, you are more inspired to work on making this second committed relationship a success.
The 14 pitfalls to avoid in your second marriage or committed relationship
1. Incomplete grieving. When you are in a new relationship you must be 100% present. Building a family with another person requires determination and effort. If you are still grieving over a previous committed relationship that has ended — for whatever reason — this will prevent you from giving the new relationship your full attention and effort. Depression, anger, or feelings of unfairness or of vengeance are all stone walls that will separate you and your new partner.
2. Emotionally hold on to your first marriage or committed relationship. When you start a new committed relationship, you need to let go of the past one. If you try to live in both, your past relationship and your new one, your new relationship will suffer and perhaps even fail. Your new partner needs you committed to him or her, and no one else.
3. Strong guilt over the breakup of the first relationship. The reasons relationships end are numerous. Perhaps you blame yourself, you did something terrible that caused the demise of your first marriage! Regardless, you need to move on. Feeling guilty over what happened will hold you back from moving forward. You need to whittle away whatever guilt you may feel over the breakup of your first marriage to a manageable amount so it does not interfere with your new marriage or committed relationship.
4. Ongoing disputes with the ex. Just because you divorced and remarried doesn’t automatically mean that your relationship with your first partner has been completely severed. When you have children this is actually impossible. You have to carefully limit whatever connection remains with your first partner so your new partner does not feel you are being disloyal and uncaring. Should this happen, and your new partner feels neglected or insecure, it will be difficult to create a life together that is loving, caring, and secure.
5. Ongoing legal disputes. The process of attaining a divorce for some couples spans years. Your litigation needs to be attended to so you can protect your rights and entitlements, while at the same time it needs to be managed so it doesn’t overwhelm your new relationship leaving your new partner feeling neglected and anxious.
6. Not making your partner your number one person. Whether it is your first, second, or a third, etc. relationship, it requires that you make your partner the number one person in your life. Your wife/girlfriend or husband/boyfriend must rank even higher than your children. This is good for your children because when you make your partner the number one person your relationship now has the strong foundation needed to be successful, and this is what is most important for your children. It would be a disaster for your children if you have a second failed relationship. When you make your children more important than your new partner, your relationship is unlikely to succeed.
7. Repetition of unhealthy relationship patterns originating in the first marriage or committed relationship. Everybody makes relationship mistakes. Your mistakes may or may not have contributed to the demise of your first marriage. Still, those mistakes that you did make should be avoided in your new relationship. As well, some efforts that you did make to deal with the crisis in your first marriage may have been functional then and now in your new relationship are dysfunctional. Analyze your relationship behavior and decide what you want to keep and what you want to throw out.
8. Blended families. When starting a second marriage or committed relationship, you have now created the most complex and challenging family community. Your children will have a new step-parent and perhaps step-siblings. You chose to remarry a new person whom you love and trust. However, your children were given no choice, and your new partner and his or her children — for better or for worse — were imposed upon them. From their point of view, suddenly they are surrounded by new people in their lives and perhaps they are living in a new home and new neighborhood.
As well, your new partner does not have the natural authority a birth parent has to discipline your children and may come to feel disrespected and disempowered. This can cause major relationship problems between you and your new partner if it is not dealt with properly.
9. Being swallowed up by the kids. Blended families, especially during the first year, can be very chaotic. Children can feel unbridled and take advantage of the situation. This can lead to chaos and is difficult for all. When children assume the ‘authority in the family,’ the family’s future is bleak.
10. Fear of being rejected by your part-time children. When children are shared between their two divorced birth parents, neither parent has them full-time. Children naturally resist discipline and guidance. Thus, when a part-time birth parent disciplines a child, the parent may feel vulnerable, afraid of being rejected and losing the presence of his or her son or daughter in their life. They worry that if they discipline them, they will no longer want to come for visitation times. Because of this, some well-meaning parents may withhold the guidance and discipline their children need. When children become too powerful, since their behavior is not constrained, the family becomes dysfunctional. Your new partner may feel unprotected by your emboldened children — and this is a big problem!
11. Comparing your first marriage or committed relationship to your new one. Every person is unique. So too, every couple and family is also unique. Just as it is unhealthy to compare one person to another, so too it is unhealthy to compare your new marriage or committed relationship to a prior one. When this is done, it creates feelings of resentment, anger, insecurity, and feelings of isolation in your new partner and stepchildren.
12. Avoiding discussions regarding finances. For some individuals, money is a very sensitive topic Nonetheless, it needs to be discussed. This is especially true when one of the individuals in the new marriage or committed relationship has greater assets than the other. For example, in a blended family, the monetary value of gifts given to children for their birthdays should be equal regardless of who their birth parent is. This can only be achieved if there are constructive communications regarding financial rules.
13. Ignoring the signs of relationship deterioration. A second marriage or committed relationship is like all other relationships. Sometimes they work well and sometimes they don’t. You cannot be so fearful of a second relationship breakdown that you close off your mind to this possibility and problems are then allowed to fester, grow, and multiply. You must know the signs of relationship deterioration such as bickering, staying out late at night, anger, anxiety, and depression. These are often indicators that there are serious relationship problems that must be addressed.
14. Avoiding the assistance of a qualified relationship specialist when there are problems that cannot be resolved as a couple. All relationships, when they have problems, can be helped by a qualified and caring relationship specialist. If you have problems in your new marriage or committed relationship it is essential that you get the help you need. Otherwise, your second relationship, regardless of how much effort you have made, may fail.
To sum it up…
A second marriage or committed relationship adds new members to your original family. This is a great opportunity to make a loving and caring family for your children and yourself. Kindness is a crucial ingredient in a healthy relationship.
Although you have some increased assets since this is a marriage later in life and you have learned lessons from your first marriage, it also poses new risks and complications. You need to use all the relationship skills you have acquired and be open to learning new relationship skills that are needed to succeed fully in your new family.
Are you in or contemplating being in a second marriage or committed relationship? Make for yourself, and if you have children for them as well, a family that is happy, healthy, and long-lasting.
About the author
Abe Kass, MA, RSW, RMFT, CCHT., is a Registered Social Worker, Registered Couple and Family Therapist, Certified Hypnotherapist, and award-winning Educator. He has a busy clinical practice in Toronto, Canada and throughout the world using the phone or Zoom.
After many years of clinical practice and research, Abe concluded that practical solutions requiring a focused effort of no more than a few minutes a day for very specific relationship problems were critically needed. GoSmartLife Publishing House has been created to fill this need.