Can a Second Marriage Last?
- Wednesday, January 18, 2006
In contrast, when you regard a remarriage as permanent, you begin to realize if you want to be happy, if you want to be involved in a successful relationship, you’d better get to work: This is the only marriage you’ll ever have! And that attitude, all by itself, has the power to work wonders in your union.
How It Helps Your Relationship to Consider It Permanent and Irreversible
Regarding your remarriage as permanent...
1. Makes you more likely to work through the tough times and solve problems.
2. Helps you create a sense of success in your relationship and identity.
3. Establishes a powerful example for your children and family.
A Powerful Behavioral Tool
When we work with remarried couples in a secular setting, we often start with this concept instead of the spiritual topics. This is not an effort to hide our religious orientation — we’re very open about our beliefs. Instead, we begin with this point because, apart from God and a life of faith, this is the strongest behavioral tool we know of to build and strengthen a remarriage.
Judy and Carl are living proof. Married before either one of them professed any religious inclinations, both had been married previously. Both, as they discovered while getting acquainted, felt like they were failures as a consequence of being divorced. Both were single parents, raising younger children with very little help from the ex-spouse.
"I wasn’t willing to go through that again," Carl explains, speaking of the end of his marriage. "I was either going to stay single or else remarry for life — as far as I was concerned, there was no other option."
Judy felt the same way. "A lot of my friends advised me to stay single. And I really understood what they meant. The last thing on earth I wanted was to have another marriage start off well, seem to be promising, then crash and burn. I was afraid to remarry because I was afraid to watch another marriage fail.
"Carl and I talked about that for a long time. Neither one of us was afraid of being single, but both of us hated the thought of another divorce. The only reason we didn’t just move in together was that the older children were getting toward their teen years and we didn’t want to set that kind of example for them."
With the aid of a family therapist, Carl and Judy talked openly and deeply about their expectations for a remarriage. They both decided up front that if they chose to remarry, it would be for a lifetime — regardless of consequences. That decision became a powerful force in the emerging remarriage, setting them up for success and satisfaction in their relationship. Without attaching any kind of religious commitment to the event, the couple pledged themselves to each other for life as their children watched and listened.
"We were serious anyway," Carl explains. "But once we had made those vows in front of the children, who were old enough to understand what they were hearing, there was no way we were ever going to end our remarriage!"
Carl and Judy approached their relationship as the last one they would ever experience. They invested in it as their "home" for life — making it as good as it could possibly be.
Did that make Carl and Judy's relationship trouble-free? Far from it. Just two years into the remarriage, both were frustrated, worn out, and tired of trying to make the relationship "click."
"No matter what we tried, we just weren’t relating very well’ Judy says about that difficult point. "I felt like Carl wasn’t attached enough to my children, like he didn’t really care deeply about them.
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