After the wedding cake has been eaten and the punch bowl drunk dry, after the last few bars of music have been played and the last guest has gone home, your wedding will be over. Will the marriage that follows bloom like a flower strongly rooted in God, or wilt away like a faded bridal bouquet?

Unfortunately, if it's not your first wedding, the chances of your marriage failing are very great - about 60 percent of all second marriages currently end in divorce. Before you remarry, it's vitally important to work out a variety of issues with your partner. Investing the time and energy to do so will help increase your chances of a lasting and fulfilling marriage that honors God.

Here are some ways you can prepare for remarriage:

  • Study your first marriage to discover what issues you still need to resolve from that experience. Whether the marriage ended because of divorce or death, you need to bring closure to that chapter in your life. You can do so by understanding what caused whatever problems existed between your and your former spouse, and by grieving the loss of a dream - for your first marriage to last. Take significant time to think and pray about your first marriage, asking God to show you specific ways in which He wants you to grow before you begin a new marriage. Then ask Him to help you shed whatever baggage you might otherwise carry into a new marriage.

  • Consider your true motivation for getting married again. Know that the only valid motivation is for companionship based on a genuine love for your potential new spouse and desire to be his or her partner through life. Understand that if you're motivated by financial needs, a desire to have children, loneliness, a desire to escape past pain, pressure from others, a desire for sex, or any other reason besides companionship, your marriage likely won't succeed.

  • Date a potential spouse long enough to get to know each other well - at least two years is best. Practice good communication skills in your relationship, such as active listening and negotiation. Make sure that you share similar values about issues such as faith, husband and wife roles, money, children, interests, goals, energy levels, and senses of humor.

  • If you or your potential new spouse will be bringing any children into the new marriage, be sure to ask the children what they think and feel about your relationship, then seriously consider what they say. Remember that a new marriage will affect them just as much as you.

  • Get rid of unrealistic expectations. Realize that a new marriage will not make you whole because only God can make you whole. Understand that no marriage is perfect, and that you will encounter challenges in your new marriage just as you did in you first. In fact, you will likely be confronted with even more challenges than before, such as communicating with a former spouse and trying to blend a family.

  • Cultivate intimacy on a daily basis by enjoying weekly dates and paying attention to small but vital details that show each other how much you care (such as compliments and affectionate touch).

  • Strive to be content no matter what your current circumstances, looking to God to provide your ultimate fulfillment. Decide to approach every situation with a positive attitude, and avoid blame, resentment, and self-pity.

  • Learn good communication skills so that you can say what you mean and understand what you hear your partner tell you.

  • Identify how your personal needs as a man or woman differ from those of your potential partner, and discuss together how you can best strive to meet each other’s needs.

  • Learn how to fight fairly and resolve conflicts.

  • If you still have contact with your former spouse, be civil when communicating with him or her. Ask God’s help to forgive him or her if you feel wronged in any way.

  • If you’re bringing a biological child (or children) into a new marriage, it’s important for you to be the primary disciplinarian. If you’re about to become a stepparent, don’t try to replace a biological parent, take a parenting course before the wedding, allow your new spouse to spend time alone with his or her child or children on a regular basis, and permit your stepchild or stepchildren set the pace for the relationship (such as what to call you – as long as it’s respectful – and how much affection they display to you.

  • When blending a family, hold regular family meetings, build new traditions while also respecting old ones, and provide personal space for everyone in the household (especially children who only visit occasionally and need to know that they truly belong).

  • Constantly pursue a deeper communion with God together, by worshipping in church at least once a week, praying and reading Scripture together, and using your talents to serve others.

Adapted from Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts, copyright 2001 by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com, 1-800-727-3480.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University (SPU). Les is a professor of clinical psychology at SPU, and Leslie is a marriage and family therapist there. They have written several previous books together, and live in Seattle with their son.

Why do you think it's important for couples who are getting married for the second or subsequent times to invest extra time in working out issues between them? If you've been remarried, what issues have proven most challenging for you to deal with, and why? How has God helped you build a strong new marriage? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.