Dealing With The Past - Part 1
- Wednesday, February 26, 2003
If you're thinking of marrying someone who's been married before, I want to mention ten things that I would like for you to consider. These are important first steps towards making sure that your new relationship has a chance of becoming a brilliant marriage.
1. Why did their marriage not work for them before?
If it has been more than one marriage the question is even more important. I would quietly pursue on every front with every possible person why their earlier marriage or marriages didn't work. We have a tendency as human beings to repeat ourselves. We repeat our good points and we repeat our bad points. When one marriage doesn't work, the tendency we have is to do the same thing over again. And the second marriage won't work much better oftentimes.
Now, on the other hand, if the reason that the first marriage didn't work had very little to do with this person, or if the person has made some massive changes since the last time, it might be different. But, if you're thinking about marrying someone who's been married before, I want you to know exactly why their first marriage didn't work.
2. What were their contributions to the breakdown?
What did they do wrong? How did they contribute to the problem? Now if you were to ask just them, "How do you think you contributed to your last marriage not working?" my fear is that you might get quite a biased opinion. "He was the problem," or "She was the problem." They'll often talk about someone else. So that's why I encourage you to pursue on every front from every possible person what their contribution was to the breakdown.
I would encourage you to even talk to the former person with who they were married. Why not? I mean, it might be a little embarrassing to the person you're thinking about marrying now, but if you do it with a lot of carefulness that information could make such a difference to you. It's surprising how much information the other person may have. The person who was involved with the person you want to be involved with. They may be able to tell you some things that would really be helpful.
3. Do they seem both truthful and insightful in their analysis?
I get very nervous about a person who wants to blame everything on the other partner. Now if they had only one other marriage, maybe all they did wrong was to select the wrong person; but, I always encourage people to consider the fact that they did indeed at the very least select the wrong person to marry. But what if they've been married more than once? Then you begin to recognize that there must be some trends here. Some patterns. Some routines. What I look for with these people is whether they seem truthful and insightful in their analysis.
I place a very high priority on truth. I like it when people tell me the truth and I make a determination fairly early in the process of talking with anyone whether they're telling me the truth or not. Truth is very, very important.
For instance, I would rather that the person you're thinking about marrying say something like, "Boy I did some things wrong that's for sure. I just wasn't nearly as kind on a consistent basis as I should've been. I was without a job for quite a while, and I put a lot of emotional and financial strain on the family. Sometimes when I was without a job I was pretty irritable around the house. I know I was hard to get along with." If they tell me that I start thinking, "Hey, this person is really truthful."
The second part of that concern is whether they're insightful. The person who says, "Well, you know, I contributed quite a bit," they may be truthful but they're not very insightful. I like it when they say something like "I don't think I treated Ruth or Greg like he or she mattered much. And the kids, boy, I was too hard on them. I remember a lot of times when I just thought, I could make this thing all right if I came down hard on them and I came down hard on them far too often. I wish I hadn't been so hard on the kids. If I had anything to change I would change that."
That's pretty insightful don't you think? Pretty truthful and insightful? That doesn't take care of everything, but I've got to tell you, it makes a big difference to me when a person is talking about the former relationship; do they recognize what their contributions were? Do they treat the contributions truthfully? Are they insightful about what they did wrong?
In the next chapter of this study, I'm going to examine additional questions regarding broken commitments and excess baggage. I look forward to having you join me as we continue our discussion.
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