Dealing With The Past - Part 4
- Thursday, February 27, 2003
In this series of articles called "Dealing With The Past" we're looking at the important considerations you should resolve before marrying someone who has previously been divorced.
It may seem difficult to sit with a new love and analyze their past relationship. They may resist the exercise and you may feel like you are prying into a closed chapter of their life. Despite these feelings, it is VITAL that you do the necessary work to understand what happened in your partner's last marriage and what they've done to learn and grow from the experience. To ignore this critical task is to risk a divorce of your own and the accompanying pain and emotional damage.
In prior articles of this series, I've outlined nine of the ten questions that I believe you should ask before you even seriously discuss marriage with someone who has been married previously.
10. Understand the Statistical Risk of Failure
The final point I want to talk to you about is how the divorce rate goes up by ten percent with every new marriage in which a person engages. I was once on the television program Geraldo and was the "expert" there that day. It was a program about multiple marriages for people. We had people who had been married as many as 45 times.
We had a woman who's in the Guinness Book of World Records who has been married 22 times. Another man had been married 17 times. In preparation for that program I did a lot of research with the United States Census Bureau and other facilities and here's what I found: In 1993, of all the marriages that took place in the United States, 49.6 percent of those marriages involved at least one person who'd been married before. 13.3 percent of all the marriages in the United States in 1993 involved at least one person who'd been married three times. The divorce rate upped 10 percent with every new marriage.
If you are thinking about marrying someone who's been married twice, and the divorce rate is normally 66 percent, you're dealing with a divorce rate that's in the 80's. And when you're dealing with a divorce rate that's in the 80's, you have a chance for a marriage that endures of only 20 percent or so. And the other thing we know is that some marriages that don't end in divorce aren't very happy.
The odds against a marriage working with someone who's been married two or three times become less and less and less, and really make you stop and think about whether you want to risk your heart on this new relationship.
So before you marry someone who's been married before, let me just review these ten things that you need to think about:
- Why didn't their marriage work before? Investigate on every front, from every possible person, why their earlier marriage didn't work.
- Find out what their contributions were to the breakdown. Especially ask them how they contributed to the breakdown and get a sense for how truthful and insightful they are in their analysis. If they had another marriage and they intimate that they didn't have anything to do with the breakdown, I want you to really wonder whether that could be. At the very least they married the wrong person. Why did they do that?
- Equally important to truthfulness and insightfulness is regretfulness. How much do they regret the other relationship failing?
- How much excess baggage are they bringing into a new relationship, into a relationship with you? Do they have prejudices and biases that you will need to consider?
- What does the past relationship failing say about their ability to keep their commitment?
- Do they have kids from a prior relationship? If so, what do you think of those kids and what do they think of you? Study that very carefully because that can pull your relationship into shreds.
- What about their prior relationship and the effect it will have on your finances? Consider the possibility that they will never be able to contribute fully of their income to your relationship because they have a permanent obligation to that prior relationship.
- Do you think they might run even faster from your relationship if things didn't work out quite so well? Would they be set to just leave at an early point?
- Finally, don't forget: The divorce rate goes up 10% with every new marriage. Consider what your odds are of this marriage not working and then ask yourself: Now, given how much I'm going to have to risk of my most vulnerable feelings, is this a relationship I want to enter?
I don't want to sound terribly pessimistic about relationships with persons who've been married before. Sometimes the person who has been married before didn't do very much that was wrong except pick the wrong person and they form a perfectly fine relationship with a new person. Oftentimes, if what went wrong in that first relationship was partially or largely their problem and if they haven't done anything to change their contribution to a relationship, it may become your problem in time.
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