Can a Second Marriage Last?
- 2006 26 Jan
He who desires to see the living God
face-to-face should not seek him
in the empty, firmament of his mind,
but in human love.
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky
When a remarriage is permanent, you can’t just "give up" on it.
Walking through central Philadelphia a few years ago, we encountered homeless people living in cardboard boxes: big- screen-TV boxes, refrigerator boxes, all sorts of large boxes. As the icy winter winds sliced through downtown, people slept on the sidewalks, surrounded only by their flimsy cardboard shacks.
Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve got a much better bed to sleep in tonight and a much finer roof over your head. But what if your home was a large cardboard box? And more to the point, what if you knew for certain this very same cardboard box was the only home you would ever have as long as you lived?
With no hope of moving to an urban loft or a trendy condo, how would you react? Human nature suggests one thing: You’d do everything in your power to make that cardboard box as cozy, comfortable, warm, dry, and safe as you possibly could.
You would do everything imaginable. You’d get carpet scraps or an old rug to line the floor. You’d find some fabric and insulate the walls. To make it yours, you would decorate with paint, chalk, or any available medium. One way or another, you’d make that box into a place called "home.’
You’d give it your very best since after all, you’d be stuck in that box for the rest of your life. You’d upgrade, redecorate, and refurbish it every chance you got—you’d want it to be as good as it could possibly be.
That’s what you do when you’re "stuck" with something forever.
Now, Think Beyond the Box!
This book begins where you’re already living — and explores how to move forward from that point. Whether this is your second marriage or your fifth, we are here to help you make your current marriage your "last" one — the one that lasts. As this happens, new patterns that honor God will be established, patterns that point effectively to His redemption and His grace.
If you or your spouse were divorced before entering your current marriage, we are here to help you succeed and "go the distance" in your relationship — to help you and your current spouse grow together in mature, lasting, and committed love.
[If you have not remarried, prayerfully consider the challenges you’ll be facing in a remarriage environment. There are a lot of compelling reasons to remain single as you raise your children. Though difficult, being a single parent may be God’s best plan for you and your family.]
When you regard your remarriage as permanent and irreversible, several important changes begin to take root in your relationship. Each of these helps to build a strong positive value into your life, replacing negative experiences and ideas that may have carried over from your past patterns.
You’re More Likely to Work Through the Tough Times
When you regard a remarriage as temporary, as something that might or might not succeed, you’re creating an "escape clause" that can take the place of hard work. In the back of your mind, you’re allowing for the possibility that, if this person isn’t right for you, the next one might be.
That kind of thinking dooms a remarriage right from the start. It leads to shallow relationships, only partially pursued, that never achieve their highest potential or their deepest value. At some level, whether you know it or not, you are holding back from the kind of deep commitment that defines a lasting and fruitful partnership. Part of you continues thinking about another "new start" if needed.
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.
"He felt I wasn’t doing my share of keeping house and making our family schedule work for everyone. He felt he was carrying the load all by himself. We started to fight over small things — not really yelling at each other — but complaining, criticizing, and arguing all the time?’
Carl is nodding his head as his wife speaks.
"Frankly, I thought I’d made another mistake," he admits. "Even though I’d been really careful before committing to marriage, perhaps I hadn’t been careful enough. I was tired of trying all the time. I felt nothing was working."
What kept the couple together?
"Just one thing," Judy explains with a wry smile. "We had both decided this relationship was permanent. Whether it worked well or not, it was going to endure and last forever. Basically, we had agreed beforehand that, one way or another, we were both stuck with each other."
"If we hadn’t done that, I probably would have walked," Carl confesses. "Not to blame anyone other than myself, but things just weren’t working out." He goes on to tell the story of how he and Judy later converted to Christianity through the influence of some close friends and that, these days, God is really helping their remarriage thrive and succeed.
"But," Judy insists, "with or without God, and whether our remarriage was going well or going badly, we’d still be together either way. We looked each other in the eyes, spoke the words out loud in front of our children and our friends, and made a decision that this marriage — for better or for worse — was for always."
A Place for Relationship Investment
When a husband and wife insist their remarriage is permanent and irreversible, they have taken an important step toward longevity and fruitfulness. Knowing that each partner is committed, come what may, helps each person feel safer and more secure.
For those who have experienced the dissolution of a prior marriage, it is vitally important to reconnect with the "‘til death do us part" dimension of the commitment. When both members of a remarriage understand there is no escape clause—no way out, no option other than staying together — a powerful and positive signal is received in the subconscious mind of each partner. This signal is a strong agent of behavioral change.
When your remarried spouse becomes your "partner for life" in every sense of the phrase, your marriage becomes a place where energy is invested to make the relationship the best it can possibly be. It can exhibit just as much strength, endurance, and longevity as the best of "original" marriages — just as much passion, security, and richness in the minds and hearts of both partners.
Taken from Happily Remarried by David and Lisa Frisbie, Copyright 2005 by David and Lisa Frisbie; Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR; Used by Permission.
Since 1982, David and Lisa Frisbie have been co-executive directors of the Center for Marriage and Family Studies in Del Mar, California. Their biblically based ministry of encouragement and training for couples and families has taken them throughout North America and to more than 20 other nations.