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Baggage From The Past - Part 2

  • Dr. Neil Clark Warren for the eHarmony Research Library
  • 2003 20 May
Baggage From The Past - Part 2

I say all the time, on every radio program or television program I'm on, one bad marriage can turn into two bad marriages so fast it will make your head swim. It's because so many well-meaning persons continue into a second or third marriage before they take the time to recover and learn from the mistakes of the previous relationship.

In this series on Baggage from the Past, I'm offering you 10 healing steps that I believe each person must complete before committing to a new person and a new marriage. My first suggestion was that you Resolve Your Grief from the past relationship.

Gauge Your Anger Towards Your Ex

Point number two: If you still have a lot of anger toward your ex-spouse you're not ready to get married again. I encounter people every once in a while who are thinking about being married for a second or a third time; I'll bring up the matter of their former marriage and they'll just let fly with a lot of invective designed to mutilate that other person. They've got so much anger towards that person. I want you to understand what anger is. Anger is always a secondary emotion, not a primary emotion. It always comes as a result of your feeling three sources of pain in your life: hurt, frustration, and fear.

When you experience hurt, frustration, and fear your body will mobilize automatically and prepare you with energy. It is this energy, what we call physiological preparedness, that we call anger. You can use anger in any way you want. But if you use it positively, it will become an ally to you in the attainment of your fondest dreams. If you use it miserably you can tear your environment apart, both physically and emotionally.

The fundamental thing to see here is that if you have a lot of anger toward your ex-spouse, you still have a lot of pain in relation to your ex-spouse. It's your getting over that pain that is so crucial to your being ready to get married again. So, point number two, if you still have a lot of anger toward your ex-spouse you're not ready to get married again.

Restabilize Your Self-Esteem

Point number three: Have you managed to restabilize your self-esteem or are you still reeling from your marital breakup? I talk to people every week whose self-esteem is like Swiss cheese because of a fundamental rejection they experienced in a prior relationship.

Sometimes it's a relationship with a father or mother, but sometimes it's a relationship with a former spouse. That self-esteem is the only thing that makes it possible for your emotional health to be good; if your self-esteem or your self-conception is poorly formed your emotional health is going to be poor and if your emotional health is poor I promise you, your next marital relationship is going to be defective, miserable, and it won't work. It's going to fail.

So, the question is, on the basis that we know you've been married before, have you gotten your self-esteem back? Have you worked through your pain? Have you forgiven yourself? Have you dealt with your grief? Do you feel good about yourself again? Do you feel strong? Do you sense that you are a thinking, choosing, deciding person within yourself?

If you can say yes to all of that, then you're ready to think about another marriage. But if you're self-esteem is still faulty, if it's still defective, if it's still a little unstable, then you need to work that through and restabilize it before you get started.

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