How to Succeed in a Second Marriage

bride and groom kissing
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For second marriages to succeed, you have to start the marriage out on the right foot. That means, healing the wounds from your first marriage and employing a few key concepts.

In the 1930s, one out of seven marriages ended in divorce. In the 1960s, one out of every four ended in divorce and today up to 50% of marriages end in divorce. That kind of gives one pause when thinking about how much weight “till death do us part” holds in marriage vows in today's society.

Even more disquieting are the statistics surrounding divorce and second marriage. Sixty percent of those will end in divorce. That means every couple who “ties the knot” and takes those vows are at risk of their marriage ending way before they leave this world.

So, how do couples succeed in building healthy, strong second marriages? They use the same skills they failed to use in their first marriage. The second time around you get the opportunity to do marriage right.

Tips for Making Second Marriages Succeed

Below are 6 concepts to embrace in order to be successful in your second marriage.

Realistic Expectations of Marriage

Having high expectations is great, having expectations that don’t align with your spouse’s expectations can challenge a marriage. According to Eli Finkel, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, “Expectations will require large investments of time and energy in the marital relationship — and that, on average, Americans are actually making smaller investments in their marital relationship than in the past.”

My advice to couples entering second marriages is to, before the marriage, make a list of each other’s expectations. And, I’m not talking about, “I just want to be happy.” Get realistic, discuss what your expectations are for facing financial difficulties, your roles as husband and wife and, how much or what each of you views as enough love and romance.

Define what you expect from each other and as a couple for any situations or issues that may arise once you are married.

A Realistic View of What Love Is

“Love” doesn’t make a good marriage. If two parties to a marriage don’t have similar definitions of what love is, they may one day look divorce square in the face.

There needs to be an agreement after discussions about how you each expect to receive love and to express love. Ask your future spouse what their “love language” is. Share what you need to feel loved. Be upfront and honest so that, even during times of stress and problems you both have an idea of what is needed from each other to continue to feel loved.

Lastly, discuss what you both feel needs to take place for the love you feel to last a lifetime. What do you need to do, as a couple, to make it to, “till death do us part.”

The Understanding That Marriage Doesn’t Define How Happy You Are

If you aren’t happy before you marry, you won’t be happy after you marry. Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, writes, “Scientifically, happiness is a choice. It is a choice about where your single processor brain will devote its finite resources as you process the world.” In other words, unless your marriage is abusive, how you choose to view that marriage determines how happy you will be in the marriage.

There's a saying that goes, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” Your spouse is not responsible for our happiness. You are. A spouse can do and say things that make you feel uncomfortable but, if you know how to set healthy boundaries and encourage respect in your marriage, being happy or not is up to you.

Top-Notch Communication Skills

Successful marital communication is about being able to handle what your spouse thinks and how they feel. Most of us are pretty good at sharing our feelings and opinions. Some of us are put off when those feelings and opinions don’t align with our own.

Honesty in marriage and the ability to meet each other’s needs comes with the ability to handle what the other spouse is saying when they communicate. The key to great marital communication is to not go, “off the wall” crazy when your spouse says something you don’t want to hear. Feeling safe to communicate is what helps build intimacy and connection in marriage.

A Clear Understanding of Gender Roles in the Marriage

Gender roles may have changed over time but each spouse still plays a role in the marriage and that needs to be defined and understood before jumping in. Clearly defined roles are associated with happier, more stable marital relationships.

Lynn Prince Cooke, a professor of social policy at the University of Bath in England, found that American couples who share breadwinning and household duties are less likely to divorce. That is great news but, it won’t do you much good if those duties aren’t clearly defined before marriage.

Awareness of What It Takes to Blend a Family

Blending two families into one is a lot of hard work. About 65% of second marriages include children. Not only will you be charged with keeping the marriage on track but, also keeping those children, happy, healthy and safe.

Lack of awareness of what it takes to blend a family, coupled with unhappy children can severely rock the boat when it comes to brand new second marriages. Make decisions about child discipline, how to work with the exes (the children’s other parent) and what steps you need to take to build a bond with each other’s children before stepping into that second marriage.

Blended family members need time to adjust, in most cases two to five years. The sad truth is, the killer of second marriages is often problems that come from blending the two families. Give your second marriage and new family time to adjust. I’m not saying that all second marriage have major issues to contend with but, if you do, don’t pull the plug too soon. Give yourself and your family time, be patient and when the going gets tough, refer to the list above.

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