Have you ever met a couple that went together so well, you imagined in your head something like, “Welp, THEY sure are lucky. They probably started dating in high school. Wish I had that. Look at them! They’re perfect.”
ONLY TO FIND OUT that they have one of the messiest stories you’ve ever heard? He had a kid as a teenager and lived a wild life for years after that. She married young and had two kids and divorced. They met at work years later, raised her two kids together and had another, all the while beating the odds and facing the hardships each and every day.
Have you ever had that happen?
We have. And it changes your perspective forever… and your preconceived notions, which almost always need to be thrown out the window anyhow.
Above isn’t OUR messy story, but this one is:
Fact #1: We were both married once and divorced once. (Photos from the eras of divorce, long before we met one another.)
Fact #2: We are now married to each other.
When you look at these facts, it’s obvious that for both of us, we are in our second marriage together. This is an identifier than helps us connect with others. It is a true statement. Second time saying the vows. Second time imagining forever. Second time looking into someone’s eyes and seeing the future.
Here is another fact: It might be the second time, but it’s also the last. We aren’t going to be ending this one. Neither of us. Divorce isn’t in our vocabulary. And we’ll take every step necessary to keep it that way.
Second Marriages are hard. We would know. Every other couple we talk to where at least ONE of the two is in their second marriage agrees with us as well – this isn’t for the faint of heart.
Here is why.
We never had the luxury of a “honeymoon” phase.
There were three kids from day one of our marriage. Never did we have months and years to ourselves entirely, that quiet space in which most couples get to learn about one another (not until we become empty-nesters, anyway). Right from the start there were challenges coming at us that NEITHER of us expected or were ready for. There will NEVER be just the two of us.
If there are kids and if there is shared custody, BAM, you have someone else who will be impacting your life – someone who isn’t necessarily welcome, stable, pleasant or fair. But you literally have no choice. If they are somewhat easy to communicate with, you can count yourself extremely lucky.
Our “Honeymoon” consisted of a night alone in our house, while the kids spent the night at a hotel with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.
Our “Honeymoon phase” consisted of frustration, wondering what the hell was happening, trying to be on the same page but having no idea how to even get there, kids running in and out of the room and one still young enough to be running down the hall toward our bedroom most nights around 3 AM. Kids who needed a lot of love and support after what they’d just experienced over the previous few years. Kids who had to figure out how to live with someone new, and vice versa.
We each had insecurities and issues we brought with us from our past marriages. And guess what? You don’t KNOW you even have some of those issues until you’re living it with someone new. Something very strange and small can be a trigger. This takes time, communication and TRUST to navigate well.
Let’s just say, the first year of any marriage can be tough. The first year of a second marriage is probably one you couldn’t pay either of us to go back to.
But was it worth it? Every damn second was worth it.
We had extra, uncommon stressors right from the start. Personal, financial, parental, etc.
A second marriage isn’t a fresh new start. Instead, it’s a meddling messy mix of all the things you might wish you could leave behind. Debt, mortgages, car payments, child support. Chances are you won’t be taking a Financial Peace class together and remain debt free as DINKS (double income, no kids) for a few years. On the contrary, you might both still be coming out from divorce expenses. Or the “I’m having my fun now that I’m single” year of collecting debt. All along the way, you could BOTH be learning to handle each other’s kids, and the kids are in turn learning how to handle having a new step-sibling.
In our case, kids only came from one of us. However, wanting to grow our family has been an extra stressor as well. Certain “dreams” go out the window. Like having a “normal” family (whatever that even means.) And you will start to see, with time, that amazing, healthy and fulfilling lives are available to each member of your new family. As long as you and your spouse remain the strong, stable and consistent cornerstone… no matter what extra, uncommon stressors are thrown your way.
We both knew, going in, that we couldn’t rely on one another solely for our happiness.
There’s a rose-colored glasses mentality that sometimes goes along with marriage. “You fulfill me” and “Now I’ve found my better half” and “You’re all I’ve ever wanted” are common phrases uttered, we’re sure (and, ahem, have experience with…), in a first marriage. When it’s your second marriage, you are wiser and more realistic. You know you can’t put that on another human being. It’s too much of a burden and it’s not fair.
In a strong, wise, and lasting second marriage, these phrases transform into:
You help me see the true person I can be, and I know it’s up to me to fulfill myself.
I’m whole, not a half. You’re awesome, too (and yes, sometimes better.)
You’re a blessing and a gift. I want you. I want a lot of other things, too. So let’s get WORKING TOGETHER.
Though we know divorce is not in our future, we’ve experienced the kind of pain that says: you cannot depend on another human being to be your entire reason for existing. This person could die in a car accident tomorrow, heaven forbid. And God willing, we will live a long, happy life together, supporting one another in our goals and dreams, whether together or separate.
There is an Ex.
We obviously can’t skip this one. It’s a fact! We know an amazing couple in their second marriage who have Relationship Rules. One of their rules is: Exes suck. We know it. Let’s move on.
This is especially true with kids involved.
To put it plainly, if you have an ex-spouse and the marriage did not result in a kid or two or three… you can almost literally never speak or communicate or worry about that person again. Your “new” spouse might never see them in person. You can tuck that away neatly, as is natural and good, and go on with your life at some point.
If you have kids (and the ex is not in another country, jail, or voluntarily out of the picture entirely), then you have to deal with that person. Every couple deals with this differently. Some people have a completely normal, sane person to deal with and some have the opposite. You might find yourself in the midst of harassing emails, text messages, kids being pulled around emotionally, and someone even breaking into your home (especially if they used to live there). You might sit side by side at soccer games and politely comment on how good your child/stepchild is doing and all walk off the field together and later get positive, appropriate text messages regarding kid updates.
The point is, as the newcomer (aka, stepmom or stepdad), it’s very possible you will have no idea what kind of situation you’re actually agreeing to take on. New positive starts for one party doesn’t always sit well with the other. You can’t prepare for whatever story becomes yours.
And if it’s less than desirable, it will cause stress in your life, as long as you let it. You will need help, communication and TRUST from both spouses in order to get past this one, especially if the conflict is high.
But as always – it’s worth the struggle. The positive impact your own home can have on the kids, the strength of your marriage, the future you will have (that WILL someday be free of the binds in this regard) is WORTH the struggle of what really amounts to just a few years of your life. One decade, a little more, a little less (on average.)
We both know we can survive a divorce.
We’re fairly certain that some people who never divorce stayed together out of sheer fear that a divorce would destroy them.
Enter into a second marriage…. and hey, we know it’s survivable.
However, that doesn’t have to make it more likely. With all of those statistics against us, the ones that say 70% of second marriages with kids end in divorce before the second year, we have to be confident and realistic. (But still celebrate like crazy and say “We’re a miracle!” on our second anniversary… which we did…)
Reality is our friend, as Israel likes to say almost every day.
We know the reality of divorce. We know the shortcomings of our own actions in the past. We know what it takes. We know what divorce does to others. We know that we can be a strong example of marriage for those around us (especially the kids.)
We know that we CAN survive divorce.
Even more importantly, knowing that gives us even more drive to move forward day by day and beat the odds.
It takes so much work.
WE HAVE SO MANY DIFFICULT, AWFUL, CRINGE-WORTHY, BUT ULTIMATELY IMPORTANT CONVERSATIONS. We say the hard things out loud. We face our issues with eyes wide open and words that flow freely with trust.
We applaud anyone working day in and day out to make their own marriage work. Heck, one of the strongest marriages we know of is a couple where one is in their second marriage, and the other is in their third. They were hands down, 100% made for one another. They know a thing or two about struggle.
second, third, fourth marriage is a marriage.
Marriage is hard, no matter what.
I & M