Conflict from step-children and the baggage brought into the second marriage can lead to stress on the marriage, contributing to increased failure rates. However, some believe that learning from one’s previous mistakes before beginning a new relationship with wisdom and maturity can increase the odds of success.
This article from the Daily Mail in the U.K. cites many couples who explain that false expectations, lack of agreement on what they wanted from marriage, or rushing into a young marriage, caused them to fail the first time around. They say after growing up themselves, and clearly defining what they wanted in a partner and in a marriage helped them to succeed the second time around.
That means the couples didn’t rush into a new relationship, but rather spent the time to explore their past mistakes so as not to repeat the same patterns.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Mantell is cited as saying, “Second marriages can be more successful than the first, since couples have typically matured, learned from any mistakes they made and taken stock of exactly what they are looking for the second time around.” He adds that couples tend to take longer to get to know one another the second time, and are not “blinded” by love.
Couples who are successful may also understand there is no perfect mate, but rather that each partner must work to keep the relationship strong and interesting. Premarital counseling can help couples identify mistakes, patterns and routines they may have fallen into, says Mantell.
It’s usually a mistake to say you married the wrong person, and you want to leave your spouse and try for a better relationship. (Read We All Married the Wrong Person.) I say usually, because I’ve also known people who were abused in marriage and needed to get out for their own physical and emotional safety. Success in a relationship is much more about how partners interact than about whether they chose the ideal partner.
That being said, I’ve known many friends and relatives who did find a much happier and more stable marriage after their first marriage failed. Sometimes I’m surprised to learn couples have been divorced in the past, since they seem like they’ve been happily married to each other forever.
While I disagree that second marriages have better odds of success than first marriages (that just isn’t backed up by research or my experience), I do agree that second marriages can be as loving, stable and just as successful as first-time marriages. That is, if they are willing to put in the work of understanding their personal mistakes and the mistakes of their marriage—not just placing all the blame on their ex. In addition, they will need to be prepared to handle conflict in a healthy manner, in particular in dealing with the (sometimes quite daunting) challenges of step-children and ex-spouses. I believe many people in second marriages work harder to keep the relationship strong, and refuse to take one another for granted. We should all take a cue from those behaviors and do the same.
Are you on a second marriage? If so, what did you learn from your first failed marriage? How long did it take you to remarry, and do you find it harder or easier the second time around? Whether you’re single or married for decades, what do you think about the odds of success in first versus second marriages?
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