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The Second Marriage: What You Need to Know

Getting it right the second (or third) time.

Source: Photo: iStock

Are you considering getting married again? How can you do it right this time?

Consider these five basic conversations.

1. "The truth is, I get triggered by my ex. Try not to judge me and don’t get pulled in. Be patient because the drama will eventually go away."

What didn’t work in the marriage often doesn’t work in the divorce.

She may claim that you’re selfish. He may accuse you of being a terrible mother. You will be triggered, and your new partner must chill a bit. He or she will most likely get angered by your bad mood, or your wish to please your ex, yet again. What you don’t want is for your ex to sneak in between you and your new spouse. It’s called triangulation, and it’s to be avoided. After all, these things tend to simmer down once the new marriage gets some traction.

Your ex-spouse may simply want to re-engage as you make the final move. A new marriage triggers anxiety about the children plus it’s a confrontation with finality. The original marriage is truly over once you re-marry and that can make many people a bit crazy.

2. "You are now my husband and my lover, but you are not my children's father."

This is not an easy conversation because, hopefully, your new husband is in love with you and your children. He wants a family, but whether he likes it or not, he’s getting a package with its own set of rules. The children are to live in your joint home and with your joint rules, but he is not their father; that title belongs to your ex-spouse.

You don’t want children to have to choose, and they may feel disloyal if they are asked to call your new husband Dad. That being said, you both run your home, and the rules should be clear. Work together. Make sure that you do the heavy discipline work, and that your new husband is valued. Children benefit from secure, loving, and strong adults in their lives.

And, by the way, if years down the road, the kids insist on calling your new husband Dad, it may turn out just fine. Just don’t start off on that note.

3. "What did she do that hurt you so badly? I don’t want to make the same mistakes."

We bring wounds of the past into the present. And often you’ll be triggered by something that was done by an ex or by a parent that will impact your new relationship. If you were abandoned by your mother, for instance, and then married a narcissistic woman the first time around, you may carry powerful abandonment fears that lie just below the surface. Psychotherapy is useful in taking control of these issues. In the new marriage, you can let your spouse know that you get a bit undone when she fails to respond to a text or stonewalls when annoyed. It triggers bad stuff and leads to nowhere good.

The advantage of a second or third marriage is that you can dispassionately share these issues with each other because there’s no requirement of perfection. You can both help each other when triggered, and therefore not repeat old traumas. The natural result is more closeness and trust.

4. "How are we going to provide for the lifestyle we plan to have?"

Money is not a dirty word, nor is it everything in a marriage.

But, you must be able to practically understand how you both plan to provide for the many expenses of marriage, particularly when there may be a child support or maintenance agreement from a previous divorce settlement.

Many people are anxious when it comes to money, even when it comes to talking about money. You avoid this issue is at your peril! If it is too much for you, consider getting a marriage counselor to mediate the conversation, and if you simply cannot objectify what is going to happen financially, consider that this may be a big red flag about the viability of the upcoming marriage.

5. "How are we going to handle religious practice?"

Religion can bring people together or split them apart and, as with money, it’s sometimes tough to talk about. If there are children from a previous marriage you may have obligations religiously that your new spouse must accept. While you can change religions or religious commitments from your first to your second (or third or fourth...) marriage, confusing kids this way can be tough on their adaptation to a new life.

Religion works best in families when everyone is more or less on board. Try to get it right before marrying and save yourself some real heartache.

Talk first, marry second

When marrying, it’s critical to get to know each other before committing. In some ways, it’s easier the second time around because you are more mature and, hopefully, you’ve learned from your mistakes.

The problem of re-marriage is that there’s often baggage and expectations that come with the marriage, whether it's children or simply old hurt.

Do the kind work of lovingly getting to know one another. Get a therapist to help if need be. And, live a wonderful life together.

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