By Guest Blogger Clare Jordan

Today’s post is the third post in a four-part series that explores lessons learned through divorcing, dating, remarrying, and blending two families. If you missed the previous blogs, click HERE to see Clare’s post on “Divorce”, and click HERE to see Clare’s post on “Dating.” Stay tuned for Part 4!

“Eat, Drink & Remarry” says a favorite plaque of mine.

A gift from a dear friend who knows us well, this saying resides prominently in the kitchen of our vacation home, on the property where I married my second husband, Fred. I like the marry/merry play on words, especially because I see our remarrying as a very merry happening.

We’ve been married four years now, though it feels like longer. I think that is the effect of joining families later in life, where a second marriage often means an instant new family.

Generally if you are dating in your 40s, marriage potential is somewhere on your mind. Dating after a divorce brings an added dimension to those back-of-the-mind thoughts, and from the time I first contemplated divorce, I had always hoped to be married again someday.

I remember clearly the first time Fred ever referred to marriage, and it wasn’t that long after we started dating. We both had the sense of “just knowing” that happens so rarely when you meet, start dating, and just know you are somehow meant to be with this person.

We had gone on an annual beach trip I’d taken for years with two other families. Fred had cooked a great fish dinner for us all, we had a fun night with our friends, and he later whispered to me, “My Love. My Life. My Wife.” I remember it so well because it gave me chills to hear those words, and to know that he also knew what I knew.

After dating for a year, we were certain we wanted to get married and join our families. I got so excited every time we talked about it! And then one day, Fred proposed, and I said yes. We planned a wedding at the New River, in the same spot on his family’s property there where he proposed. It was a small family wedding, and we had a big party back in town after our honeymoon. It was all dreamy wonderful to me! And all along, I knew that my focus was on the MARRIAGE; not on the WEDDING, a critical distinction.

Several things are just different in a second marriage, and it helps if more people are aware of the differences. Here are a few important points that come to mind:

  • “Second marriages are not second rate.” A dear friend of Fred’s family said this to me when I first met her (at age 90-something), and she’s right. Even so, people will often say or do things that may make you feel otherwise.
  • Your new marriage is not a replacement for a former marriage. In no way is our relationship any reflection on our past marriages. We are our own unique couple.
  • “All marriages take work.My mother used to tell me this, and I didn’t believe her 20-some years ago. I thought if you were happily married, there was no need to “work” at it. I am more willing and able to work on my 2nd I don’t ignore issues and I try not to over-react.
  • Arguing is a good thing. Fred and I are known to disagree (especially in our political views!), but that doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. We are much better off when we can air our disagreements, address things, and move on. Often easier said than done; but far better than burying our feelings, we have learned to argue in ways that make us better (for the most part).
  • Talk about money. It is not taboo, and would be a mistake not to consider how you will handle finances. As with any new couple, money can be divisive, and in second marriages it can be extra complicated, so be sure to communicate, make a budget together, and revisit it often.
  • Living arrangements matter. Our homes contain memories and messages. I’ve heard that it is best for couples who are remarrying to get their own new home together than to live in one or the other’s prior home. This just makes good sense if you can do it. Regardless, make sure you find ways to sensitively accommodate each other’s belongings so that home feels like home to both of you.
  • Anniversaries ought to be doubled or tripled for the impact of a 2nd marriage’s success! When I see people sharing their 25th anniversary celebrations, and realize we may not get to mark some of those big milestones, I don’t let it lessen the value of the extra effort it takes for second marriages to succeed each year – congrats to us!
  • EVERYONE needs a good marriage/family therapist! People who think counseling is only for those relationships in trouble are dead wrong (and probably too late anyway). Our marriage and family are only strengthened by the wise counsel of an outside expert, and I would recommend regular visits with a good therapist to keep any marriage at its healthiest.
  • Beware of the “Big 3” It still applies that if we are not aligned with good communication; a healthy sex life; and agreement on our finances, we will struggle as much as any marriage would.

Remarrying is very exciting! Second marriages are notoriously harder than first marriages though. According to the American Psychological Association, “about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” We’re all familiar with the statistics, but in my case, it just makes me all the more determined to beat them.

I’m also extra aware (and probably a little overly-sensitive) of feeling that our family is different than the many traditional families we know. Even though I know intellectually that easily half the people we know will someday divorce, I can’t help but feel like we are treated differently at times, and I am especially bothered when anyone makes me feel like our marriage is in any way less valuable as a “second marriage.” If anything, I think we deserve extra credit for the hard work and dedication we are giving to make a go of it (again).

It is my hope that readers will remember and share these thoughts as you encounter couples who have remarried. Be sensitive to the extra effort it takes to make second marriages work, and be extra kind in recognizing blended families as a family just as worthy and valuable as first-marriage families. I do not feel “less-than” as Fred’s second wife because I know I am “the love of his life,” and that matters to me more than anything else. Our second chance does not make us second rate!