Second Time Around: Challenges of Second Marriages and How to Overcome Them

second time around

STATISTICS INDICATE 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce. That statistic increases significantly in second marriages to a whopping 60 percent! Why? Here are three oft-cited reasons, and possible solutions to help you if you are considering a re-marriage after your divorce.

Issue: Blending Families. Many couples marrying for the second time have children from a previous marriage or relationship. The children may not get along well with the new spouse, and the newly married parent gets caught in the middle. Also, the new spouse may be forced to deal with issues that arise when their husband or wife must interact with the old spouse. The new spouse may have different ideas about how children should be disciplined, or may not “fit in” with the rules of the house to which the children have become accustomed. If both spouses have children from previous relationships, the children may not get along, or they might resent their parent’s relationship not only with the new spouse, but also with the “new” children.

Possible Solution: Prior to marriage, the couple should discuss their ideas about child-rearing, including discipline and the roles each will play. Each spouse should be careful about jumping into disciplining the other’s children, and each spouse should require their own children to show respect to everyone in the household, including the new spouse and his or her children. Parents are advised to include each child (in an age-appropriate way) in the discussion of how the family will work after the marriage, what will change, and what will stay the same (their parent will still love them no matter what).

Issue: Blending Finances. Second marriages usually involve older adults who have established financial histories and habits—habits that may not be compatible. One may be a spender, and the other a saver, for instance. One or both may have accumulated significant debt. Credit scores could be an issue. Divorce from the first spouse could have negatively impacted the family’s finances. If both are divorced, the problem may be exacerbated. In addition, one or the other spouse (or both) may be required to pay child support or alimony to the first spouse, which can cause a strain on the new family’s finances. Spending on children also could be a point of disagreement, perhaps one parent is more likely to indulge their children than the other.

Potential Solution: As with children, money should be a serious topic of discussion prior to marriage. In second marriages even more so than first marriages, a pre-nuptial agreement is advisable. The couple also should discuss estate planning issues, as they each may have a different understanding of what will happen if the other spouse dies (the new spouse may think he or she is to be the sole beneficiary, but the previously married spouse may intend to pass along certain assets to his or her children from a prior marriage or relationship). Perhaps working together on a family budget so that everyone’s needs and most wants are met equitably is a good solution.

Issue: Unresolved Issues from Previous Marriage. Often times, couples marrying for the second time may think the first divorce was the result of being married to the wrong person. Rather than reflecting on their own contribution to the downfall of their first marriage, they blame the first spouse, and have hope that the new marriage will work out much better because they are marrying someone with whom they are more compatible. However, these expectations may be unrealistic. If infidelity was an issue in the first marriage, for instance, there may be trust issues that will carry over into the second marriage. Some may even choose to marry a new spouse they perceive to be the polar opposite of their first spouse, only to find out other issues arise. For example, if the first spouse is an alcoholic, the second spouse may be a complete teetotaler, which, on its face looks like a good thing, until you find out he or she has some other addiction or is excessively controlling and contained (many of those who abstain completely form alcohol do so because they are children of alcoholics, so while they may not drink, they may still have issues as a result of their family dynamic of alcoholism).

Possible Solution: Before entering into a second marriage, take some time to seek counseling and get a clear understanding of where the first marriage went wrong, including your own role in it. Work on your problems and get very clear on what a healthy relationship looks like so you can identify and relationship red flags before saying “I do.”

Sandy Ambrose has represented thousands of divorcing families through her almost three decades of family law practice. If you are considering remarriage after divorce from a first spouse, you may wish to schedule a consultation with Sandra K. Ambrose to discuss issues which may arise and could be addressed with a pre-nuptial agreement.