Marriages fail for all sorts of reasons—even Christian marriages. Falling in love again can be a wonderful surprise, but entering marriage a second time can be daunting, even when faith is strong and support extensive. So how do we increase the chances of success the second time around?
Studies show that second marriages are high risk. But, according to Dr Karen Maudlin, while nay-sayers may assume that couples bring too much baggage into their new relationship, they forget that we all come into every new relationship with baggage.
‘Childhood, previous relationships, even relationships with siblings and friends all impact spouse selection and the ensuing relationship. The assumption that we can enter any relationship without baggage is, of course, untrue,’ she explains.
Couples entering a second marriage tend to be more aware of this and begin with greater intentionality and care.
‘No matter what your age and stage of life circumstances,’ Dr Maudlin insists, ‘with extra TLC and effective communication, your second marriage can succeed.’
Here’s what you need to know second time around when children/adolescents are involved:
1. Take ‘Date Night’ seriously. Weekly date nights and weekends away are important for every marriage. Second marriages often start with the complexities of step-parenthood, so time away from the kids is vital to a strong foundation.
2. Keep Christ central. Second marriages are more likely to succeed when your spiritual life is strong and nurtured regularly. When the inevitable aggravation from being a blended family surfaces, praying together and being supported by church family can make all the difference.
3. Support the biological parent. The biological parent must take the lead with his/her children. Include the step-parent in the decision-making process about the kids from the beginning, but gradually—over one to three years—ease the step-parent into their new role.
4. Avoid outdoing the ex-spouse. Be extra careful that gifts don’t make a biological parent feel they are falling short, especially if their financial resources are stretched. Honouring your step-children’s biological parent is more likely to benefit everyone in the long run, than expensive gifts in the short term.
5. Choose neutral accommodation. While it may seem prudent and even logical to remain in the home the children are most familiar with, memories and attitudes (baggage) that predate the new marriage are likely to become a problem. A new home with joint ownership can be a positive adventure to navigate together.
6. Insist on full financial disclosure. Established and differing values to money will require negotiation and compromise. Transparency is essential, especially if financial pressures played a part in the decline of a previous marriage. A third party ‘coach’ may be helpful in this scenario.
Marriage the second time around brings with it the invitation to do things differently—more intentionally—and with an extra measure of grace, not only toward a new spouse, but for yourself. Be kind to each other, quick to forgive and slow to get angry, and remember above all else that the God of second chances is with you.
Karen L. Maudlin, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist specialising in marriage and family therapy as well as a regular columnist for Christian Parenting Today.
(c) 'War Cry' magazine, 10 August 2019 p10. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.