Why second marriages fail

Why second marriages fail

Despite common sense expectations, according to demographic data, the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is, in fact, significantly higher than that of first marriages — 65 percent, nearly two out of three.

Despite common sense expectations, according to demographic data, the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is, in fact, significantly higher than that of first marriages — 65 percent, nearly two out of three.

by Dr. Larry Waldman — 

In the U.S., the divorce rate for first marriages has held at about 50 percent for some time. This is a national tragedy, and it means that many people have subsequent marriages.

Common sense suggests that someone who remarries is older and wiser, has learned from his mistakes and knows better what he wants and needs in a partner. Therefore, the divorce rate for second marriages would be expected to be substantially lower than the divorce rate for first marriages.

Despite common sense expectations, according to demographic data, the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is, in fact, significantly higher than that of first marriages — 65 percent, nearly two out of three. Why?

1. Money, sex and in-laws — These “big three” issues are the primary problems that plague most first marriages, but impact subsequent marriages even more so. The money problem becomes even more troublesome in second marriages due to child support and spousal maintenance payments. Second marriages feel the strain when money is tight and checks have to be sent to the first spouse.

The sex issue also gets interesting in subsequent marriages, if, for no other reason, one or both of the partners were previously in a committed relationship. Uncomfortable questions and comparisons are likely to arise.

The in-law situation becomes especially taxing in subsequent marriages, particularly when both partners bring a child into the relationship. Now you have the husband’s and wife’s parents, and husband’s and wife’s exes’ parents. Whose house do you go to for Thanksgiving?

Statistically, two of these in-law couples could be divorced, so that can add another pair of in-laws that this new couple may have to appease. If one of the partners is marrying for the third time and had children with the previous two spouses, the mathematical number of permutations of potential in-laws increases.

2. Children — Children keep tenuous marriages together. While natural children are binding agents in first marriages, stepchildren are often divisive factors in subsequent unions. Many parents struggle with managing their natural offspring; nearly all stepparents are frustrated with dealing with their stepchildren. A major problem in blended families is partners not supporting each other with regard to the management of their respective natural children.

3. Exes — Some ex-spouses are pleased to see their ex enter a new relationship — especially if it could result in fewer legal motions being filed or reduced child support and alimony payments.

Some angry exes continue to take their ex-spouse back to court for various reasons long after the divorce is final. This adds emotional and financial tension to the new partnership. Another sad but common ploy is to negatively lobby the child against the new partner.

4. The speed at which we re-couple — When rejected by someone you once loved or deciding to end a committed relationship, attention from another possible suitor is quite intoxicating. The data shows that many separated individuals are in a new exclusive relationship before the ink on the divorce decree is dry.

We like to be coupled. A sizable number of persons will enter a new relationship as a means of extricating themselves from an unfulfilling marriage. Rushing into another relationship is foolish and does not provide the time to fully explore the new one before becoming emotionally committed to it. Once the infatuation wanes, the new relationship also could be in trouble.

5. Unconscious dynamics — Psychoanalytic theory holds that who we marry is predetermined. We are unconsciously attracted to individuals with certain characteristics. This attraction does not guarantee a healthy pairing and may lead to angst in the relationship.

If the marriage ends, we tend to put all the blame on our ex and rarely consider our role in that failed relationship. Thus, we unconsciously seek another partner with essentially the same dynamics of our ex — and the next relationship is in jeopardy.

I recommend that if you have left a committed relationship for any reason, you should immediately get into counseling for a minimum of nine months before you consider entering another exclusive relationship.

 

Larry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP, is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in Phoenix for more than 35 years. He is an author and teaches graduate courses for the Educational Psychology Department at Northern Arizona University. 602-996-8619, larrywaldmanphd@cox.net or topphoenixpsychologist.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 34, Number 3, June/July 2015.

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