Falling in love is exciting, no matter how old you might be! Quirky smiles, secret hopes, and romantic fantasies can happen at any age. We are never too old for the hope and promise of finding our soul mate!
But what happens when we find ourselves considering getting married again? As you probably know, over half of first marriages end in divorce. Current research shows an upward trend in something called “grey divorce” – a divorce that happens later in life. Fear of a second divorce can stop you from getting married again.
Second-marriage problems can be solved with self-awareness and effort from both spouses.
Are Second Marriages More Successful?
If we are middle-aged, we like to believe that life and love have made us wiser when it comes to romance. While that may be generally true, getting married again can shake you to your core. There are days when you might wonder if you have lost your mind by getting married for a second time.
Be assured, you probably haven’t lost your mind, but the energy and commitment required for a second marriage is enormous.
Truth time: second marriages are generally more complicated than first marriages.
The quick take on second marriages? They can be amazing and sexy, but you and your new spouse will have to work for it!
Second Marriage Divorce Rate
Second marriages can be exciting for individuals who have found love again. Unfortunately, it’s common for individuals to experience the same challenges they faced in their first marriage, leading to a high divorce rate in second marriages. Current census data on second marriages is that they end in divorce 60% of the time.
Maybe you are a midlife woman considering a second marriage or going through some tough times in your current one. You are not alone. Take a deep breath and let your body relax as you read this blog post.
Repeat after me: Marriage is hard, but I am willing to learn and change to strengthen my marriage.
Second Marriage Problems
Second marriages are more complex as more people are often involved, including children from previous marriages. Blending of families can result in conflict as everyone adjusts to new rules and expectations. Loyalties seem to change, resulting in confusion and resentment.
Although somewhat easier, second marriages with adult children bring their unique type of disruption. Most of the research on divorce’s effects on children was focused on minor children. Recent studies have shown that adult kids who watch their parents’ divorce also experience a negative impact.
As a midlife woman who got married a second time, I want to assure you that it’s not all gloom and frustration. Second marriages can be the most rewarding partnership of your life, but it will require some flexibility and a large amount of self-control.
So, let’s talk about the four most common issues that can derail a second marriage.
- Communication Issues
When couples do not take the time to listen to each other’s needs and concerns or express their own feelings honestly and openly, it can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements that can eventually tear a couple apart. Second marriages come with an extra thick layer of “problem icing” on the soulmate cupcake.
We all know that communication is vital when it comes to creating a successful marriage. Being married means you are in a daily dialogue about important topics. Navigating stepkids, weird in-laws, and child support can bring out the worst in anyone! If you cannot be authentic, self-controlled, and vulnerable, you will have problems with communication.
Healthy Communication in Marriage is Key
Many partners struggle to discuss certain topics, most commonly sex, money, and parenting. Most of us don’t realize we rely on our communication styles learned in childhood. Unless we intentionally decide to understand our communication weaknesses and move toward change, we stay stuck.
Communication is the most common reason couples enter counseling. If your first marriage did not have healthy communication at its core, you need to consider yourself a beginner in the area of communication. Being in love again does not mean you have learned to communicate!
Being open, honest, and transparent can help prevent recurring conflicts and new problems from surfacing. Make sure to share stories about your previous problems with spousal communication. Don’t cherry-pick examples that make you look like an angel! We all have issues that can destroy our most important relationships.
Learning Better Communication Skills Will Help Your Second Marriage
Best Websites for Marriage Help:
Emotionally Focused Therapy (created by S. Johnson and L. Greenberg)
Take ownership of your part of the dysfunctional communication in your first marriage. Your second marriage will suffer if you can’t accept that you played a role in ending your previous partnership.
2. Unrealistic Expectations
One of the primary reasons second marriages fail is that couples have unrealistic expectations of what their marriage will be like. We fantasize about romantic weekends and endless time to enjoy each other, captivated by our romantic image of our new partner. When reality does not meet our expectations, we become disillusioned and disheartened.
Unmet expectations create tension in the relationship and lead to conflict and resentment. They may believe that their new partner will be able to meet all of their needs and solve all of their problems, but this is rarely the case.
Sharing Expectations With Your Spouse
Bringing clarity into the marriage is a healthy first step. Most people live disconnected from their thoughts and emotions. Most of us think we don’t have control over our inner thoughts. We have a false idea that “thoughts just happen,” and we don’t get curious about our thinking patterns. Taking the time to identify your expectations with your new spouse is critical for long-term marital success.
The best way to identify your expectations is to (shocker!) ask your spouse. When we are newly in love, we can talk for hours, loving the sound of our partner’s voice. It is common for the initial rush of talking to slow down, sometimes reducing to just a trickle—sparse communication results in unmet expectations.
Take Time To Understand Your Emotions
Before you hit your spouse with a list of demands, sit down and do some thoughtful journaling. Take some time and reflect upon your last annoyance or conflict. What was the trigger? What were the strongest emotions for you? Where did your spouse go wrong? What did your spouse do right?
As much as we all hate to argue, it is worth it if we can learn from our behaviors. Sitting down to do an “autopsy” on a conflict is the only way to recognize patterns and make changes.
As we say in therapy: We repeat what we don’t repair.
3. Children From Other Partners
Children from previous relationships can also be a source of tension in a second marriage, as each partner may feel differently about how they should be raising the children or dealing with discipline issues.
Although it might seem easier, having adult children can be equally challenging. Having children from different relationships can create feelings of jealousy or competition.
Blended Family Difficulties
Maybe you both have adult children with a former spouse. Have you discussed your expectations with your spouse? Second-marriage problems can originate when we don’t clearly share what we expect from blending families.
- Time together: How much, how little? Have you both discussed and clarified how much time you will spend with each other’s children?
- Money spent on both sets of kids: will it be equal? Will the money come from your shared income, or will the money come from personal accounts?
- Holidays: Do you expect to have your spouse share every holiday with you/your kids? Or is it okay to split up and focus on each other’s kids?
- Communication: what are your expectations around building a relationship with your new partner’s adult kids? Do you want them to acknowledge your birthday? Do they need to thank you personally for any gifts from you and their parent? Do you expect regular interaction, or are you okay with long periods of silence?
4. Unresolved Conflict From Previous Marriages
Finally, unresolved conflict from previous marriages can also contribute to second-marriage problems. Many partners have unresolved issues from previous relationships, such as trust issues or unresolved anger toward an ex-partner. These issues may resurface in their current relationship and cause problems that might need professional help.
Our brains are pattern-finding machines. To keep us alive, our brain works hard to teach us and remind us of previous painful experiences. Unfortunately, we fall into “lazy thinking” when we believe every warning sign from our history.
Second Marriages Can Be Better If You Are Vulnerable
Not every husband who comes home late from work is cheating. Not every wife is overspending and hiding her purchases in her trunk. But our brain looks for evidence to keep us “safe,” so we are tempted to make assumptions about our partner.
One of the most important things you can do for your marriage is to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is scary and can have painful results, but we are just operating on assumptions without it.
All credit for the following two paragraphs goes to Brene Brown.
The best way to open up a vulnerable conversation is to use language like this:
Spouse speaking to spouse: You have had quite a few late nights at work this month. I know that you have a demanding job and sometimes you have to work late, but I admit that I am struggling with some uncomfortable feelings about this.
(Now, carefully and humbly tell your spouse what you are afraid of using the following sentence.)
The story I am telling myself is _____________________________________________.
Second Marriages Can Be Happier If You Take Risks
After sharing your concerns, you might want to ask your spouse for reassurance. Sharing your fears might open up a bigger conversation for both of you. Taking a risk in your relationship is challenging and can feel terrifying, but operating on old patterns and half-baked assumptions is far more damaging.
If your spouse cannot honor your vulnerability, it would be helpful to consider involving a couples therapist. Deep emotional wounds and more complex issues may need professional support.
A basic checklist for building a thriving second marriage:
- A shared vision for the future builds trust and connection
- Celebrating blended family milestones
- Weekly check-ins or date nights. Setting aside time to focus on each other deepens your emotional bond.
- A predetermined agreement on how to diffuse conflict
- Allowing emotional space for your spouse to reflect and share feelings
Can Second Marriages Work? YES!
Although divorce in second marriages is a sad statistic, it doesn’t have to happen. Identifying potential issues and working to establish healthy communication strategies is essential to creating a thriving marriage. Recognizing our patterns and themes that originate from earlier relationships is critical.
Accepting that we will repeat unhealthy behaviors with our new spouse should convince us to change our responses. As stated earlier, we repeat what we don’t repair. Working on self-awareness is the single thing that can fix most second-marriage problems, making it healthier for both partners.
As a middle-aged woman, it may seem challenging to create and maintain a successful relationship, but with effort and dedication, you can do it. Healthy, loving marriages always take work and intentional effort. A second marriage does not mean you are damaged or flawed. Choose to do the inner work and celebrate the joy of a second chance at love.
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.