According to statistics quoted in Psychology Today, 50% of first marriages end in divorce, 67% of second marriages dissolve, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. Why the increasing rate, when it would make more sense to see people becoming better equipped to choose a partner as they become older and seemingly wiser?
There are other studies which have shown divorce rates are even higher for second and third marriages than the figures cited above, but these figures are high enough to be concerning. Unfortunately, there are no real statistics that site why the majority of these marriages fail. The courts don’t keep a psychologist on hand to do an informal poll as couples are dissolving their marriages. “Irreconcilable differences” covers a lot of ground. So we’re left with a lot of opinions, some of them knowledgeable, but none of them can truly say there is a hierarchy of reasons for marriage dissolution.
One of the most commonly held beliefs is that children are usually conceived during first marriages, and many believe that an increased number of first marriages would dissolve if joint children were not involved.
In subsequent marriages where step-children are involved, there are situations where children seem to be the reason for the conflict, rather than the glue that holds the marriage together. Conflicting personalities and differing priorities can rupture relationships between parent and spouse, parent and step-child, and parent and child. Sadly, the children involved are usually the ones who suffer the most. Step-parents seem to fall into one of two categories: those who perceive their step-children as a threat and those who don’t. Healthy relationships are fostered by step-parents who do not feel threatened by the time their spouse spends with their kids. This is the norm for first marriages, and kids expect it to be the norm for subsequent unions. If Dad normally spent Friday evenings playing ball with his kids when married to their mother, the kids will be hurt if Dad still doesn’t play ball on Fridays when he has a new wife. If the new wife objects, she’s putting Dad in a position of having to choose between her wishes and his kids’ expectations and needs.
Many psychologists believe the increase in failed second and third marriages are simply due to the fact that after people go through one divorce, they decide divorce is not so bad in comparison to being unhappily married. It becomes easier after the first time, which is generally the most difficult if they had children with their spouse. Others believe it’s due to the current day blurring between male and female roles. Mom doesn’t need Dad’s paycheck anymore to support her. Dad doesn’t need Mom anymore to do the laundry and cook dinner.
From a more metaphysical perspective, there are those of us who believe we are drawn into relationships for the purpose of learning a lesson – or many lessons. Rebounding from one failed marriage to another is often due to the fact that the person hasn’t learned their lessons from their last partner, and they will choose another partner who may be very different in personality, yet they present the same issues the previous partner did. Maybe the first husband was controlling and extroverted. The second husband may be equally controlling, but introverted, so they don’t appear to be alike in personality. But the real attraction for the wife is the fact that she never resolved the control issues she had with the first husband, so she’s subconsciously drawn to a partner who will cause her to work on that issue. Routinely, the issues with spouses are the same issues we had with our parents, but never resolved within ourselves. So we keep choosing partners who cause those issues to surface in us, and force us to work on them.
If people give themselves ample time in between each marriage to discover what their own issues are, and work through them alone, they have a much better chance at forging a lasting union when they resume a relationship with a new partner. They will no longer be drawn to a partner who represents those same qualities they struggled with while learning their lessons with the old partner.
And that should be the litmus test for determining whether or not to get remarried. Does the new partner often cause the same old, negative feelings to arise in you that the previous spouse did, even though they are completely different personalities? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably “in love” and remarrying just to exorcise those old demons with your last partner. And once exorcised, you will no longer feel the attraction to the new partner and quickly fall out of love; another marriage will go down in the court room.
If you have children, the other important question to ask yourself is, how do they relate to my kids? If your kids don’t like them, that’s a red flag. Kids don’t just “dislike” people for no reason. Even the most jealous of kids won’t hate a step-parent who obviously has their best interests at heart. As long as the child knows the real parent will continue making time for them without their spouse objecting, they will learn to accept the step-parent. And the children don’t have to be children. Adult offspring can be hurt just as badly as kids who still live at home, and very often are in second and third marriages. Because they are “adults,” they are expected to understand when their feelings are suddenly relegated to a lessor importance. It’s as if the child has to be the parent while the parent is acting like a teenager in love.
Divorce is very painful for everyone involved, so entering into a marriage should never be taken lightly, even if your name is Zsa Zsa.
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