I was married for 16 years and thought that my marriage was going well. Unfortunately, after two kids, who are now 15 and 13, and lots of good moments, my husband announced that he wasn't happy and filed for divorce. This truly caught me by surprise because my ex and I never fought. Initially, I was heartbroken. Then, surprisingly, I met a man six months after the divorce was final, and we are now engaged to be married.
Between the two of us, we have four kids, ages 15, 16, 13, and 11. We have been together for seven months. I am both excited and nervous about getting married again. I am painfully aware that second marriages end in divorce at a higher rate than first marriages. I love being married, but I am not sure that I could survive a second divorce. I would hate to put my kids through another divorce.
I would like to tell you a little bit about the man that I am marrying. He is kind and generous. Like me, he does not like to argue. Nonetheless, he has a difficult relationship with his ex. She calls him frequently and criticizes the way he treats his kids. She says that he spoils them. I have met his ex once, and she seemed very uncomfortable around me. The good news, however, is that she thanked me for being kind to her children. My soon-to-be new husband insisted on meeting my ex. Their meeting went well, and they spoke about the importance of getting along for the sake of the children.
So, with all of this background information, I am hoping that you can help me move into my second marriage in a way that makes it a bit more likely to be successful. I don't want to be a terrible statistic. Please give me any tips that might help all of the adults and children.
It was so wise of you to reach out to increase the likelihood that your second marriage will be successful. You are correct. Second marriages result in a greater number of divorces than first marriages. There are many reasons for this, including the baggage that people bring into second marriages, learning to live with other people's kids, relationships with exes, and even how well the couple knows each other before getting married. Preparation is key.
First, you explain that you and your ex never fought and that both you and your new partner do not like to argue. While fighting and arguing are aversive, discussing areas of conflict is crucial for the success of a relationship. I caution you not to avoid areas of conflict but rather to discuss (as opposed to fighting). If conflict is avoided, resentment builds up over time and can sadly tear a marriage apart.
Second, I hope that you and your new partner are not rushing into a second marriage. Please make sure that you know each other well enough before tying the knot. Marriage, commitment, and four kids are serious business.
Third, you report that your partner's ex-wife is grateful that you are kind to her children. This is wonderful. There is often conflict between parents and stepparents about how to treat the children. Unfortunately, your partner and his ex seem to be in a struggle about how to raise their children. It is very important for them to discuss this and attempt to resolve their struggles.
Perhaps, they would consider going to a therapist together to learn to co-parent effectively. Children are very attuned to their parents' struggles. And, as we both know, happier kids result in a happier marriage. I am delighted that your ex and current partner have met each other and are on the same page about the importance of getting along for the sake of the children. This warms my heart, and I hope that it will also warm your new home.
Fourth, it is important that you and your new husband define your roles with your step-children. It is important that there is mutual respect between the kids and their step-parents. It is crucial that step-parents do not attempt to take over the role of the biological parents. This is a delicate balancing act with the potential for missteps. Everyone needs to tread gingerly and patiently.
It is my hope that after you marry, you continue to check in with each other to evaluate how things are going. This will allow you to make the necessary tweaks. I wish you good luck and years of joy and harmony. Thank you for reaching out.