It's the dream of many a child of divorce, and the theme of multiple movies: somehow, Mom and Dad will remember why they fell in love in the first place, get back together, and everything will be wonderful again.
It may sound like a plot straight out of a script or storybook, but there are couples who reunite and remarry after a divorce. It can be wonderful for all involved, or it can be a painful reopening of a wound that had begun to heal, for parents and children alike. Whether remarrying an ex-spouse leads to happily-ever-after depends on a number of factors, including why you divorced in the first place, and what you're doing differently the second time around.
As you've no doubt heard, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. For parents of minor children, there's a lot more riding on the result of a remarriage than there was the first time they tied the knot: this time, they know there are more hearts than their own that will break if things don't work out.
If you're contemplating getting back together with your ex, the first thing to ask yourself is, "Why did we divorce in the first place?" Did you divorce because you had fallen into a rut and believed that there was something more "out there," only to discover too late the value of what you had in your marriage? Did you divorce because you or your spouse had an affair? Was the divorce caused by fundamental personality conflicts? Or had you gotten so focused on work or parenting that your own relationship got neglected? Understanding the cause of your breakup will be essential to making sure it doesn't happen again.
The second question you need to ask is, "Why do we want to get back together?" It may be that one of you never wanted the divorce in the first place. You may have broken up only to realize that the grass wasn't as green on the other side of the fence as it looked. It's possible that the separation and even the finality of the divorce gave you the opportunity to work on personal issues that contributed to the breakdown of your marriage. And it's equally possible that you underestimated how much you'd miss the comfort of being partnered with someone with whom you shared a history, and the significant bond of parenting the same kids. There's even the possibility that, as with many things in the past, you both got nostalgic and romanticized the best parts of your relationship, forgetting the worst.
Once you've analyzed why you needed to split, and why you want to get back together, there's a third question: "How do we make things work better this time?" Some of the challenges that put stress on your marriage may have disappeared with the passage of time, but you are still the same people. If new challenges emerge, will you be equipped to deal with them this time? If you're serious about getting back together, couples counseling could help you gain the insights and skills you need to navigate challenges better this time around. Whatever you do, don't rush things.
Once you are committed to moving forward together, there's one last question to ask: "How do we tell the kids?"
This is one aspect of your story that may not go exactly as the movies had led you to believe. Some kids, especially younger ones, may respond with unbridled jubilation. Others, especially tweens and teens, may be more cautious, or even angry. After all, you have already upended their lives once, by getting divorced in the first place. Depending on how long you have been divorced, they may have just gotten used to a new routine. Now things are changing again.
Your kids saw your marriage as something that was going to last forever; then you divorced, and that became their new reality. Now you're telling them that the divorce wasn't forever, either. The logical conclusion they may reach is that your remarriage also may not last. This conclusion may frighten younger kids, and cause teens to react with contempt: more proof that Mom and Dad don't know what they're doing! You will want to reassure them, without giving them more details than they need or can handle. Being kids, what they will most want to know is how this new development will affect them. That may sound a little self-centered, but for kids, it is developmentally appropriate. Don't get angry because they don't seem as happy as you think they should be.
Realize, too, that how your marriage ended may have a strong impact on how your kids feel about your remarriage. If there was a lot of fighting and tension in the waning days of your marriage, the relative peace of the divorce may be a welcome relief, and the kids may be concerned about going back to the way things were before.
If you have consulted a couples counselor, she or he can help you work out how and when to tell the kids. You may want to approach it something like this: "Mom and Dad got divorced because we were having problems getting along that we didn't know how to fix, but we always cared about each other. Since we've been apart, we have spent a lot of time learning about how to get along better and solve problems together, and we want to give our marriage a second chance." As with telling them about your divorce, listen to them, let them ask questions, and respond honestly and with love. If you do the necessary work up front, reuniting with your ex-spouse could lead to happily ever after for your whole family.
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