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Everyone loves a love story with a happy ending. Everyone who gets married, and everyone who loves the happy couple, hopes that the wedding is the start of their “happily ever after.” Unfortunately, for 50% of first marriages, statistics tell us that’s not the case, as about half of all first marriages end in divorce. Even worse, the divorce rate increases with subsequent marriages. The divorce rate for second marriages is 67%, and for third marriages, it’s a whopping 74%. Those numbers might sound shocking or counterintuitive. After all, people learn from their mistakes, right? And don’t we grow wiser as we grow older? Well, yes, sometimes. But even if we’ve learned from the mistakes we made in one marriage, there are many reasons that a second or third marriage might end in divorce.
The divorce statistics for second and third marriages really aren’t that surprising, if you think about it. There are often factors at play in first marriages that cause spouses to consider divorce a last resort; when those factors are removed, divorce may feel like a more viable solution.
As divorce attorneys, we naturally see a lot of divorcing spouses, including those in second and third marriages. Some of the reasons for divorce in second and subsequent marriages include:
When you’re in a first marriage, you may not want to think of yourself as “the kind of person who gets a divorce.” Maybe divorce feels like failure, or you’re scared of what lies on the other side of a divorce. But when you marry again after your first marriage ends, you know you can survive on your own; you’ve done it already. So if you recognize the signs that your second marriage is not working, you may not feel compelled to stick around as long as you did the first time.
Many parents try to keep a marriage working long after its natural expiration date because they worry (understandably) about how a divorce would affect their young children. In many second and third marriages, the spouses don’t have children together. Without that incentive to try to make things work out, spouses may more readily head for the exits.
In a first marriage, you usually have time to build a relationship with each other before navigating parenthood together. In a second marriage, not only might you not have that “honeymoon” period to focus on strengthening your bond as a pair, but you may have to jump right into navigating relationships with stepchildren and refereeing conflicts between step-siblings. The added stress can be too much for some second marriages, especially if one spouse feels that the other is favoring their own children or there’s a clash of parenting styles.
Often, in a first marriage, new spouses can’t wait to share everything with each other and learn everything about each other; their arms and hearts are wide open. A painful ending to that happy beginning can make people more guarded, making it more difficult to truly bond. In addition, if a previous spouse was abusive or unfaithful, a new spouse may have to deal with the anxiety or suspicion that situation created. Fear that a new spouse will hurt you like a previous spouse did can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. To avoid letting old wounds derail a new relationship, we always recommend therapy for people going through divorce.
Financial stress can happen in any marriage, but it may be especially bad in second and third marriages. In a first marriage, the spouses typically get to decide what their income is used for. In a second marriage, some of that income may be spoken for by others, and a new spouse might be resentful that so much of the other spouse’s paycheck is being diverted for alimony and child support. And even when those payments have ceased and the “golden years” should lie ahead, retirement benefits may have to be shared with a prior spouse. Children of a first marriage may also be hostile to a second spouse, fearing that he or she will claim what the children consider to be their rightful inheritance.
The financial issues that can arise in a second marriage are an important reason that people marrying again after divorce should consider a prenuptial agreement.
There are a variety of reasons people rush into a second (or third) marriage. They may be lonely, or may miss the social benefits that come with having a spouse. After the bitterness, bickering and stress at the end of a previous marriage, the headiness of new love may make it feel like a new marriage is “meant to be.”
Unfortunately, the risks of rushing into a new marriage are real. One is that, as mentioned above, you haven’t had time to heal from the hurts of your previous marriage. That makes it difficult to have a new healthy marriage. Counseling can not only help you heal, but help you understand what went wrong in a previous marriage or relationship so you can avoid the same mistakes moving forward.
Another risk of speeding to the altar is that you may not have gotten to know your new spouse well enough. How do they deal with adversity such as job loss, illness, or grief? If you’ve only seen your partner in good times, the inevitable bad times that come in every marriage could reveal a side of them you don’t like, leading you back to divorce court. To quote Elvis, there’s a good reason that “wise men say only fools rush in.”
Second and third marriages may be more likely to end in divorce, but they don’t have to. Many of the factors that contribute to a second or third divorce can be resolved or improved by taking your time, getting to know your partner, and learning from the past through counseling.
If you do find yourself going through a second divorce, you may find yourself experiencing “second divorce shame.” You may fear that others, even those who were supportive during your first divorce, will see you as a failure if you get divorced again. You may feel shaken and unable to trust your own judgment, or guilt at putting your children through another divorce. All of these feelings are natural, but they are not an accurate reflection of who you are, your worth, or your future relationships.
As hard as it can be, sometimes divorce is the right choice. Making that decision shows your strength. You deserve support and caring to move forward, so don’t punish yourself for a perceived “failure” by depriving yourself of the things that will help you, like counseling, personal coaching or time with friends. You deserve a bright future, and you are not alone in seeking one.
To learn more about navigating a second divorce, please fill out our online form, click on the “Schedule Appointment” button at the top of the page or contact Mundahl Law at 763-575-7930 to schedule a consultation.