Patricia Bubash, M.Ed., LPC, 1-27-11 § Some people say that the second divorce could not be as painful as the first one. But if they have never been through it, how would they know?
I talked to a lot of couples about this when I was researching my book, Successful Second Marriages. What I heard was a resounding, “It hurts!” They said that you need to learn from your first marriage, and then, hang in there in your second one until you get it right—not split up.
Our conversations were held in a variety of living rooms, kitchens, or family rooms. The degree of economic status of each home varied. But there was no difference in the degree of sincerity and commitment brought to the new relationship.
Without a doubt, they knew what worked and didn’t work the first time around. What they told me was that a little personal insight goes a long way. And accepting responsibility for your actions instantly improves the status of a marriage.
For instance, Derek and Colleen said, “Know what you contribute to the marriage, either positive or negatively.” Similarly, Max and Janet said, “Each of us has certain personality traits, good and bad behaviors, and expectations we have for our married life. Hopefully, you don’t think that you are perfect and your partner has all the faults.”
Similarly, Marcia suggested that the key to an improved marriage is not to let frustrations and anger build up: “In my first marriage, we did not talk about what was bothering us. We’d let it fester. My second husband, David, and I get whatever is bothering us out on the table for discussion. It could be as simple as a difference over a household expenditure or as serious as allowing his aging father to live with us. And whatever happens when you talk—don’t go to bed angry.”
David and Marcia were not alone in their advice to communicate emotions, annoyances, frustrations, discontent—whatever the problem—to your partner. So many people said that in their first marriage they had simply ignored their spouse’s signs of unhappiness. They foolishly thought the problem would resolve itself. Or they kept quiet about what was bothering them. So no one was working to resolve the issues.
The point here is that it is essential in any marriage that a couple learns how to express themselves to each other. The traditional rule that silence is golden does not apply to a happy marriage.
Paula knew this. She was determined that her second marriage would be one where she and her husband talked and shared whatever was on their minds—good or bad. She and her first husband had quit talking to each other long before the marriage was legally ended. She was convinced that her marriage with Steve would not be a repeat of the past. Before becoming Mr. and Mrs., she signed them up for membership with ACME.
That organization fosters marriage enrichment via a variety of activities. One activity is where couples gather in small groups and exhibit the sharing of positive communication techniques. Individual couples dialogue together, allowing their group members to observe, suggest, and encourage better communication.
A Licensed Professional Counselor, who is certified as a marriage and family therapist, gave me the bottom line on why second marriages fail. So many clients viewed the failure of their first marriage as not being their fault. It truly astounded her how these clients choose not to look back, gauge what went wrong, what role they played, what they really wanted in a marriage, and how much they were willing to give to married life?
As these second timers entered into another marriage they were no more insightful about the factors contributing to their divorce than when they married that first time! Their take on their divorce was simply this same old tired story that keeps the marriage-divorce cycle going: “I married the wrong person last time. This time my marriage will last forever because now I am marrying the right person.”
If you said that last time and this time, too, you can move toward a successful marriage by thinking of your partner being your best friend. Also, remember that you need quality time together to make a marriage work. You’ll also find yourselves enjoying lots of shared activities if you have a spiritual connectedness.
Having a common goal or activity is also vital to a second marriage. Whether it is planning a trip, starting a business, joining a couples’ bowling team, volunteering together, attending church, shared activities bring closeness, compatibility, and connectedness to a relationship.
The dynamics of planning for something and then accomplishing it together is different from the day-to-day activities of work, maintaining a home, parenting children, and paying the bills. Taking time out from the necessary things breathes freshness into marriage.
So plan together. For some it is an annual trip. For others it’s a date night, forming a card club, or taking dance lessons together. The point is to do something different and break out of the usual routine. It is also rewarding when you successfully plan for retirement together. Discussing travel plans, new hobbies, and where to live can be exciting.
Remember, accomplishing a goal as a couple is equivalent to being a team. As in a team, partners are working together, sharing ideas, decisions, thoughts, and the sense of together we can.
My book opens with the following old English proverb:
Marriage halves our grief
Doubles our joys, and
Quadruples our expenses
I believe the words of this adage speak to the positive side of having a soul mate, a partner, a husband, and a wife. Within a great marriage, we have a soul mate who supports us through grievous times, making the anguish seem less overwhelming. As a best friend, our partner delights in our joy, is glad for the pleasure we are feeling, and is pleased for our accomplishments.
If we are honest about our less than perfect self, support our partner when times are difficult, act like a best friend, set some goals as a couple, we will not only improve our marriage, but feel successful about the relationship we share with our partner.
Patricia Bubash received her M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Working with students and families has been her true calling for over thirty years. For more than twenty years she has presented workshops at the community college on a variety of topics relating to parenting issues, self-esteem, children, and divorce. Patricia is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Missouri and a Stephens Minister.
Patricia Bubash was interviewed about her book, Successful Second Marriages, on TV 4 – St. Louis. Further information can be found on her website: www.successfulsecondmarriages.com, by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through her Facebook page. Also, you can tweet her on Twitter.