While many say falling in love is sweeter the second time around, and I sure hope they are right, the stats are quite staggering– over 70% of second marriages fail. Why is that? Well, there are 4 main reasons from what I have observed over the years as a matrimonial lawyer:
1. Not Enough Time to Reflect– After the divorce, most people run. I don’t mean that literally, I mean that figuratively. We run away from the pain by avoiding things like coming home to an empty house, spending quiet time with our thoughts, allowing ourselves time to grieve a major loss. Instead, we pack our calendars with things to do and go out of our way to stay busy and entertained with others, basically to avoid the feelings of being alone and lonely. How do I know this? Because I was one of the best runners ever– I poured all my energy into work and my son, constantly made plans with others and kept myself highly entertained for years while avoiding the pain and loneliness of an empty house, until ever so slowly and gradually I started to calm down and seek a calmer pace, and with the gift of time, I started facing the big questions I’d been avoiding like: why did my marriage fail? What role did I play in the demise of our relationship? What should I do differently the next time around? Before we move on to the next marriage, we should all go through this exercise, as painful as it may be, so we can hopefully avoid making the same mistakes again.
2. Rushing Into Things– The desire to re-establish a partnership is so strong for those of us that enjoyed being married, that many of us will try to rush into a committed relationship, sometimes before the ink is even dry on the divorce decree. But why rush things? Take your time getting to know someone, their family and friends. Have fun and travel together. Enjoy the honeymoon phase for as long as you can before you get into heavy discussions about merging households and managing budgets. See how you do as a couple for one full rotation (365 days) around the sun, through good and bad times, and take big changes in baby steps. Too many major changes at once can cause a lot of instability, which may well jeopardize the stability you crave of living happily ever after under one roof. Pace yourself and make sure that you guys are indeed a good couple. If you are, then time will always be on your side.
3. Money– The financial devastation caused by divorce cannot be overstated. Regardless of whether you only had $100 or $100Mn to divide, the fact is after a divorce you will find you have a hell of a lot less that what you once thought you had at your disposal. In addition to the hit on your financial cushion, there are often lingering obligations of child support or alimony that will weigh on people for many years after their divorce becomes final, and as a result these ongoing payments will drain the resources available in your second marriage. Whenever others have to suffer because of our poor choices, there is always going to be some resentment, so this is normal– but if you cannot minimize the negative impact or worse, you need to ask your new partner to pick up the slack for you because of your past mistakes, I promise you this will not go over well.
4. Kids– Hands down this is the biggest challenge to any marriage. The fact is when kids are involved, it is impossible to always make your partner your #1 priority. Children have needs and require attention that will take time away from your spouse. In an intact house we are more forgiving of this fact because we are both responsible for bringing the children into the mix, but with blended families, the dynamics are far more complicated and can be very tricky. Step-children will not always take to their new step-parents or siblings, and the age of the children plays a huge factor in terms of not just their demands, but also their openness to adding new members to their families. Studies show that after age 13, a child is far less likely to bond with a step parent– not that it is a bad thing to strive for, but the fact is that they already have an established notion of how they define family and their peers matter more, so they simply won’t be too interested in re-creating the Brady Bunch, and trying to force this is a recipe for disaster.
As you can see, navigating all these complicated issues involving emotions, finances and children can be very tricky, and so it is easy to understand why so many second marriages fall apart. But perhaps if we were more open and honest upfront about the challenges second marriages will face, then we can prevent major disasters from occurring later down the line, and this is precisely why I spend so much time talking not just about the law, but also the emotions, finances and future family structures with my prenuptial clients. While I remain a cautiously optimistic romantic at heart, I cannot ignore the statistical realities– so let’s identify the problematic issues, address them, and then change the odds so that they may always be in your favor.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.