Most people known that in the United States, Divorces occur in about 50% percent of first-time marriages. But did you know that statisics show that for subsequent wedding vows, 67% of second marriages, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce? Why do second or third marriages fail so often?
You’d think one would get ‘better’ at the whole marriage thing with more practice. And whatever happened to third time’s a charm?
With each waltz down the aisle, surely the bride and groom both think- “this time I got it right, this is the real thing, this is unshakable, this the marriage that will beat all odds..”
But even if you picked right, sadly the deck is stacked against you from the get-go. Turns out, there are many reasons why second and third marriages fail. If you are contemplating remarriage, be aware of these stumbling blocks.
Why Second and Third Marriages End in Divorce
1. Been There, Done That, and Survived
If someone has been through a divorce once, and knows they can make it through this tragic, life-altering ordeal, then maybe they're less terrified of going through it again when the you-know-what hits the fan. The thought process might be “I’ve done it once, lived to the tell the tale, and can survive it….again.” They may also be more inclined to run at the first sign of trouble.
So, it’s not that one gets better at marriage with every marriage, it’s that one gets better at divorce with every marriage.
2. Divorce Baggage
Having been through a wrenching emotional experience, one might be wary of fully opening their heart to a new love.
Someone may think they are over their divorce, but deep down, at the subconscious level, their wounds are still raw.
A fear of intimacy- getting too close- leaves them scared of giving their all. Vulnerability reminds them of the pain from the divorce.
Always expecting the worst, being a ‘Debbie Downer’, with doomsday around every corner is not healthy for the new relationship. A "glass-half-empty" attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Carrying the same emotional baggage, and pain, from one relationship to another is without a doubt, poisonous. Sometimes divorcees get TOO set in their ways of independence, especially if they have been divorced for a long while. If someone's not willing to fully merge their life with yours, the marriage will be difficult to sustain. Make sure everyone going into the new marriage is emotionally healed, healthy, and really ready for a fresh start.
3. Marrying for The Wrong Reasons
Feeling lonely, or feeling like one just can’t hack it alone, can lead to hasty decisions. Reentering into coupledom, without clearly thinking things through in a mature manner, sets a marriage up for failure. Rebounding is quite common, as the attention from another suitor can be very intoxicating. But running from one relationship to another, without giving it proper time and assessment is dangerous.
Once the infatuation wanes, the reality of the relationship may not be as rosy without those rose-colored glasses.
4. Not Enough Time Spent Getting to Know Someone
It’s important to get to know someone in ALL aspects of life before marrying them.
No one is ALWAYS the best version of themselves, and it’s important to see someone when they aren’t at their best – see how they handle stress, criticism, bad luck, tough times, rejection, and failure. How are they are resolving problems dealt to them not just by themselves, but dealt with as a couple? Without taking the time to see the whole person – the good, the bad, and the ugly – one won’t get the chance to properly evaluate their new mate before making a major life decision.. Like marriage. This applies equally to first marriages and every marriage after.
5. Kids as the Common Glue
Perhaps the cement holding a 2nd/3rd/4th marriage together isn’t as strong. Marriage, historically and as an institution, was mainly intended as a structure for raising offspring. Since most subsequent marriages don't produce children, there is no common glue binding them together.
Couples won’t be as inclined to ‘work it out, for the children’s sake’ when things get rough. Many often sacrifice their own happiness and stay in a (first) marriage way past its expiration date. Everyone knows at least one couple who waited until the kids left off to college to divorce.
As hard as kids are to raise, and as tough as they can be on their parents, they act as a stabilizing influence in marriage.
Furthermore, without children in common, the element of family is not as fundamental. So, the desire to keep the family together is not as strong.
Simply put, there is less at stake in allowing a marriage to dissolve when little children hearts aren’t a factor.
6. Second Marriages come with Stepchildren.
While children act as binding agents in first marriages (even rocky ones), stepchildren are often the dissolving agents in subsequent ones
Children from a prior marriage make subsequent marriages even more complicated. The more children the more complications.
Learning to live with other people’s children isn’t easy,
Plus, children often harbor resentment for their parent’s new spouse and will go out of their way to make things difficult. This is the "evil step-mother or father" syndrome. Children heal from divorce at different rates, some faster and easier than others. Many fantasize about their parents getting back to together for years. They mourn the loss of their family and often aren’t welcoming to new step-parents or step-siblings. They view them as obstacles to mommy and daddy getting back together.
Furthermore, stepparents usually don't have the power to be a disciplinarian, and find themselves in the difficult position of having to bite their tongues. They often feel walked upon by their partner’s children, disrespected in their own home, with not much they can do about it.
It takes patience, time, and intense communication to make the new, blended family run smoothly.
7. The Ex-Factor
Then there are exes to cooperate with. So basically, as more and more characters join the blended family, the crazier the circus gets. Juggling these relationships can cause problems and generate animosities, further complicating the new family dynamic.
Some exes are less than thrilled to see their ex enter a new marriage—and when they hear of it, it brings to the surface unresolved emotions.
Some angry exes continue to drag their ex-spouse back to court for various (often petty) reasons long after the divorce is final, just because they can. And these especially crop up when their spouse marries again.
Some exes may thrive on attempting to sabotage your new relationship every chance they get. These off-the-wall, ill-intended actions do cause serious emotional and financial strife in the new marriage. Even worse, they may use children as a ploy in combat against you and your new partner …yes – it’s very sad, and yes – very stressful.
8. Money Matters
Money is often an issue in first marriages but becomes even more pronounced in second/third marriages due to child support and other financial obligations. Money and resentment go hand in hand in second/subsequent marriages, and can especially feel the strain when money is tight. And issues only compound when bringing in debts you didn't help create.
In general, money matters tend to bring out a lot of ‘feeling’ in people. Maybe one spouse harbors resentment that much of their new spouse’s money is going toward child rearing expenses for children that aren’t theirs.
Many couples contemplating a second marriage don't have honest and frank discussions about these issues because they seem petty or unfair at the time, but small unresolved emotions and grow into large resentments over time which will drive a wedge between the couple.
9. Complicated Family Matters & In-Law Situations
In-laws, and extended family in general, are difficult enough. In-Law relations, family past and present, become especially challenging in subsequent marriages, particularly when both spouses bring children into the new marriage. The cast of characters would include husband’s parents, wife’s parents, husband’s ex’s parents, and wife’s ex’s parents… then throw in a few shady cousins, weird uncles, and obnoxious aunts. Whose house do you go to for Christmas?
Then, two of these in-law couples could be divorced as well, adding yet another pair of in-laws. Like cells they just keep breaking off, replicating, and expanding. If one of the spouses in a third marriage has children from their previous two marriages, the mathematic variation of potential extended-family complications just boggles the mind.
10. Failure to Plan Ahead
If you are contemplating re-marriage, it’s best to go in bright-eyed and but also with your eyes opened wide. Be wary of these many pitfalls and deal with any issues head on. A great way of avoiding a lot of these pitfalls is having frank discussions with you intended second or third spouse BEFORE you tie the knot. Set common goals and make them specific. Speak with your accountant and set up a financial plan for your new family. A great way to gather your thoughts together and be sure you have agreements BEFORE they become problems is to develop a PRE-NUPTIAL agreement with an experienced family law attorney.
Nobody gets married with the intention of getting a divorce, but for about half of us, divorce is the ultimate end to a marriage. The latest data show that in Texas there are 2.6 divorces per thousand people- this is down significantly from the peak of 5.5 in 1990, but still represents approximately 75,000 divorces! And this rate has been steady for several years. Everyone knows that everything is bigger in Texas. This apparently includes divorces.
Why is divorce so prevalent? Is it because rash decisions are made every day and people tend to make bad choices when they enter into something without thinking it through first? Perhaps. I've seen plenty of that in my career. But if that is true, it still brings up the old "chicken or the egg" type of question. Is divorce so prevalent because people make a rash decisions and marry incompatible partners, or is it because they make a rash decision to divorce as means to solve their general dissatisfaction with their lives?
The answer is of course, different for everyone. But it is true that many people mistake the true source of their unhappiness. They may assume a marriage in distress is the cause of their unhappiness, when in fact, it may be that a troubled marriage is just a symptom of distress that originates from other problems such as financial mismanagement, poor communication skills or past psychological trauma.
Everyone should take a careful look before they leap into divorce because once started, a divorce may be hard to reign back in. There is no doubt that staying married can be painful, but divorce is pretty painful too. So think carefully, and get all the information you can before you decide to divorce so that you know you are going down the path.
Attorney Sean Y. Palmer has over 19 years of legal experience as a Texas Attorney and over 25 years as a Qualified Mediator in civil, family and CPS cases. Palmer practices exclusively in the area Family Law and handles Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Adoptions, and other Family Law Litigation cases. He represents clients throughout the greater Houston Galveston area, including: Clear Lake, NASA, Webster, Friendswood, Seabrook, League City, Galveston, Texas City, Dickinson, La Porte, La Marque, Clear Lake Shores, Bacliff, Kemah, Pasadena, Baytown, Deer Park, Harris County, and Galveston County, Texas.