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I believe in second marriage!

December 31, 2009

“Why would anyone who has gone through divorce ever want to risk getting married again?”

Believe me, I’ve asked myself this question more than a few times.  Especially since, with my miserable divorce now far behind me, I have been living such a fulfilled single life ever since. 

Here’s what I wrote in the chapter called “Where Is It Written?” in my book Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey (Health Communications, Inc.) published earlier this year:

 … But in the months and the years after my divorce, I had slowly arrived at a startling realization. I discovered how intensely pleasurable, rewarding, and invigorating it could be to live a life without a partner to worry about pleasing. Which led me to wonder:

Why this universal assumption that I’m supposed to want to find the next man? Where is it written?

Which leads me to reflect on why I got married in the first place.  I went into my marriage with the best of intentions.  We had dated and then lived together for two years, so marriage just felt like the next logical step.  If I wasn’t feeling exactly enraptured, I just considered that proof that my decision to get married was made with a clear head, free of influence by lust or emotion.

So what went wrong? Other than the fact that I was only twenty-two years old, and far too young to make such a monumental decision, there was one not-so-small problem that would take me years to understand:

We weren’t compatible. It was as simple as that.

What he considered humor I took as hurtful sarcasm.  What I regarded as a helpful impulse to give constructive feedback, he saw as complaining. It goes on from there, although there’s no need to go into the particulars.  Let’s just say that small annoyances grew to be big issues, and minor differences in perspective turned out to be a major divergence in life philosophies.

Worse, I now realize, was that neither of us were able to just relax into who were truly were – because the other partner continually found so much that was just so objectionable. And as the years went on, and differences of opinion over how to raise children came into the mix, only more so.

It’s hard not to take all that criticism very personally. The result was that by the last days of my 19-year marriage, my own sense of self-esteem, and my concept of my own lovability, was about two inches off the floor.

Fast forward one long drawn-out divorce and several years of life reconstruction later: and today I find myself living in a miracle.  Bob and I hit it off on our very first blind date over three years ago, and being with him since then has been a revelation.

Not because he’s perfect. Not because I’m a fundamentally different human being than I was all those years ago (although hopefully much improved).  It’s not even that we’ve learned from our “mistakes” – i.e. our previous marriages – how to get along with a partner. 

It’s just that we’re so … compatible.

That I can spend a whole weekend with Bob and never find myself being criticized once – not once, not even a “friendly” ironic comment or jibe – never ceases to amaze me.   To Bob, never having heard an expression from me of anger or rage – other than the occasional recrimination directed at myself – still blows his mind.  Being together is somehow profoundly … safe. And neither of us, with unhappy marriages behind us, takes that for granted. 

I’ll say one thing for a terrible first marriage. Like a brush with cancer, it makes one profoundly grateful for what does not go wrong – and what feels so remarkably right – the second time around.

So today I have come to believe in second marriages. And much as I enjoy my independence – as great as it feels to know how much I can handle on my own – it sure does feel good to know that in this rough-and-tumble world, I’ve got a best friend in my corner.

To anyone who will begin 2010 partner-less, as I did for so many, many of these past fifteen years, I say this:

Never, never give up on the possibility of love in your future.  But until that day arrives – for surely, it will arrive – enjoy the single ride.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Howard Shaw permalink
    January 1, 2010 3:56 pm

    How heartwarming, beautiful, and encouraging. As a recipient of a wonderful second marriage, I could not agree more.

  2. Helen Schiavetta permalink
    January 1, 2010 10:42 pm

    What a lovely description of her life with Bob.

  3. January 2, 2010 10:06 pm

    Great read Jessica – I keep saying “never say never” and your post gives me hope that perhaps I will feel like getting married again is right for me.

  4. January 2, 2010 10:35 pm

    I could not agree with you more and I’m glad you put this out there. After my divorce, I was 30-something with two kids and thought “Who would want an older woman with an instant family?” Politely I decided to raise my kids well and be happy as a single and work on me, and honestly? I *loved* being single. It was so freeing! I tried a few dating sites like eHarmony and was sort of disappointed with the caliber of men I was meeting so I just said, “Uh–don’t worry about it” even though I very much enjoy sharing my life with someone.

    Then I met my current Dear Hubby when I least expected it–on a forum! We talked on the forum and I enjoyed his posts. Then we chatted. Then talked on the phone. Then we met. And what can I say? He is a man who was looking for a long-haired, curvy, mellow woman who loves children and that’s ME! 😀 And like you, this marriage is SO much more compatible. We are both easy-going, intuitive, introverts…it’s like living with your best friend who loves you the way you are and understands because they are very much like you!

    Hey never think “never.” If love can find me, it can find anyone!

    • January 3, 2010 2:33 am

      Cindy – Thank you for that lovely post! I’m so glad you can validate that positive message that people so badly need to hear – that the BETTER marriage and the BEST life can take place after divorce. I love how you describe your marriage now and how you met. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. January 3, 2010 4:40 am

    I haven’t yet ventured into dating but I do know that since my divorce, I have a much firmer sense of me – my values, my beliefs and how I want to be treated and I do believe that when the time is right, that sense will guide me into better relationships.

    Happy New Year, Jessica!

    • January 4, 2010 2:18 pm

      You are absolutely right, Mandy. You will know what you want and will not settle for anything less than you deserve. Happy New Year!

  6. January 3, 2010 11:33 am

    I have had a 20+ yeaer first marriage and now a 30+ year second marriage, so the two total to more experience than most people have been alive.

    When I married for the second time I thought I knew all about being married, and all I had to do was avoid the mistakes made the first time around. Wrong! The second time is different. You are different (and he is different) and you both bring a lot of prior experience. Second is better because you appreciate the good stuff more and understand what negative stuff is important enough to be concerned about.

    So this is a footnote to the value of comparability. It matters, but being a little older and a little wiser matters too.

  7. kara permalink
    January 4, 2010 1:04 am

    what a hopeful post! I’m new to the site. How long were you single before you met Bob?

    • January 4, 2010 2:21 pm

      Welcome, Kara. I didn’t even start dating until 7 years after my separation – I was enjoying being free of the strife of my marriage. I met Bob after being single for a full 11 years. Definitely worth the wait.

  8. January 4, 2010 2:41 pm

    Having never been married, almost 30, I try to learn from peoples experiences. I’ve always wondered what makes a couple after 10+ years get up and one day decide to call it quits, especially when children are involved. I’ve seen it happen so often with my friends parents, and its scary, that’s alot of time to invest, time that we can never get back. I don’t want that to happen to me.

    Being raised in a single family home, by my Mother, I’ll never know what it takes to be a father, and would never want to be the type of father, mine was to me, nonexistent.

    I’ve found the older I get, the more difficult it is to find an ideal woman. Most have a history with another guy, some have kids, some are already divorced. Having been in Love before, I know that I don’t want the single life, as much fun as it may be hanging out with the boys, I’ve never found it exciting being a pick up artist at the club on weekends.

    What I’ve learned from reading this post and comments is that compatibility plays a major role in the longevity of a relationship. For two people in Love to be able to understand each other is priceless! For two people to be able to share, to trust, to be honest, to love, to be unique, takes away much of the fear of making such a major decesion. Wish me best of luck not to fall into the pool of the 50+% of Americans that have gotten a divorce, and thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • NNE permalink
      January 7, 2010 7:07 pm

      JC, I had to reply.

      Reading what you had to say, it took me back in a flash to my life 13 years ago before I met the person I married. I have since realized how little I really knew, and how starkly in contrast it is to what I thought I knew. I hear so much of it in what you’re saying. Don’t take this personally. What you don’t know is not your personal failing. There’s some stuff we are conditioned by nature and societal brainwashing not to see, so let me see if I can pass it on to you in a way that connects.

      We are raised to believe in a romantic ideal. I have begun to teach my daughters to expect a future that does not include marriage and to see themselves as the person they will depend upon in the future. Even as I say it, I wonder if I’m teaching them to be fearful, or skeptical of relationships, or jaded before there’s a reason, because in our society, we are conditioned not only to expect marriage and children, but to believe that there’s very little difference between pragmatism and negativity. But I have to because I don’t want them to make the mistake that I did of sacrificing everything they could have been as individuals because they based their whole lives on the idea of being Mrs. Somebody. I don’t want them to lose their identity and sense of who they thought they were because a relationship doesn’t work out. No other human being should ever have the ability to make us feel like that. People are simply not that dependable and that is the sad, pragmatic truth. Love is wonderful, but if you want to keep from being destroyed, there has to be a part of you that is prepared to have a person walk out. I know what you’re thinking; I know how that sounds to you.

      I’m female, but I greatly identify with where you come from with regard to your upbringing. It sounds just like how I grew up. The difference is that where you lost the experience of having the parent who shows you what being a man/lover/husband/father is, I lost the parent who was there to show me that I knew what being a woman/lover/wife/mother is and that I was naturally good enough at it that I didn’t need to compromise myself to find it with someone. And so, I compromised myself for most of my life. I’m doing it right now. What Jessica describes in the blog to which we’re commenting about her first marriage? Completely get it. Completely. Even the reasons they weren’t compatible sound very familiar. But I’m still in it and I’ve been suffering in it for the better part of years. I don’t want this to be the truth, but the truth is that it has hurt more than it hasn’t.

      So why do people stay with people for over ten years and then call it quits? Because we are highly complex creatures emotionally and there are a plethora of reasons why we feel like we can’t leave. We have children we don’t feel like we can raise alone; we are deeply connected to the validation that being Mr. or Mrs. Someone gives us; we rely on the partner for financial support; we have no other family but the person to whom we’re married and our children; we see not being able to make the marriage work as a personal failure and it’s a personal failure we are unable to accept having on our personal resumes; dating sucked and hurt and we do not want to be out there doing it again; one of the sources of conflict we have is that one person doesn’t do his or her part with regard to raising the kids and we’re afraid that when we split households it’s going to get even worse; or possibly, other things I haven’t thought to mention. In other words, most relationships that lasted that long and ended were bad for a long time before they ended.

      Let me talk about something you said. “I’ve found the older I get, the more difficult it is to find an ideal woman. Most have a history with another guy, some have kids, some are already divorced.” First, I can’t tell you how encouraged we are to hear that we can’t be “ideal” because we have histories with other guys, have kids or are divorced. That’s exactly the kind of comment that runs through my mind when I fear divorcing because of what being single will be like, not that I’d be dating someone your age because I’m in my 40s. You may as well have ‘or are not virgins’ on your list because the sad reality is that relationships are the source of our greatest joy and our greatest sorrow and the only way you’re going to find a woman without a “history with another guy,” is to find one so young that she hasn’t had much time to have a history with another guy. You have a history with at least one other woman, right? There is no such thing as “ideal.” You are not “ideal” and you won’t find someone who is “ideal.” The best advice I can give to any person who is still young and out there looking is please, do away with the happily-ever-after ideation. There are no soulmates. There are compatible people who make a choice to commit and either understand or don’t understand what staying together is going to require. I think divorce is so common because we’re not raised to understand EXACTLY how hard it’s going to be to keep it together and I’ll tell you the truth — I think if we really knew a lot of us would forgo getting married in the first place (now THAT’S jaded). 😉

  9. January 16, 2010 4:31 am

    WOW!! I have just read about part of your book. I can’t tell you how much our stories are similar. I too was married for 18 years. And was very unhappy for the last 10 of those years. I also have three wonderful children out of the marriage. They are the light of my life. I had a very similar experience at the eye doctor. They all three needed glasses not long after I left, and they told me that I would have to pay for them in full after I told them there father was to pay for half of them. And the worst part about it was these people were the same people we had just built there building for 6 months earlier. We had a construction company. They all knew what had happened and I soon found out that was just the beginning. And the guilt was just horrible. But we survived, and I also believed that I would never remarry but God let this wonderful man right in my lap one day when I was least expecting it. He is a wonderful man. And our life is completely different from anything I have ever dreamed. Call it a second chance or just us getting older and wiser, but I think our pasts are what makes us unique, stronger and we now understand how important the little things in life truly are. So thank you so much for sharing this with the world. I look forward to getting to know you better.

    • January 17, 2010 3:18 am

      I must have just found a soul sister! Thank you for sharing your story – yes, amazingly similar. Let me know how you like Happily Ever After: Notes of a Joyful Journey and what else we have in common. I’m so glad your story turned out so happily, too.

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  1. “How did you meet Bob?” « Jessica Bram's Blog

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