Statistics show that in the United States, 50% percent of first-time marriages, 67% of second marriages, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce. Yikes, that sure sounds bleak.
But, why is this? 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. And when/if you find yourself up against one, know that with patience, understanding, communication, hard work, and love, you can overcome!
Why Second and Third Marriages End in Divorce
1. Been There, Done That, and Survived
If someone has been through a divorce once before, and knows they can make it through this tragic, life-altering ordeal, then maybe they are less terrified of going through it again when the sh$t 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-full attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Carrying the same emotional baggage, and pain, from one relationship to another is poisonous.
Sometimes divorcees get TOO set in their ways of independence, especially if they have been divorced for a long while.
If someone is 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, and 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 on their own, 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, like an addictive drug. 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 – see how they handle stress, criticism, bad luck, tough times, rejection, and failure. How are problems dealt with as a couple?
No wonder most couples from the hit show The Bachelor/The Bachelorette break up. It’s pretty easy to love someone when it’s all roses, champagne, and rainbows.
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, i.e. marriage. This applies equally to first marriages and every marriage after.
Taking the slow (dating) boat is the only way to make a truly informed decision.
In a new relationship? Check out 24 (Essential) Rules for Dating After Divorce .
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 do not 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, I can barely live with my own on days when they are just being little hellions. I can’t imagine living with someone else’s snarky, PMS-y teen girl, let alone my own.
Plus, children often harbor resentment for their parent’s new spouse and will go out of their way to make things difficult.
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 do not 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 at some semblance of smoothly.
Related: Stepping into Step-Parenting (Struggles, Boundaries, Advice)
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.
And while some exes are thrilled to see their ex enter a new marriage—especially if it ends their alimony payments – some are sad, seething, and still feel betrayed.
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.
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.
If my ex sounds at all like yours, you should definitely give this a read: How to be in the Same Room with an Ex You Loathe
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 spousal maintenance payments.
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.
As individuals, we all have our own philosophies on money: saving vs. spending.
Money matters tend to bring out a lot of ‘feeling’ in people.
Maybe one spouse feels like they are fronting the bill for most of their lifestyle because much of their new spouse’s money is going toward child rearing expenses for children that aren’t theirs, and aren’t particularly pleasant, and surely aren’t appreciative.
A new wife might feel bitter that her new husband is paying what she considers an exorbitant amount in spousal support to his ex-wife. A newly wed bride may feel resentful that now, because of her new marriage, she must forfeit her alimony. One ex may feel like they pay too much in support, while the other ex feels that they are paid too little.
Even if money isn’t especially tight, money still has an influence. If wife of marriage present wants to take an African Glamping Safari but can’t because hubby must keep sending those hefty checks to wife of marriage past, she’ll probably get a bit pouty when she must settle for state-side camping instead.
And even if money is bountiful, there can still be issues. For example: Contemplating early retirement? No can do hubby number two- wife number one won’t allow for it, she demands those payments- sorry new wife.
People are just weird about money, and divorce seems to make people even weirder about it.
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 expands.
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.
Be aware, be communicative, and be patient. You CAN be a success story! Break the wheel! Skew the statistics!