HERMAN: * “My first wife died of cancer after we had been married for 34 years. When I remarried, my wife Linda felt that I was always comparing her to my first wife. To make matters worse, old friends often talked about my late wife’s fine qualities, and this upset Linda.”
LINDA: “After Herman and I married, I felt that I was living in the shadow of his first wife. She was so well-loved, soft-spoken, and refined. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be as close to him as she was.”
Herman and Linda are happy that they found each other. Linda, who divorced her first husband, even calls Herman her “knight in shining armor.” Yet, as they acknowledge, a second marriage may bring challenges that never existed in a first marriage. *
If you have remarried, how do you feel about your second marriage? A wife named Tamara, who remarried three years after her divorce, says: “When you marry for the first time, there is that special feeling that your marriage will last forever. But with a second marriage, you may not have that feeling, as you are always aware that your first marriage ended.”
Nevertheless, many couples have found deep and lasting happiness after remarrying. They made their marriage a success
CHALLENGE 1: YOU STRUGGLE TO KEEP AN EARLIER MARRIAGE FROM OVERSHADOWING YOUR CURRENT MARRIAGE.
“I can’t simply erase memories of my first marriage, especially when we travel to the same places where my ex-husband and I went on vacation,” says Ellen, who lives in South Africa. “Sometimes I end up comparing my current husband to my former husband.” On the other hand, if your mate was previously married, you may resent it if your mate often talks about that marriage.
SUGGESTION: Accept the fact that it is unrealistic to expect that you or your mate will simply forget a first marriage, especially if it lasted several years. In fact, some people admit that they have accidentally called their mate by the name of their previous spouse! How can you deal with such a situation or similar ones? “Try to understand each other,” advises the Bible.
Do not jealously forbid all mention of a first marriage. If your mate feels the need to talk about life with his or her first spouse, listen sympathetically and compassionately. Also, do not hastily conclude that you are being compared. “My wife Kaitlyn never viewed the topic of my late wife as taboo,” says Ian, who remarried ten years ago. “Rather, she saw it as a way to learn what made me who I am today.” You may even find that such conversations will help you to build a closer friendship with your new mate.
Focus on your present mate’s unique and positive qualities. True, your mate may lack certain qualities or abilities that your former spouse had. But your current mate likely excels in other areas. Therefore, strengthen the foundation of your present marriage, “not in comparison with the other person,” but by reflecting on and appreciating what you love about your mate. (Galatians 6:4) A man named Edmond, who has been married twice, puts it this way, “Just as no two friendships are the same, so no two marriages are the same.”
How can you balance fond memories of your first marriage with the life you have started with your new mate? “I once explained to my wife that my first marriage was like a beautiful book written by my first wife and me,” says Jared. “From time to time, I may open and read that book and reflect on our good experiences. But I don’t live in that book. Rather, my wife and I are writing our own book together, and this is where I now live happily.”
TRY THIS: Ask your mate whether he or she ever feels awkward when the topic of a first marriage arises. Identify times when it would be best not to talk about a first marriage.
CHALLENGE 2: YOU STRUGGLE TO INTERACT WITH OLD FRIENDS WHO ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH YOUR NEW SPOUSE.
“For some time after we married, my wife felt that a few of my friends were analyzing her and testing her out,” says Javier, who remarried six years after his divorce. A husband named Leo faced a different situation. He relates, “Some people told my wife how much they loved and missed her former husband
SUGGESTION: Try to put yourself in your friends’ shoes. “I think old friends sometimes find it very painful and awkward to associate with someone who is just one half of the couple they have known,” says Ian, quoted earlier. So “be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all” people. (Titus 3:2) Allow time for your friends and family to adjust. As your marriage has changed, so your friendships may change too. Javier, quoted previously, says that as time passed, he and his wife rekindled old friendships. “But we also try to make new friends as a couple,” he adds, “and that helps us too.”
Consider your mate’s feelings when you spend time with old friends. For example, if your first marriage comes up in conversation, use tact and good judgment so that your current mate does not feel excluded. “If a person speaks words without thinking,” says a Bible proverb, “then those words can hurt like a sword. But a wise person is careful with the things he says. His words can heal those hurts.”
TRY THIS: Anticipate social events that could be awkward for you or your mate. In advance, discuss the best way to handle your friends’ questions and comments about a first marriage.
CHALLENGE 3: YOU STRUGGLE TO TRUST YOUR NEW MATE BECAUSE YOUR FIRST SPOUSE WAS DISLOYAL.
“I used to be terrified of being betrayed again,” says Andrew, whose first wife left him. Later, he married his present wife, Riley. “I often wondered if I could ever be as good as Riley’s first husband. I even worried that she would decide I wasn’t good enough and then leave me for someone else.”
SUGGESTION: Freely share your concerns with your mate. “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk,” the Bible says. (Proverbs 15:22) Confidential talk eventually helped Andrew and Riley to trust each other. “I told Riley that I would never resort to divorce as an easy way out of problems,” Andrew says, “and Riley assured me of the same thing. Gradually, I’ve come to trust her implicitly.”
If your present mate was betrayed in an earlier marriage, take deliberate steps to earn your mate’s trust. For example, Michel and Sabine, whose first marriages ended in divorce, agreed to tell each other if they had any contact with their former spouses. “This commitment made us feel safe and secure,” says Sabine.
TRY THIS: Set limits on private communication with the opposite sex, whether in person, on the phone, or online.
Many second marriages have succeeded, and yours can too. After all, compared to the first time you married, you likely know yourself better. “I have found immeasurable comfort in my marriage to Riley,” says Andrew, quoted earlier. “After 13 years of marriage, we have a very close relationship
^ par. 3 Names have been changed.
^ par. 5 Of course, death of a mate and divorce end marriages in very different ways. This article is designed to help a person in either situation to be successful in a second marriage.
^ par. 7 For information regarding the challenges of raising stepchildren, see the series of articles “Secrets of Successful Stepfamilies” in the April 2012 issue of Awake! published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
ASK YOURSELF . . .
What are some unique qualities of my mate that I especially value?
If the topic of my first marriage comes up, how can I handle the subject in a way that reassures and dignifies my current mate?
Is there more to faithfulness in marriage than avoiding adultery?