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Why Do Second Marriages Fail?

Why Do Second Marriages Fail?

What To Watch For Today


Many people who come to see me for counselling are struggling in their marriages.  Some are in their first marriages and others are in a second or third marriage.  Apparently, people still have a strong desire to connect with another person and to become marital partners.

As a therapist, I would believe that people learn and grow from their mistakes, but this may not be the case.  

Statistics show that in the U.S., 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.

Second marriages have difficulty for a number of reasons. First, once a person discovers that he or she can manage a divorce, they are less scared of going through the process again. If things get tough, they may call in the divorce attorneys and use the same exit strategy they used to solve the problems in their last relationship.

Some people simply choose another wrong person or they bring the same emotional issues from one relationship to another. I have seen this many times.  For instance, a person moves from one abusive relationship to another.  Sometimes, therapy can help a person to avoid this mistake.

Others enter a new relationship “on the rebound” and they have not given themselves enough time to heal and get used to be alone and to grow from being independent.  In fact, some people marry again to avoid feeling lonely.

Several months ago, I was asked to review a very fine book on divorce called Break Up, by the Israeli author, Leo Averbach. This book is about Leo’s divorce experience and the psychotherapy which helped him to get through the emotional pain which he experienced when his marriage ended.  I contacted Leo to get his thoughts on the high divorce rate where second and third marriages are concerned. Here are a few of this ideas on this topic.

“I think that the major factor affecting the break up of second and third marriages is that there is less glue holding the marriage together. Marriage, as an institution, is primarily intended as a framework for raising children, for building a family. The great majority of children born to married couples are born during their first marriage, when the parents are up to about thirty five years old.

This means that most couples in a second marriage do not have common children to bind them together in the positive sense and, in a negative sense, to force them to stay together even if their relationship deteriorates. In other words, children act as a stabilizing factor in marriages. And when they are absent the marriage is prone to be rocked by minor storms.

In addition, because the couple does not have children in common, the element of family is not as central in second and third marriages. Consequently, the desire to 'preserve the family' is not a strong stabilizing factor. For the couple there is less at stake in allowing the marriage to collapse. This reduced importance of the family in second and third marriages may also explain why the couples concerned are said to be less 'committed' than those in first marriages.

Furthermore, in second and third marriages the children of previous marriages can complicate the situation. Even with the best of intentions, it is not easy to get on with other people's children and friction frequently ensues. So the children of previous marriages can be a destabilizing factor in a second or third marriage.

Generally speaking, relationships become increasingly tangled and messy with subsequent marriages, as more and more individuals join the ever-expanding family. On a day-to-day level, maintaining those relationships often causes problems and generates animosities all round.”

Now, Leo and I are not saying that second and third marriages can not work.  Rather, we are pointing out some of the issues which people need to be aware of entering into this relationships.

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