The 3 Keys to Having a Happy (and Successful) Second Marriage, According to Experts

Maria del Russo
Photo credit: Hinterhaus Productions

From Woman's Day

Relationship advice, both solicited and unsolicited, is as common as marriage itself. This is especially true for people who’ve been married and, either due to divorce or the loss of a spouse, are preparing to walk down the aisle for a second time. But a successful second marriage — like any long-term relationship — requires more than overused platitudes or cookie-cutter recommendations. For starters, it requires a healthy dose of realism — something people who’ve been married before tend to have in spades.

“So many of my clients who are about to enter their second marriage come in with their eyes wide open, and they want their second marriage to be better,” Dr. Mark Mayfield, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in pre-marital counseling, tells Woman’s Day. “They’re honest and teachable, which is great.”

Although being married before doesn’t automatically ensure your next marriage will be a cakewalk, experiencing the dissolution of a marriage can help you better spot red flags and potential warning signs in your next. It’s also important to remember that just because you want a better marriage, doesn’t mean your second marriage will be easy. In fact, it is common for folks to unintentionally bring past relationship baggage into their current relationship — something that could wind up affecting any subsequent marriage in the long-run.

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That doesn’t have to be the case, though, especially if you try practicing any (or all!) of the following:

Go to therapy before there’s a problem.

"Too many people think that therapy is only a solution to a problem,” Mayfield says. “But it’s always a good idea to see someone before there’s an actual problem.” When you’re in love, it’s easy to overlook or flat-out ignore what appears to be a minor issue. But those "minor" issues could turn into major problems down the line, especially if they’re not properly addressed. Having a third party involved can shed light on the potential pitfalls, and arm you with the tools you need to fix them. In fact, according to Mayfield, preemption is a better tactic than simply reacting to an issue, especially when it comes to one’s mental health. So not only is couple's counseling beneficial, but individual therapy can also assist you in your relationship, especially if it is being impacted by any resentment or fears stemming from your first marriage.

Avoid comparing your new partner to your old one.

Comparing your current partner to your previous one (or ones) is common, and in many ways unavoidable. “It comes up because of the trigger of being in a similar situation," Mayfield says. So if you enter into an argument over a bill, for example, it could remind you of your ex-husband or wife and how they used to react in similar situations.

Mayfield says that while these memory-triggering moments are typical, it’s important to remember that your new partner is different.“That’s where therapy is important,” he says. “It helps you point out those triggers and avoid acting on them.”

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Don’t be afraid to argue.

Arguments are far from ideal, and rarely anyone’s idea of a good time. But avoiding conflict isn’t necessarily a good thing. One 2013 study, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, found that suppressing emotions can have adverse health effects, and can even cause premature death. “I actually have more worry about people who don’t fight than people that do fight,” Mayfield says. “Conflict can draw people closer. You’re more committed to that person as you work through a conflict.” By choosing to work on an issue instead of avoiding it entirely, you’re strengthening the bond you and your partner share.

Just because a person’s first marriage ended in some kind of loss, doesn’t mean any subsequent long-term relationship is doomed to fail. Every relationship is different, so it’s best to treat the unique situations that can and will arise with patience, grace, and a fresh perspective: the foundation of any successful second marriage.

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