One might think that second marriages would be easier and succeed more often than first marriages. At least that might be a first instinctual reaction. But are second marriages harder? On reflection and upon learning the statistics, it becomes clear why second (and third, fourth, and more) marriages are actually harder.
First, let’s cite the statistics. I don’t have a source, but I know it’s generally understood and accepted that first marriages end somewhere in the 40-50% range, while second marriages end about 66% of the time, and third and subsequent marriages fail around 75% of the time. These are not encouraging statistics. Thankfully, when I was divorced I didn’t know those discouraging numbers.
Dennis Prager, one of the most influential men in my life, spoke on his talk show recently about the impact of a first year of marriage. He asked if an easy, successful first year or a difficult, hard first year were indicative of the long-term success of the marriage? He didn’t take a position either way, allowing callers to offer their stories, which were both positive and negative about the impact of their first years on their marriages.
As I’m about to survive, I mean celebrate, my first year of my second marriage, it raised some questions for me, worthy of thought. Our first year has been both wonderful and rough, in many unforeseen ways, and I’ve wondered what it means for our future.
This holiday season my wife and I will not both be home for Christmas. Instead we will celebrate our first year of marriage on separate continents. As we are different races and religions, there are usually challenges we encounter at this time of year, so maybe being 7,000 miles apart will make it easier. We’ve actually resolved the big conundrum for me–the Christmas tree.
I don’t care if you call it a Hannukah bush or an ordinary tree; it is a Christmas tree, pure and simple. It represents the birth of Christ and it’s not just a secular symbol. But, it matters to my wife, so we resolved the issue by agreeing, like so many mixed religious couples, to celebrate both Christmas and Hannukah. Since my boys were raised Jewish, and my younger son just became a Bar Mitzvah, it really isn’t an issue for me anymore.
The classic second marriage dilemma is the parent of the kids choosing between his or her kids and their spouse. Recently, I faced that problem times ten with choosing between wife and kids.
First, my wife had a medical emergency that involved paramedics, 911, and a morning rush to the hospital, followed by surgery, recovery, and coming home – all in the same day. Between it all, I had to deal with my boys getting to and from school and try and do a little necessary work. While my wife was obviously going through the worst of it, I was completely worn out trying to balance everyone’s needs.
I recently learned some statistics that surprised me, but upon reflection they really made sense. What do you think the rate of divorce is between first, second, and third marriages? Think about it. I didn’t and came to the wrong conclusion.
It’s pretty much agreed by most experts that first marriages end in divorce about 40-50% of the time. What surprised me is that the divorce rate increases with second marriages to something like 60% and more, while third marriages end in divorce at least 70% of the time.
My first gut reaction was that we would have learned from prior mistakes, we’d be wiser with the experience of living through a marriage and divorce, and maybe, just maybe, we may have learned something about our contributions to the break-up. And, therefore, we’d not repeat destructive behaviors.
I believe all clichés are generally true. How else could something become a cliché in the first place? Not surprisingly, then, all the clichés about second marriages are true. Indeed, comedy careers have been built around jokes about a second set of in-laws, second husbands or wives, and blended families. For good reason: in-law jokes, and family relationship humor can be hysterical–sometimes.
In a second marriage, couples want to believe that they’ve learned something from the first one and they’re going to take all that hard-earned experience and apply it, making the second marriage work beautifully. Hmmm, is that why there’s a higher incidence of divorce in second marriages and an even higher divorce rate in third and fourth marriages? It is sad, but true.
I’m just a guy without his wife. She is out of town and, gulp, I have to admit I sort of like it. The reason she’s gone I don’t like, as her mother is having some serious surgery, and we’re all concerned. Putting that aside, I must say I’m enjoying the alone time. In short order, I will miss her as I love her dearly and appreciate all the good she brings into our house, for my boys and myself. But, for the moment, it’s sort of cool.
My parents were of that “other” generation. They met when they were 17 and 14, married in their early twenties, and were together EVERY day of their lives unless one of them was in the hospital. EVERY day, for 66 years. No typo. They also had lunch together nearly EVERY day. Theirs was a love for the ages.