What To Do If You’re Struggling With A Miserable Second Marriage

Woman looking over the landscape wondering what to do about her miserable second marriage.

Some ideas to consider before throwing in the towel.


The New York Times reported that 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce. Given a statistic like that, it makes sense that if you’re miserable in your second marriage that you might be wondering if it’s time to call a divorce attorney.

But before you pick up the phone, take a deep breath and consider exactly what it means to be struggling in your second marriage.

There are a multitude of reasons why second marriages fail and just as many for why others make it. To get to the bottom of what’s making yours so unhappy, let’s look at two categories of problems you might be having. The first are common to every marriage and the second are common to second (third, fourth…) marriages.

The most common struggles all married couples need to come to grips with include:

  1. Ideals vs reality
    Happily ever after doesn’t just happen. It takes work – lots of work – every single day of your lives together.

    Since life isn’t a cake walk, marriages and spouses have good days, meh days and bad days. If your second marriage is going to work, you both need to recommit on a daily basis to making things work.

Recommended Reading: “Happily Ever After” Isn’t A Destination. It’s A Daily Commitment.

  1. Intimacy and sex
    Most believe that couples in second marriages have great sex. And, in the beginning, it’s typically true for newlyweds. But when the honeymoon phase ends many couples in miserable second marriages cite intimacy and sex to be one of their biggest problems – just like couples in first marriages do.

    Every couple who wants to experience great sex needs to make sure they have connection and intimacy outside of the bedroom (or kitchen or shower or wherever they typically make love) too.

  2. Finances
    Another of the major struggles common to marriage is dealing with money. Money represents power. It can also represent freedom or struggle or personal value or something else. When spouses have differing beliefs about money, difficulties ensue.
  3. Roles
    Everyone who’s contemplated marriage has an idea of what being a spouse means. And yet the likelihood that two people who decide to marry will have identical ideas of what it means to be a husband or wife is quite small.

    When there’s a mismatch in expectations and/or values between mates, trouble will follow.

  4. Communication styles
    One of the most common challenges heterosexual couples face is a mismatch in communication styles. That’s because we each assume that our spouse will communicate and think just like we do. And there’s quite a big difference between in ways men and women typically communicate.

    However, it’s understandable that you would think this. After all, when you fell in love, you could complete each other’s sentences and seemed to always know what the other was thinking.

    However, when the honeymoon phase ends, most spouses are shocked to learn that the person they married no longer communicates as they used to. They may not communicate at all. Or, they may over-communicate.

    When spouses have a difference in communication styles, there’s a great possibility of profound unhappiness because at least one doesn’t feel understood.

  5. Love language
    In his book The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman did a great job of bringing people’s attention to the fact that we each experience and naturally show love differently. What is loving to one person may not mean a whole lot to another.

    Most spouses believe they are showing their mate love when they do what they consider to be loving things. However, their spouse may not agree. A mismatch in love languages can cause one or both to feel unloved.

Since this isn’t your first rodeo, there’s probably nothing in the list above that comes as a surprise. But just because it wasn’t surprising, doesn’t mean one or more of these issues aren’t at the root of your miserable second marriage.

It’s worth it to pause to really think about this list of common marital struggles and see which, if any, are present in your marriage. The answer may truly be none, but most couples beyond their first attempt at wedded bliss regularly fight about at least one of these issues.

The thing about identifying which of these issues are contributing to a miserable second marriage means that you’re now in a position to figure out a plan for making things better. However, this is just the starting point.

Finding out what basic work your second marriage needs allows you to dig deeper and consider the more complicated issues that second marriages also need to navigate if they’re to survive.

  1. Blended family It’s never easy to blend families. It’s difficult to prioritize your new spouse, the needs of your kids, and the responsibilities you have with your ex – much less the needs of your new spouse’s children. When you’re both struggling with your children’s needs and other responsibilities on top of caring for the child/ren you have together and each other, you’ve got a lot of personalities and duties that need to be managed.Without a cohesive plan and support system in place, blended families can wreak havoc for even the most committed and loving couples.

Recommended Reading: Want A Happy Blended Family? 5 Rules Stepparents MUST Follow

  1. Finances Although finances are one of the common problems of any marriage, it deserves mention here because the stresses of finances are typically greater for second marriages.Since this isn’t your first marriage, chances are you’ve had to start over financially – one of the gifts of divorce. You may both also have more financial obligations than people entering first marriages do because of spousal support/alimony and/or child support.
  2. Less sense of family Many couples in second marriages don’t have children together. This lack decreases the need for a tight family unit. Without this need, there’s less at stake if the marriage should collapse – especially if it’s a miserable second marriage.
  3. Behaviors developed in previous marriage(s) Your first marriage didn’t work. And there were reasons for it – really good reasons. The thing is that when you’ve been in a dysfunctional relationship it can color your perceptions and behaviors in a subsequent relationship.This is true for your spouse too.
  4. Memories from previous marriage(s) Remember the firsts after your divorce? Your first birthday, the first holidays, the first anniversary… Typically, they’re pretty tough because they stir up all kinds of grief.Sometimes these types of triggers last past the first and when they do, they can disrupt (maybe even destroy) a current relationship.

Recommended Reading: 5 Strategies To Help You Deal With A Divorce Grief Relapse

  1. Easier to call it quits

    You’ve been divorced before. Your current spouse has probably been divorced before too. You both know divorce sucks, but you also know you can survive it.
  2. Married the wrong person And sometimes, the reason you find yourself in a miserable second marriage is simply because you married the wrong person. This can most easily happen if you married before completing your healing from your divorce.When you divorce there’s a great need to feel wanted and loved again. This can cause people to jump into a new relationship too quickly. And when you jump too quickly to say “I do,” you might just find yourself with the wrong person in a rebound relationship.

There’s nothing easy about struggling with a miserable second marriage. The frustration and confusion can be overwhelming which can make it incredibly tempting to just call a divorce attorney.

However, when you spend some time reviewing these two lists of common challenges for second marriages, you just might find a path forward to create a better relationship instead of becoming a statistic.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach helping people just like you feel stuck in a miserable marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas for what to do about your miserable second marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

Co-Parenting Basics For Divorced Parents

Dad who knows the secrets of co-parenting for divorced parents carrying his son on his shoulders.

Co-parenting after the end of your marriage can be really hard, but your kids are worth it.

Regardless of why your marriage ended or is ending and the angst you feel about it, if you have children, your ex will always be in your life. That’s why learning all you can about co-parenting for divorced parents will help ease the parenting relationship you’ll need to maintain with your ex and help your kids not only move forward but thrive.

What Exactly Is Co-Parenting?

Most people assume that co-parenting simply means shared parenting post-divorce. However, this isn’t accurate.

Co-parenting is shared parenting where parents work together and communicate regularly to continue parenting together despite no longer being married. Co-parenting is hard. Co-parenting requires that two people who couldn’t stay married cooperate and compromise for the sake of their child or children.

Co-parenting requires that you and your ex are consistent and unified in your parenting. Although this doesn’t mean that you and your ex need to be perfectly in synch. Just closely enough aligned that your kid/kids understand that both their parents know what’s going on and are working together for their sakes.

More than anything else healthy co-parenting is focused on the kids. It is part of the continuing commitment you and your ex made when you became parents. And healthy co-parenting requires empathy, patience, honesty and open communication.

This may sound daunting, but remember co-parenting is about your kids – not you and not your ex.

Recommended Reading: 13 Reasons Why Co-Parenting Doesn’t Work For Everyone

How Do You Have A Good Co-Parenting Relationship?

Some (if not all) of the following basic tenets of co-parenting for divorced parents may sound nearly impossible, but with work and commitment by both parents they are very possible.

  1. Clear boundaries and basic agreement on the most important things You only have control over yourself. And your ex only has control over his/herself. Having any type of expectation that you can control anything else is just inappropriate.So, no matter how right you may think you are about something, the only person you can control is yourself, and the only thing you can control is the example you set.

    And if you and your kids’ other parent already agree on the most important things – healthcare, education, discipline and spiritual upbringing – you won’t have as many urges to want to control your ex’s behavior and/or decisions.

  2. Open dialogue between you and your children’s other parent
    An open dialogue doesn’t mean that you’re constantly conversing together about everything going on in your lives. What it does mean is that you’re in regular communication with each other about your children and all the things that impact their well-being.

    These conversations don’t have to be face-to-face or on the phone, use whatever means of communication work for you – email, text, and/or websites specifically designed to aid co-parenting for divorced parents.

    The keys here are to communicate openly, consistently and with integrity and to communicate with your ex without the help of your children.

  3. Consistency with rules in both homes
    This doesn’t mean that the rules need to be identical. The goal here is to provide your kids with a sense of structure and routine because it will make them feel a sense of security and predictability.
  4. A predictable schedule
    When children know what to expect and when they’ll be seeing each parent, it removes confusion and allows them to settle into a routine.
  5. A willingness to be flexible
    Life happens, plans change, opportunities appear. When things happen, allowing your children to participate in adventures that benefit them is important. And sometimes these adventures will necessitate a change in the schedule.

    However, requests for changes need to me made in advance of the event and prior to discussing with the children – unless it is a true emergency.

  6. Respect
    Mutual respect between co-parents extends beyond the communication you have with each other. It also encompasses to what you say about your kids’ other parent when your kids are around.

    You can always find something wonderful or positive to say about their other parent in front of your children – something that reinforces for them that they have inherited laudable qualities from both of their parents.

How Do You Communicate When Co-Parenting?

Learning how to communicate with your ex for successful co-parenting can feel like learning a foreign language. You need to let go of all the poor communication habits you had in your marriage and speak to each other differently.

The following tips will help you communicate with your ex without the power struggles.

  1. Keep the marriage out of parenting. You’re not married to each other anymore, so don’t drag your unresolved issues into what remains – parenting your children.This doesn’t mean that you just ignore your unresolved issues. By all means talk with a counselor or friends to reach a level of acceptance of your marital issues that you can live with. Just don’t talk to your children about them and don’t bring them up with your co-parent.
  2. Never fight in front of your children.

  3. Keep it brief and informative.
    There’s no reason to belabor a point or give too much non-related information to your co-parent. When you keep your communication brief and to the point, there’s less chance of misinterpretation.
  4. Choose your battles. No matter how carefully you work together with your ex to build a good co-parenting relationship, you will still have disagreements.Remember that good parenting, like anything else, exists on a continuum. Just because you and your ex see things differently doesn’t mean that one is “right” and one is “wrong.”

    Embrace those differences that broaden your children’s perspective and life experiences, and learn to let little things go if they aren’t detrimental and habitual. And be aware of whether you are involved in a power struggle, and do your part to bring the focus back to your children.

  5. Have a back-up
    It takes a village – it really does – so always be building one. Don’t rely solely on your ex. You each should have a support system that cares about you and your children and that you can rely on.

Co-parenting is tough – tougher than parenting in an intact family. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

By you and your ex firmly committing to making your new life-long relationship about raising terrific kids together, you’ll know that despite any difficulties you run into along the way, your children will have the benefit of two loving parents who put them first.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help individuals figure out how they can best co-parent post-divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule a private first session.

Looking for more information about co-parenting for divorced parents? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Co-Parenting.

Why Surviving A Wife’s Infidelity Is So Hard

Man sitting on steps contemplating the difficulties of surviving a wife’s infidelity.

Infidelity changes everything.

Surviving infidelity is hard. The sense of betrayal is profound when you learn that your spouse has cheated on you. And, yet, for many men – even those who have been unfaithful themselves – surviving a wife’s infidelity is especially brutal.

Although it’s changing, most men were taught to focus on achievements and to submerge, ignore, and deny their emotions – at least the ones that aren’t deemed powerful. When men with this type of world view marry, they often rely on their wives for the nurturing and emotional safety they deny themselves.

So when they’re faced with surviving a wife’s infidelity, one of their primary coping mechanisms for feeling whole is at risk of being permanently lost. This is profoundly terrifying. They simply can’t imagine life without their wife. Who would they be without the nurturing and emotional safety she’s always provided?

And the fear they feel naturally triggers their fight, flight or freeze response. (It can also be at the root of them saying and doing things they later regret.) Their instincts might initially drive them to fight for their marriage, to pursue divorce, or to deny the meaning of their wife’s affair.

As terrifying as it is for men to face surviving a wife’s infidelity, the truth is what they’re facing is very similar to what anyone who’s discovered their spouse’s infidelity. It’s only after the initial rush of the threat response has subsided that the true work of surviving infidelity can begin.

Getting over your wife’s affair doesn’t necessitate that you divorce. It also doesn’t necessitate that you repair your marriage. (According to Divorce Magazine, 60-75% of couples who have experienced infidelity stay together.)

Regardless of what you ultimately decide to do about your marriage, what you will need to do to survive your wife’s betrayal is deal with how infidelity changes you.

Some of the things you’ll need to deal with include:

  • Repairing your self-esteem and self-worth
  • Forgiving yourself for not realizing your wife was cheating earlier
  • Learning how to trust again – whether it’s your wife or another woman
  • Allowing yourself to love again
  • Giving your brain time to heal. Neuroscience has shown that the rejection from infidelity has both short- and long-term consequences to brain chemistry.
  • Giving your body time to heal. The same neuroscience has also shown that your emotional experience causes physical pain.
  • Choosing how you’ll learn and grow from the experience.

Ultimately, surviving a wife’s infidelity boils down to learning and growing from the experience. It’s a lesson that no one wants. But it’s also a lesson that can help you become a better version of yourself – not because it will or won’t make your wife (or ex-wife) happy – because you’ll be releasing old patterns and beliefs that no longer serve you. And in their place, you’ll have better ones that might even allow you to develop a different relationship with your emotions.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with men struggling with surviving a wife’s infidelity. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

Looking for more information about repairing your marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.

Why Healing After A Divorce Is Different For Everyone

Blond woman in dress with arms outstretched in wheat field at sunset sunrise

Many factors influence healing after a divorce and make it a unique experience for everyone.

When you got married the thought of divorce was a million miles away. And yet now here you are, a million miles away from that beautiful day when everything was possible, reading about healing after a divorce.

Getting over the end of your marriage will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Divorce forces you to reimagine your life and create a new one. It forces you to reimagine your family relationships. It may even force you to reimagine yourself.

In other words, healing after a divorce is a very personal experience.

And it’s precisely because it is so personal, that healing after a divorce is different for everybody. Sure there are some common steps to healing after divorce, but how you experience them and how you proceed through the steps will be unique to you.

Obviously, your personality plays a part in how you will get over your divorce and how long it will take you to recover from it. But there are other factors too that can impact your healing and the time it takes.

Some of the other factors that influence healing after a divorce include:

  • How long you were together This doesn’t mean that those who were married for a long time always take longer to heal than those who were married for shorter times. What it hints at is how interconnected your lives were. The more interconnected the longer it will take to disentangle your lives.
  • How many birthdays you’ve had
    Yes, your age does influence how you’ll react to your divorce. In general, it’s easier to be positive about creating a new life for yourself when you can imagine having a good amount of time to do so. However, that doesn’t mean that if you’re older you can’t be just as positive about creating a new life for yourself.
  • How much of a surprise the divorce was
    If your spouse dropped the divorce bombshell on you, chances are that it will take you longer to get over your divorce than it will your spouse. That’s because your spouse has been preparing for the end of your marriage and you haven’t.

    On the other hand, if you’re the one who has thoughtfully decided to divorce, chances are you’ll get over it more quickly than your spouse.

  • Whether you have children together
    If you have kids then you probably already know some of the unique pain that continuing to parent together causes. When you’re regularly seeing the person who was once your beloved, it’s typically harder to move on from what was and what you used to hope could be.

    On top of that, healing after a divorce is also more difficult when you’re grieving the fact that you no longer get to see your children daily.

  • Whether you have a new relationship
    A new relationship can be tricky. Sometimes they can help you heal. Sometimes they simply postpone the healing work you need to do.
  • Whether your ex has a new relationship
    If your ex has a new relationship, it can trigger jealousy, resentment, anger and a plummet in your self-esteem. These emotions can make healing after a divorce more difficult. However, they can also spur you on to heal more quickly because you’re not willing to let your ex be the only one who is moving on.
  • How satisfied you were with your marriage relationship
    If your marriage sucked, divorce can be a welcome relief. If your marriage was so good that you’re still in a daze over the fact that it’s over, then getting over the end of your marriage can be more difficult. And if your marriage was somewhere in between these two extremes, then the impact of losing your marriage on your healing will be somewhere in between too.
  • How your lifestyle changes with your divorce
    In general, the greater the difference between the lifestyle and socio-economic status you had in your marriage and the one you have after divorce, the more difficulty you’ll have with recovering from your divorce.
  • Your level of commitment to your marriage
    Typically, if you took your marriage vows seriously and had a high level of commitment to your marriage, then the more difficulty you’ll have healing.
  • How much you continue to focus on your ex
    If you’re focusing on your ex and their life or behaviors, you keep yourself chained to them. You’re letting them dictate how you feel. And when you abdicate control of yourself to someone else, you’ll prolong the time required for you to heal.

Healing after a divorce is a complicated and difficult journey for most. Your own journey will be uniquely yours because it’s about you. You get to decide what healing from divorce means to you. You get to decide when you’re healed. No one else can tell you when you’re done.

And because each person who finds themselves on the journey is unique, healing after a divorce is and always will be different for everyone.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people just like you with healing after a divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

Looking for more information about getting over the end of your marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.