What To Do If You’re Struggling With A 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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