How many stories have we heard about people who start to date while their divorces are pending, get engaged shortly afterward, and are married two or three months after the divorce is final? We've heard a lot of them. The brief second marriage appears to be a common phenomenon in our faith community. (We each had one of those too.)
Before launching into the substance, let us first make clear that we are not sitting in judgment of any individual decision. Indeed, we understand that some of the marriages made hastily on the heels of divorce have worked out as very loving marriages. Hasty remarriage has also resulted in disaster often enough that we want to explore the perils of it with you and provide some counsel.
Why do some people choose to remarry quickly after a divorce from a long marriage? For some, it is a strong desire to replace what has been lost in terms of temple sealings and the promise of exaltation. For others, it may include a commitment to the law of chastity, and a very strong desire for a new sexual partner. Some may have a desire to "show" their former partners that they are desirable or worthy -- almost like it is a race to see who can rebuild their life faster. For most, there may be a fear of being alone and an attempt to feel better. This is what we call a "rebound" relationship. Almost everyone has a rebound relationship. But it is usually unwise to get married quickly as a result. A hasty remarriage may also be an attempt to remedy a financial problem. Indeed, outside our faith community, it is very common for people to cohabit with a new partner within a year of divorce to share expenses.
The common thread in all of the reasons we have discussed for hasty remarriage is looking outside of oneself for personal happiness or a solution to personal problems. There is generally a feeling of angst associated with hasty remarriage --which is not a great foundation for a peaceful future.
When you are thinking of remarriage, please consider this counsel:
1. Have I done any personal development work? It is important to work on yourself to avoid repeating past problems. It is not enough to simply believe your partner was inadequate and you will be better with a more adequate partner. You are bringing triggers to any new marriage you enter now. It is vital to have greater self-awareness and experience taking ownership of your own emotions, rather than blaming someone else for them.
2. Do I now see the problems in my former marriage differently than I did during the divorce? When you can see your own role in the divorce, that is a pretty good indicator that you are prepared to date again. If you are reading this thinking, "I had no role in the divorce in my situation," you are probably not ready. This is not an exercise in victim shaming. It is simply a recognition that every relationship dynamic involves two people, and you did not dance well together. Genuine self-reflection leads to enlightenment and self improvement -- not to shame or self-punishment.
3. Am I seeing my current partner as perfect? Being able to see a partner through rose colored glasses is certainly a gift. But ignoring incompatibilities and character flaws while dating is not. Everyone is going to have some personal qualities we find frustrating and some issues we may find troubling. We do not suggest that you expect perfection. Instead, we suggest that you not see perfection that isn't really there. This involves using your head as well as your heart. It also involves dating long enough for the twitter-pated emotions to subside so you can see the potential trouble spots more clearly.
4. Am I making a deal? In every healthy relationship there are some compromises. Sometimes we reach those compromises because it is not efficient to do the extra work to find a better third alternative. For example, I might let Cathy pick the restaurant on a date night because it's not worth a long discussion, and I don't care that much where we go anyway. But other issues are a lot more important. If your partner wants to have long and emotionally intimate conversations with his or her former partners, do you accept that because you want him or her in your life so much? If he or she wants to spend all evening sewing or woodworking instead of in conversation with you, is that something you are willing to sign up for in the long term? Maybe right now you are just trying to make a deal. You bargain away the thing you really want because all you can see is how much you want your partner. But if you are that desperate for a relationship, you probably are not ready. Instead, you are willing to accept a relationship that doesn't ultimately work for you in order to keep it.
5. Am I working to get my finances in order? The best way to avoid marrying for money is to have your own financial house in order. The person you marry for money is likely going to end up feeling exploited and resentful. (You would too.) One of my former dating partners used to say, "A man is not a financial plan!" She only had a high school education but had figured out how to make a six-figure income and was doing so while she raised three children mostly on her own. If your own financial house is in order, you are a lot less vulnerable to settling for an ill-advised marriage to meet financial needs. A "rescue marriage" is inherently unbalanced, and you don't want to be on either side of that.
6. Are you prepared to deal with the triggers that a remarriage will surely bring. Even if you've done more personal development than any person you've ever known, you will find that some of your triggers haven't been activated in a while because you didn't have a spouse bumping up against your emotional sunburns. It is important going into any kind of remarriage to know that these triggers are normal and to be expected. They are also an opportunity to heal new layers that you couldn't as a single person.
7. Have you forgiven? It is impossible to truly give yourself in a new relationship if you are still fighting the battles of an old one. Enmity binds you to another person as surely as love does. That doesn't mean your former partner determines whether you are ready. He or she might be filled with frustration and angst. That is their problem. But if he or she can still get your goat or cause you to be fuming mad, you are probably not ready to move on. When you are feeling peace and compassion toward your former spouse, you are in a better position to close that chapter of your life and start fresh with someone new.
Remarriage can be a wonderful blessing when you and your partner are ready to develop something together that is more mature and wholehearted. If you are in a hurry to remarry, that is a good indication that you are not ready yet. That doesn't mean you can't ever be ready. The suggestions in this letter can help you become truly ready.
We recommend making this a summer of healing. Rediscover the best version of you and prepare to attract a healthy companion at the same time! We have a great place for you to do just that. To more fully recover from your divorce, intentionally create a joy-filled life, and adequately prepare for a vibrant relationship, enjoy our life-changing 12-week online course: Life Design After Divorce. To learn more about the our 6-step process to recover from divorce and design a life you love, watch our FREE Webinar.
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