Discover a pack of unexpected perks to round-two relationships
By Christina Vercelletto
Divorce can be devastating, but it doesn’t mean you’ve blown your chance at bliss. A failed first union can prime you to spend the rest of your life feeling loved, secure and respected. Read on to learn why second marriages are often a much-improved experience over the first time.
1. You have more in common with spouse two. Whether it’s an obsession with sushi or a reputation for being the first one on the dance floor, second marriages usually unite mates with similar likes and dislikes. “Pierre lives to eat; I live to cook. I don’t think my first husband would’ve eaten at all if he didn’t have to for survival!” says Patty Morin of Fairfield, IA. “And my ex hated socializing. Yet I don’t know who talks more: me or Pierre.” Why the compatibility? You learn what differences you don’t like from the first go-round. “You don’t have to negotiate every party invitation or what’s-for-dinner decision anymore,” explains Tina B. Tessina, PhD, author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.
2. You see the same big picture. Decisions like where to live, how much to travel and how many hours to work are no longer points of contention. For instance, Linda Henry of St. Paul, MN, and her second spouse Keith are both creative: He’s a musician; she’s a writer. “Under the previous administrations, spending time writing or playing was seen as taking away from those marriages. For artists, that’s a terrible way to live,” she says. “What becomes a priority is helping each other achieve personal goals, whether it’s starting a business or traveling all over Europe,” says Patricia Bubash, author of Successful Second Marriages.
3. He does the dishes! Second marriages are generally less about proving a point and more about getting the necessary work over with. “Chores can affect daily life as you get older and deeper into work and family obligations,” notes Morin. With both her and Pierre working full-time, whoever has time to do the laundry, cooking or vacuuming handles it. “Being right isn’t as effective as doing what works. The lesson you take into your second marriage is that it’s not a political exercise; it’s a functional partnership,” says Dr. Tessina.
4. You play fewer games. You’ve figured out that when you even the score, hold grudges and expect your mate to “just know” what’s wrong, you both lose. Many couples Bubash interviewed knew they had contributed to the demise of their first marriage. “Not wanting a repeat, they took time to do some introspection,” she reports. “I used to keep things inside and they’d start to fester,” confesses Elizabeth Davin of Rye, NY. Now, she talks about what bugs her. “Marriage isn’t just a fun thing to do; it takes strong communication skills, which can be hard to work on,” says second-timer Johanna Murtha of Langhorne, PA.
5. You finally learn to compromise. It’s not as hard now because your ego isn’t tied into holding your ground like it was when you were younger. “I know what I’m willing to compromise on because I finally know who I am,” says Anne Marie Pierce of Hales Corners, WI. “Digging in your heels doesn’t get you both what you want,” points out Dr. Tessina. “Working together is the only way to do that.”
6. You value each moment more. “You treat every day as precious and not assume you have 30,000 more,” shares Murtha. It comes down to the passage of time. “A sizeable number of couples have experienced major losses by the time they walk down the aisle again. Those things make you much less concerned over the toilet seat being left up,” says Bubash. Plus, divorced people are usually more emotionally mature, adds Dr. Tessina. Even if it’s the only life trauma you’ve experienced, “going through the disintegration of a marriage changes your idea of what life is about,” she explains.
7. Your wrinkles and grays bother you less. You stop clinging to youth and beauty (at least not as tightly) as you realize your mate really does love you just the way you are. “I’ve learned being hot and sexy goes so far, but a man with substance is what it’s all about,” says Murtha. “After what I’d been through, I still can’t completely believe this man truly loves me unconditionally. But I’m getting better at believing it,” adds Davin.
8. You’re protective of couple time. You remember how letting date night lapse or allowing outside interests or people take over was the beginning of the end. “We booked a sitter to go out together maybe five times throughout my whole first marriage. We got our breaks by doing things individually or with our own friends,” recalls Davin. “But now, even if it’s just opening a bottle of wine and watching a movie, we make sure it happens.”
9. You have more and better sex. Physical intimacy isn’t commonly taken lightly following a divorce. “It’s an absolute priority,” insists Davin. “After relationships that had lost all intimacy, we promised ourselves that we’d never take it for granted.” Often women are more adventurous and at ease with their sexuality in second marriages because they’re, well, happier (see points one to eight!). “Too often women in first marriages think sex can happen only after they ‘get’ turned on, as if it’s something that happens to them. In second marriages, they turn themselves on, as a marriage won’t last without sex,” says Dr. Tessina.