One Powerful Shift That Will Make Your (1st, 2nd, 3rd) Marriage Last
We’ve all heard the sad statistics about second and third marriages. They don’t sound hopeful for those of us who’ve been through divorce, but still long for deep, lasting, connected intimacy with a loving spouse.
But I’m here to offer you hope. To tell you not to believe that the next time around is doomed. If you had a marriage that ended, and now you are in your next one, or are wanting to have a second or third chance, I promise you it can be so much better this time.
I know from personal experience that the second time can be the one that sticks. This was the case for my mother’s second marriage (39 years and counting...they actually love each other now more obviously than ever).
And my second marriage has all indications of a lifelong love. We’ve already navigated so much that could have pulled us apart, and we are stronger and more in love than ever.
But I also know intimately how those depressing statistics can pan out to be true. My father has been married time after time (we’ll call it 5 times). All of which ended in ugly divorces —as the statistics would predict after his first marriage fell though: in the U.S. 67% of second, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.
Sometimes that first marriage actually provides us with the necessary lessons and skills needed to be ready for love to last the next time around. Sometimes, it doesn’t.
What’s the difference? Why do some second marriages last, when others don’t? Has my dad just had bad luck?
The issue is complex, but there is one key factor in whether your second (or third) time around will actually be “forever", or end like the last one.
Drumroll… It’s your perspective on what marriage is all about and your willingness to challenge everything in yourself that blocks the free flow of love. This includes all the ideas and expectations that you bring to the relationship, as well as the way you relate to any residue of pain from past experiences.
Because, like the saying goes, wherever you go there you are. You carry your beliefs and un- addressed wounds around like baggage everywhere you go. In and out of marriage.
If you believe marriage is for feeling safe and happy and avoiding discomfort and pain, well, you’ll be severely disappointed; you’ll fight it (or him!) every time your spouse doesn’t make things safe and easy for you. You’ll feel angry, sad, lonely, afraid, resentful, victimized…a lot of the time. You’ll likely prefer a divorce to living that way, or your spouse will.
This has been my father’s fatal mistake: over and over he made it his wives fault that he wasn’t happy. After each divorce he took no time for serious self-introspection. He did not stop to question what he was doing to fail in love, or what his own role was. He did not bother to grow.
But you can make the powerful choice to do so. It will make all the difference.
It may not be an easy route to take. It's not exactly fun to take such a hard look at oneself. It’s not warm and fuzzy to look ourself hard in the face and deal with our own dark stuff. Easier to blame our spouse—or even ourselves— for all the hard stuff in our relationship— than to actually deal with it, head and heart on. But that seemingly easier path will actually feel a whole lot worse in the long run.
Human relationships are simply complex. I believe they bring up all our difficult stuff in order to heal it and be free of it. That is what marriage is for. It’s a container in which to evolve into better versions of ourselves.
If you can think of your relationship as an arena for you to learn how to be a more kind, loving, patient, understanding, present, mature, courageous human being, and not expect the marriage itself to provide you with constant happiness— then your second time or third or fourth (it doesn’t matter which as long as you make this perspective switch) is much more likely to be the one that sticks.
Embracing a growth mindset is hard. Growing can be painful. But it’s the absolute only way we will ever have the lasting connected intimacy we deeply long for.
In my wedding ceremony we included this passage by the poet David Whyte:
“Marriage is where all [sorts of] difficult revelations can consign us to a sense of imprisonment or help us become larger, kinder, more generous, more amusing, more animated participants in the human drama.”
Those are the virtuous qualities, which we can each actively uncover in ourselves, that bring us true and lasting joy, a place from which love is endlessly accessible.
What's one positive way you grew as a result of being willing to learn from a hard thing that happened in your current or past relationship? Share with me over in the comments below (no, facebook won't show them! They are only visible here).