Resources from Marriage Savers: Columns
If There's a Re-Marriage
Column #953 /
Copyright Michael J. McManus.
In the opening words of a cover story in ''U.S. News & World Report,'' ''Tori La
Londe hosts a large Thanksgiving gathering every year at her home, but she is
never sure who will show up. It could include any combination of her four
biological children from two marriages, her stepson, the two foster children she
raised... Although La Londe has little contact with her two former husbands, she
has a close, enduring relationship with Jud, the stepson she helped raise. She
also has a strong friendship with Jud's mother.''
Some 46 percent of marriages involve someone who was previously married. Half of
them have children. Like the example cited above, marriages involving children
from a second marriage do not tend to work out very well. In fact, two-thirds
fail. A child who has lived through one painful divorce has a 50 percent chance
of living through a second by age 18.
Fortunately, there is a new book which can reduce those odds of failure for
couples entering a second marriage with stepchildren. It is called ''Preparing
To Marry Again'' and was written by Rev. Dick Dunn, who served as Minister of
Singles and Stepfamilies at Roswell United Methodist Church for 16 years, before
he retired last summer.
It is written in a workbook format, with brief chapters followed by questions,
with space to write answers. Couples might use this resource by themselves or
clergy might well require that the book be used as part of a premarital
When Pastor Dunn, who is himself in a second marriage, counsels couples marrying
for the second time, he asks for a commitment to not even consider divorce for
the first three years of marriage. If they stick it out that long, tough
stepfamily issues ''will have improved considerably and their marriage will have
a good chance.
''Second, I ask them to agree to seek counseling whenever the other person
thinks they need it. Seldom do both feel the need at the same time.''
Below I've condensed other elements of his advice:
- ''All subsequent marriages are bourne out of grief.'' This is a time for
friendships, not romance. Loneliness is not a reason to remarry. ''People should
never consider marrying until they have learned to be happy as individuals.
Marrying in order to be happy is not only a bad idea, but it seldom works.''
- Stretch out the courtship past the period of infatuation. ''Eventually all
illusions give way to reality. It is far better for this to happen before rather
than after, people marry.''
- ''No one should marry without premarital counseling,'' Dunn wries. That
should include four elements: a) taking a premarital inventory such as
PREPARE, b) reading at least one book on stepfamilies, c) talking with a couple
in a stepfamily who has been married for at least five years, and d). Attending
a support group for stepfamilies.
- Do not live in your old home or hers, but sell them and buy a new one for a
fresh start. That avoids ghosts of past marriages.
- ''Finances need to be discussed prior to the wedding, and definite decisions
need to be made about the distribution of funds available to the couple.''
Complete financial disclosure is essential, so that one's debts and assets are
known to the other. Be sure to protect tangible assets that you want to leave
for your children, and leave instructions about which tangible family properties
are to go ultimately to your own children. Often the assets of one partner are
simply left to a spouse, which means they could end up totally in the hands of
that person's biological children, with nothing left to your own.
- The former spouse is likely to continue to have conflicts with an ex that adds
strain to the marriage. Here is where one needs to be in a stepfamily support
group, to learn techniques for handling the conflict that others have learned
who have ''been there, done that.'' Ideas are needed on how to handle holidays,
particularly Christmas which is full of ''hidden land mines.''
- The grief of children over a divorce will outlast the grief of a parent who
remarries. Kids long for a ''childhood fantasy that Mom and Dad might get back
together,'' and resent a substitution of a new parent for the old one. A teen
might say to her mother, ''How dare you get married before I go away to
college?'' Expect children to learn how to drive a wedge between husband and
wife. Only a stepfamily support group will have answers.