I’ve been dating a wonderful man for two years and he wants to get married, but I’ve been a single mom for almost eight years – and I just can’t get past the fact that 60 percent (or more) of second marriages don’t make it. Should I even get married again, and if I do, how can I protect myself and my kids and yet give this new marriage the best chance?
– Seriously Nervous Nellie
Dear Seriously Nervous Nellie–
I totally understand your concern but you’re at risk of letting “seriously nervous” become “self-fulfilling prophecy!” Although I can’t tell you if you “should” get married (only you can decide that!), I can tell you that if you do want a healthy, happy second marriage, you need a radical rethink. And that starts with not believing the urban legend of the 60+ percent second-marriage divorce rate.
In case you’re skeptical, I spent eight years investigating the complex world of marriage and divorce data to dig out the truth about this and other discouraging “facts,” only to discover that the sources routinely quoted for that stat simply don’t exist. The truth isn’t perfect, but it is much better: according to the Census Bureau (2009), 65 percent of women are still married to their second spouse—and the 35 percent who aren’t, includes widows! So when you really boil it down, probably closer to 30 percent of second marriages have ended in divorce.
Of course, any amount of divorce is too high, but you need to shift your thinking to realize that you would be very unusual if you didn’t make it.
And regardless… you know those actions you’re thinking of taking to protect yourself and your kids? You know how you’re tempted to hold back emotionally, just a bit? Or how easy it is to subconsciously keep an eye out for signs that it might all go wrong?
Don’t do those things. Don’t hold back, be ultra-watchful, or make those “just in case” plans. I know it is so natural to do things like keep the little bank account on the side – and we can so easily tell ourselves those are the “wise” actions to take for the kids. But in my research with thousands of men and women over twelve years, it is clear that those are actually the most foolish things you can do because they build a wall between you and your spouse. They create a lack of trust. When you’ve been burned before, they seem only prudent – but in reality they often create the very problems you’re trying to protect yourself from.
If you decide this man is someone you can trust and respect enough to marry – decide to truly be married. Let your guard down and be fully vulnerable with each other—not just emotionally but physically and financially. Give each other access to all bank accounts. Let him know your passwords, and learn his. Tell each other that text messages and emails are open for reading anytime, if desired. And share life with each other, first and foremost, instead of insisting on prioritizing unhealthy old friendships as a way to preserve (in a common way of thinking), a little bit of yourself if it all goes wrong.
Marriage can only be the abundant union it was designed to be if you go “all in,” bond to your mate, and fully commit to life, no matter what. This means being completely vulnerable and risking everything, instead of trying to protect yourself. If you make this choice, I think you’ll be not only surprised but delighted to find that taking what seems like a big risk will instead give you the greatest security.
Let me know what happens!
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Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.