3 Lessons from My Second Marriage
Are you surprised to know that love tops the list of Americans’ reasons to marry? Probably not. “About nine in ten Americans (88%) cited love as a fundamental reason to get married, ahead of making a lifelong commitment (81%) and companionship (76%), according to a Pew Research Center survey.”
Marriage is hard, so being in love is an excellent place to start the journey if you’re going to do it. But if most people get married for love, why does the divorce rate still hover around 50% for first-timers and even higher for second and third marriages?
The answer is complicated. But what I know for sure is that divorce sucks.
I’m divorced. The years of separation and estrangement leading to the disillusionment of my starter marriage were dense with suffering and disbelief. I never imagined that at 30 years old, I would be navigating cancer while also losing my best friend (a.k.a hubby #1). The compound grief of these crises skewed my view of life and love. For years I thought that I would never love again. I learned a lot from my first marriage but didn’t fully understand the upside of my divorce until well into my second marriage.
The best thing that happened to my current marriage was my first marriage.
The pain of losing my first love and the most valued relationship of my young adult life pushed me to create space for grace and forgiveness in my current relationship. I don’t take an intimate partnership for granted because I know that even when two people love each other, relationships can fracture, and people who once honored each other end up hurting each other. I don’t think that my current husband and I would have made the 10-year mark without our past relationship failures.
Here’s an inside look separated into three lessons we’ve learned over the years.
- Bring Up the Past
Ok, before you pounce, hear me out. I am not advocating for rehashing old fights or stirring up past offenses. But when times get tough, it can be helpful to remember why you chose each other in the first place.
Reminiscing is a useful therapeutic tool that soothes the edges of grief and discomfort. When my husband irritates me, I must remember all the ‘right’ things he has said and done. When I focus on his strengths it is easier to address the present discomfort or pain with clarity and grace.
My husband and I like to have ‘remember when’ conversations. We remember past trips, meals, or moments and end up laughing out loud or smiling quietly inside. Life is uncertain and full of challenges. Having a solid recollection of the good memories will fortify you during seasons of suffering.
- Make Room for Grief
Living is about saying goodbye to people, jobs, feelings, and experiences and then moving forward. Grief unites us. Everyone is constantly in some stage of grief. But everyone grieves differently. Making room for individual and collective grief is essential for a healthy partnership because grief needs room to breathe. When you don’t give yourself the time and space to grieve, you stunt your growth because the contained grief is suffocating.
- Stay on the Same Page
This lesson is the most important. There will be times when you will end up on separate pages but you must strive to stay connected.
My husband and I are not the same people we were ten years ago. Cancer, infertility, miscarriage, early onset menopause, job loss, and countless other experiences have changed both of us. But to grow together through these crises, we had to stay connected to what matters. There had to be a few core beliefs, values, and non-negotiables to ground us and keep us in check to remain on the same page.
Whether it is finances, friendships, or faith, working to stay on the same page is vital. And yes, it takes work. We both come from different cultural backgrounds and do not share the same lived experiences. We disagree and debate all the time but ultimately come together. Why? Because we know that if we want to thrive, we must create a page big enough to accommodate the complexities of our past and our present. We understand that together we can write a beautiful story that makes room for joy, creates space for grace, and propels us toward our individual and collective purpose.
Relationships aren’t easy, and that’s ok because easy is overrated.
Cheers to you and cheers to my husband! He’s a keeper. Let these lessons inspire you to reimagine your current relationship or plan for a future one.
Author, Speaker, Advocate, and Adversity Coach Vanessa Joy Walker is an expert at navigating life after crisis. Her life experience includes; abandonment, betrayal, cancer, infertility, and grief. As a featured speaker and contributor for outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The American Cancer Society, K-Love Radio, Motherly, Rise Together Podcast, and The Psych Congress. Vanessa has shared her perspective on perseverance and joy with thousands of people worldwide. Connect with Vanessa at www.vanessajoywalker.com and receive her complimentary educational video F.L.O.W Forward.