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Why Do Second Marriages Fail? What Are the Major Reasons?

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Over my many years specializing in family law, I have seen that second marriages have a higher failure rate than first marriages. I represented two clients who had been married six times by the age of 36. People do strange things. Based upon my personal observations and talking with many therapists and attorneys over the years, I have come up with several reasons why second marriages often have a higher failure rate than first marriages.

1. In most first marriages, there are no children, both spouses are young, just starting out in life, and often in school or trying to build careers after finishing school. Neither party has much in the way of assets or debts. In our current economy this is changing because more and more people have large student loans, along with the fact that credit cards are so easy to use. People are madly in love; they are often naive, but there is a lot less baggage in a first marriage.

2. Contrast that with a second marriage. I have found over the years that my clients are older, but often no wiser. People tend to marry the same type of person again and again. Physical characteristics may be different, but unless there is some type of therapy or help, people who marry abusive spouses the first time pick the same type of individual again. If there are issues with regard to alcohol or drugs in a first marriage, for some reason, people without help will repeat their mistakes again.

3. Children -- we love our children. I have seen so many second and third marriages flounder because of children from a prior marriage. Children do not want you to marry anyone. Children after a divorce have a fantasy and strong desire that their parents will get back together and remarry. A new step-parent, to most children, is the devil personified. When you try to blend families, it is not the Brady Bunch. Children will fight over turf. They want their parents. They do not want step-siblings invading their territory. I have seen so many cases where a step-parent will try to replace the biological parent. This cannot be done. Step-parents do not have the power to discipline and are in the uncomfortable position of being not really a friend, and too often the enemy. Your children often take the lead in trying to undermine a second marriage. This is true whether they are young, teenagers, or even adults.

4. A major stressor is parenting time schedules. Trying to coordinate schedules with his, her, and sometimes our children, make things very complicated to say the least. When there are children born of a new marriage, and there are already step-children, this complicates things. I have had many cases where there is a custody battle or fight over visitation/parenting time, which always puts pressure on the new marriage. Children will move from one household to another, increasing stress for the new household, especially if there is a lot of acrimony between the former spouses.

5. Money matters. Bringing in debts can cause resentment in a second or third marriage. A new wife may resent her loss of spousal support. The husband will feel that he is paying too much in child support, and his wife is receiving too little. If the new husband is paying spousal support to his former wife, this can be a problem.

6. People jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. Over the years I have had many divorces where the second marriage is in the works before the ink is dry on the divorce judgment.

7. People vow that they will never divorce again, but the reality is it is easier once you have done it.

8. Last, but not least, the in-laws you couldn't stand, are still around. You still have to deal with them at times, at family get-togethers and special occasions. These are all stress points and problems. What can we do? Based upon my many years in practice, here are some ideas for you to think about:

A. Don't rush into a second or third marriage.

B. Go into counseling before deciding to marry. Make sure that you are not rushing and that this is right.

C. Are your finances in order? Know as much as possible about the finances of your prospective new spouse. How will money be handled? What are the assets and liabilities? How will income and cash flow be handled? Will you both be working? Is someone planning to leave work? These are legitimate questions to ask before you tie the knot.

D. Children - - how will you blend your children together? Perhaps this is something that should be done through counseling. Make sure your children know what is going on and there are no surprises.

E. Prenuptial agreements are often done in second or third marriages. This is very important to protect assets and children, both in the event of death, and the possibility of a divorce.

F. I already said don't rush into a second or third marriage. Do not introduce your children too quickly. Children should not be exposed to the romantic flavor of the month. Last, but not least, proceed with caution and use your mind, not the other part of your anatomy that too often causes problems.