Successful Second MarriagesPosted: August 4, 2013
Many years ago, I sold a book idea on successful second marriages and I did all the research. I talked with over 200 people and learned some secrets about being happily married. I also learned what my friends and I were doing wrong.
The book was never published because of editorial staff changes but I got to keep my generous advance and I felt the research brought me new understanding. I’ve always wanted to share what I learned and today is the day.
I started out interviewing about 200 subjects of different ages who came from a wide variety of places. Each one had a unique story but there were common elements. No matter who they were, the happiness of their marriage seemed to depend at least partly on acceptance of themselves and their partners.
The marriages were not so much about romantic love as about gratitude and togetherness. Fewer second marriages end in divorce and second marriages are happier, according to many studies. I think it is because they are less tormented by dreams of Prince Charming or Princess Precious.
I talked to a dance teacher in her 70’s whose husband died, so she married the surviving spouse of her best friend right away. They were lonely and they knew they liked each other so the got married. Made sense to them.
I talked to a young woman with three kids and no support. She married her older boss who was happy to take her and her family on. He wasn’t the best looking or smoothest guy she could have had but she was glad to be with him and they seemed very affectionate together.
Generally, the people who made successful marriages knew what would and would not work for them. One Virginia woman who a good job in Washington DC was suddenly left alone with small kids and little money. The next month she went to Parents Without Partners, “to see what was out there.” She dated professional men with larger salaries but she said, “I like “good old boys” She chose a man with a service station and a truck. They hunt on weekends.
I talked to one engineer whose wife left him. He seemed bewildered, “She said she wanted more.” A neighbor lady invited him for dinner and they married when his divorce was final. I asked him if he’d dated other women. He answered, “Why? She was a nice woman”.
By design, none of the subjects were my immediate friends. As talked to the my subjects, I realized my friends were usually unhappily married or in tortured relationships. Birds of a feather flock together because I wasn’t very happy either.
I’d been widowed twice. I spent ten years between first and second marriage feeling sorry for myself and acting in self-destructive ways. At the time I was writing this book, I was desperately in love with a married man. All I really needed to do was read Dear Abby to figure out where that was going.
Researching the book helped me understand that I said I wanted to remarry but it wasn’t really true. My subjects were people who suffered a loss and then successfully pursued second chances. That didn’t describe me.
Here are some things I think are worth passing on to readers who seek a perfect right partner…
I learned that a partnership can’t be all about you. If you are not emotionally healthy it won’t work. People who have serious addictions or mental problems are not ready to look for a marriage.
I also learned that there is no perfect right partner. Anyone who believes the junk dialog in romantic movies like “You complete me,” is in for trouble. Love is wonderful and it cements a marriage. But marriage is also a partnership that needs to be comfortable. That means you have to be willing to solve some of your own stuff even if you have a helpmate.
I learned something else that was very important to me personally and led me to write books like Wise Women and Science of Mind Skills. Help is on bookstore shelves! Now it is also available for your Kindle.
Until I researched my unpublished book, I didn’t understand how much self-help books serve people as guides for moving forward with their lives. Time after time, I interviewed someone who said, “And then I read, How To Be Your Own Best Friend and I did just what it said to do”. It was a long time ago and that’s the title I remember but there were others that were just as effective. There are even more now. The trick is to follow their lead.
I also discovered that church singles groups are good places to meet men who are candidates for settling down. I’d once attended a Unitarian singles group for a few weeks and pronounced everyone losers but I was wrong. Lots of perfectly nice people meet each other in those groups. Previously, I’d met my men in college classrooms or bars. The ones I met in classes were the better candidates for marriage.
The people I interviewed knew what they wanted and they went where their prospective partners were. They were direct and open to compromise. They seemed to understand that they wouldn’t get everything they wanted in one package.
For years, I’d looked at marriages from the outside and wondered how some of them could stand each other. I also wondered why some seemed so happy with each other. In many cases, the happy couples seemed to genuinely like each other rather than being madly in love.
After over a year of interviewing 200 people, I saw that they considered marriage a comfortable and normal way to live and they wanted that. They weren’t ambivalent, or ashamed to go after they wanted, they weren’t drunk on drama, or too self-centered to really look at the other person.
They were straight-forward, good people who would rather be married than single. They understood that it would mean making room for another person in their lives. They understood that the excitement of romance wouldn’t be always so strong. They understood they would actually be living, sharing, loving, and supporting another person if they married.
I took an inventory of myself after that research and stopped complaining about being alone. I admitted I prefer solitude and independence most of the time. I have now been happily single for many years.
I believe that happiness is a choice. It doesn’t depend on your marital status or any other “fact”. You make your happiness happen. If you want a happy marriage, go for it and don’t waffle. Go straight for your goal.. You can go for it in your current marriage by modifying your behavior, and creating a win-win situation. You can also go for it by looking around for the perfect right partner – just make sure that you see him or her when you are looking in the mirror, as well.
What do I want to change?
How might I try to change it?
Anything in this article make me think?