I know some principles that could really help you as you contemplate a second marriage. Second marriage? There is a story behind that and everybody's got their own story. I don't know exactly what your story is. But it implies that you already had one. Now, whether you are out of that first marriage due to death or due to divorce or some other “D” word that I'm not even aware of, here you are. And this is usually not where you thought you would be. It's not what you planned on. But as you anticipate, “Okay, how can I have a healthy second marriage?” Let's use the first one as a learning experience. Shall we? And whatever that first experience was, it was perfect for you because it taught you everything that you know now and it will help to inform you about how to move forward.
Here is one of the catches: We don't often even notice or fully appreciate the impact that we personally had on that first marriage. It's really easy for example to think about what impact your spouse had on that first marriage. In fact, sometimes people get into a little trap where they're blaming the other person for whatever happened in the relationship. Let's be careful of that. Let's be aware of it and take a look at your own impact on that first relationship. I had a client who in her mid 30s was on marriage number 8. Okay… Just try to wrap your head around that for a minute. This was not marriage number 2. This was marriage number 8. And I had a little conversation with her about, “Okay. So, what are you seeing that's consistent in all of these relationships? What is the same? What is the common factor?” You may know what I was looking for there, but she didn't at the time. And so she said, “Well, probably just abusive men.” Okay, she missed something because these were all different men, right? And maybe they had some common characteristics or attributes. That's probably true. But what was she missing? What is the one common factor in all of those relationships? It's her.
Here's what I can tell you for sure. Unless you're marrying the same person who has not learned anything in the intervening months and years, your second marriage will be with a different person. You however are the same person. And you're probably going to bring the same attributes or the same tendencies to the second marriage that you brought to the first. That's why it's so important to be aware of them. As you let that settle in, can I be really frank with you about something that can be a little hard to talk about? And if you were in my office, I would be very frank and open and honest with you. So, I've decided since you're right here and I'm in your home or on your device, I'm still going to be very frank and open and honest with you. This is something that is missed sometimes.
Let me put it in the context of a couple that I was working with. He and she got to know each other while they were both married to someone else. This is something that happens sometimes and there's all kinds of opinions that people have about whether that should happen or not. But the fact of the matter is it does happen. And that's how they got to know each other. They were both married to someone else and I think they were in a work setting. As their relationship developed, the previous marriage ended for both of them. And one of the reasons for that was that they were getting together. So, you've got the context now. When they came to see me, they had already been married. This is a second marriage for both of them and they are both having trust issues. Think about it and do the math. They didn't take the time to think through “Why do I feel uncertain about my partner being faithful to me?” Oh, yeah. How did we get together in the first place? I mention this to you because I want you to be painfully honest with yourself about how you impacted the previous relationship. And now what you are bringing to this one. And in this case, both of them were bringing a willingness to look outside of the marriage for fulfillment. And even though they hadn't become consciously aware of that until I called it to their attention. They almost fired me by the way. They're like “Whaat!?” Yeah. Just be real about it, okay? Be honest with yourself about what you're bringing and what that impact is. I just wanted to share that with you as a little example of how this dynamic can play out. Now, it doesn't mean that they can't have a loving trusting relationship together. It does mean that they get to deal with the fact that they have both demonstrated a violation of trust in the very foundation of their relationship. It's not insurmountable but it will probably disrupt the relationship if they're not at least aware of and willing to acknowledge it.
Remember as you come into this second marriage that your second spouse is not the same person as your first spouse, you however kind of are the same person. So, be aware of all of those dynamics and just be open to learning some things even if it's painful.
Here is the strategy: We are going to do more of what works and less of what doesn't. Your impact on the previous relationship was multifaceted. You contributed to both the successes and the failures of that previous relationship. That means you have some skills and attributes and abilities that are going to contribute to the successes and the failures of the new relationship. Let's do more of what works and less of what doesn't. Let's be wise enough to look at our experience and be able to discern which is which.
There are some principles that allow you to establish and maintain a healthy relationship in your marriage, in your family. These work and I don't care if this is your first marriage or your third or your eighth. There are 9 of them.
The first one positivity. Go to YouTube and find Live On Purpose TV, my first video, “How to stay positive no matter what,” explains this well.
Number 2, values. Shared values where you come together about the purpose of this relationship. And you have a clear why for forming this in the first place.
Number 3, humility which includes the willingness to change. And to do the hard work that I've suggested in the first part of this video where you get to take a hard honest look at yourself. And even if it's painful, having the humility to say, “Oh, some of what I'm doing is having the kind of impact I don't want to have. I better be willing to change.”
Number 4, forgiveness. And I'm including forgiveness for yourself. If this is your second marriage and you're not really proud of or happy about some of the things that happened in number one, forgive yourself and be willing to move on. And even more importantly, forgive your spouse for anything and everything. You be ready and quick to forgive.
Number 5, respect. I even asked little kids. What does mean to respect someone? And they say, “Be nice.” Yeah, pretty good answer. There are other elements to it, but wewil leave it at that for now.
Number 6, love. Which in my mind is not necessarily a feeling. I think that feelings are associated with it. My sweet wife pointed this out to me she said, “You know Paul? Love is also a declaration and a commitment.” When you say “I love you,” it doesn't necessarily mean anything about your feelings. Think about your kids. You could be just wildly angry with them and say I love you. Which is your commitment to do your number-one job: To love them no matter what and even if. Love is a choice. Let's treat it that way.
Number 7, compassion. Compassion has to do with kindness. It probably combines respect and love in some interesting ways. The roots of the word passion also have to do with the willingness
Number 8, work. Everything that is worthwhile requires some effort to build and maintain. Don't be surprised when it's going to be work.
Number 9, wholesome recreational activities. This is the only one on the list of 9 that has 3 words, they are all important. I live in a very conservative religious environment. And sometimes people delete the second word. Recreational? And they go, “Oh, wholesome activities.” Yes, but we have got to have some fun. Lighten up, people! If we're not having fun, we're doing it wrong. Some people delete the first word, wholesome. I've been to Vegas. I've seen what can happen there. There's a lot of recreational activities that are not particularly wholesome and they're not going to support a healthy relationship. That is what works whether it's your first marriage, your 30th marriage or your second. I and my team are here to support you in building and establishing those healthy relationships including with yourself. There are so many resources available to you. You can get a free copy of my book, all you do is pay the shipping. I'm going to send it right out to you. We've got free breakthrough calls to schedule some coaching at www.drpauljenkins.com/breakthroughcall.