We have all heard the statistics on second marriages; they are more likely to fail than the first. Reasons range from finances, to marrying the same type of person as the first marriage, to the stress of having a blended family. As discouraging as many of those statistics and related articles are, I decided to approach the 18 months long engagement in to my second marriage as a self-reflective period. I am the product of a divorced home, a step child and did not have any good examples of a healthy (by my standards) marriage. I understand that plays into my approach of marriage. I am also a product of a very challenging first marriage; One that was challenged by financial hardships, mental illness and lies; which affected my overall trust in people. Although I know my situation is not unique, I have found solace in accepting how my experiences have aided in forming the insight of who I am and getting myself emotionally and mentally prepared for my second marriage. After many self-reflective days and long open conversations with my fiancé, at the end of the 18 months, barefoot on a beautiful beach in front of our immediate family, I was ready and I committed myself and gave my second marriage vows:
Vow 1. I will leave my first marriage baggage in my first marriage chapter.
The first marriage ended and it is certain it may have left some wounds. Although it is important to give those wounds some time to heal, more often than not, the scars left from those wounds are felt for many years after a marriage has ended. Some of those wounds are felt and open back up well in to the second marriage. The first vow is to leave the first marriage baggage in the first marriage chapter.
My second marriage is not responsible for what happened in the first marriage. What I allowed for the first marriage to do to my self-esteem and trust is my responsibility to work on and to improve. My spouse is not responsible to correct the mistakes of my first marriage. Not the ones made by me and most certainly not the ones made by my ex-spouse.
Vow 2. My child is OUR child.
A commonality between many second marriages is the blended family. The STEP label is added to the family make up. Step child, step parent. In my case, I was the party with the child. My child is now a step child and my husband is now a stepfather. It was never my intent to make my son what I am; A step child. However, my intent and vow was and is to make sure my son is home in the house that we share as a family. It is my intent and vow my child is loved and has a voice in our home. It is my intent and vow my child is protected and has a say in how he feels about our family make up. He is included always, as he was on the day we all made a promise to each other to first and foremost be a family followed by him giving us our rings to exchange our vows. Fortunately, his step father and I consciously parent to create a positive inclusive family atmosphere in our home. I understand other blended families may have a more complicated situation and to them all I can advise is to define the family intent and allow for every voice to be heard; From the faintest of the smallest in the house to the loudest.
Vow 3. Teamwork makes it work
From finances, to house chores, to kids schedules, to cooking dinner, to planning family trips; I now understand I am not superwoman. I am not expected to be superwoman. The house and family do not run smoothly when I try to be superwoman. My husband wants and asks to help. My role is to accept and ask if needed. My husband is not superman; I do not expect him to be superman, the house and family run smoother when he is not trying to be superman. My husband needs and will ask for help when he needs it. My role is to ask to help if he asks. I vow we be each other’s super helper, super cheerleader and super supporter.
Vow 4. Take care of self and take care of each other
My first marriage taught me a big lesson (among others); I had to love myself better. I had to make sure I took care of myself; spiritually, emotionally, physically. I had to be good to myself. Nobody could make me feel fulfilled in those aspects but me. A fulfilled person is a happier person. A happier person can make for a better spouse, parent, friend etc. Recognizing this, I also realize, I have to respect and nurture the love my husband has for himself. This is part of being the super cheerleader for each other and continuing the teamwork in to the respecting and nurturing of ourselves.
Vow 5. Let go of the second marriage shame.
I was ashamed of myself when I got divorced and got engaged to be married again. Not ashamed of the person I was marrying; between you and I, I felt very much undeserving of someone like my husband. However; I felt ashamed that now I am a part of some statistic. I made my son part of that statistic as well. And according to other studies, I was more likely to become part of other statistics. I was in those articles about why people get married for the second time if the first one did not work out. I was going to hell according to some religions. I pondered what people must have been thinking when that relationship status changed from married at one time, then to single at another time, then to engaged later and then to married again. Above all, I wondered what my husband’s family must think of me. A divorced single mother now engaged to their “had everything going for him” son/brother. I WAS ashamed of myself. I am no longer. How did I overcome my shame? I overcame it by accepting my experience and the decisions I have made in my life. I overcame it by being grateful for believing in marriage still and having the husband that accepts what I was and whatever label I came with. I overcame shame by knowing I am not the only person in this world who has gone through it. I overcame my shame by accepting other’s opinions and perspectives as their own, without any reflection of what kind of person that made me. I am not ashamed of myself anymore. I am not ashamed of the second marriage. I let go of the second marriage shame. And that is my final vow.