Considering remarriage--to my ex

Dear Toni-

My ex-husband and I split over three years ago after several separations and many years of struggling with our differences. In some ways we clicked well, but the differences were such that they led to a lot of conflict and distance between us. I think once we separated and made the decision to divorce, the pressure was off of us and we began to get along better. Both of us have tried dating others with little satisfaction. Because neither of us had met anyone we were really into, we began getting together again for dates and sex. Now here we are jointly grocery shopping, cooking, planning and eating meals as a family--and spending the bulk of our free time together again. It's like we are married but maintaining two separate households. Our two almost grown kids seem happy about it, but think we are crazy not to just remarry and "get it over with."

I haven't forgotten how tough it was between us--the arguments, hurtful things that were said and done, and the very different ways we handled parenting, finances and household responsibilities. Yet in spite of this, I love him and can't see myself with anyone else and he says he feels the same way. We both want yet fear marriage will ruin our relationship. What in the world is this and do you have any experience with it and tips for how we should go about making a decision? --Love is Better the Second Time Around

Dear Dear Love is Better the Second time Around,

To begin with, congratulations and yes I do have experience with this and I'm happy to report that remarriage can be a very different experience than the first time around. The reasons for this include having tasted the grass on the other side; being older and in a different life stage; getting emotional distance from the hurt which can really shift your perspective of your past problems and conflicts--and being with one another in a new relationship that has been fairly conflict-free and much more satisfying. In other words much has changed since your first marriage--when you were just starting out, had young kids, more responsibilities and stress, and no experience with life as older, single, dating parents.

What is most important is how you both feel and what you both want. If the desire for commitment and willingness to work towards it is mutual, you have a good foundation to build a new start on. I do recommend you find a good counselor who specializes in working with couples. Think of it as pre-marital counseling. Had you participated in it years ago you might never have ended up in divorce court. A skilled therapist can help you acquire and use effective communication tools and techniques that will be very important when the normal disagreements and challenges of life come your way. Instead of ending up in conflict or silence, you can learn how to talk through the issues and achieve win-win compromises that will help both of you get your needs met adequately. He or she can also help you with any left-over hurts or resentments from your first marriage or any related unresolved issues.

It might also be useful for the two of you to identify upfront what your top concerns are and then start with these. The sooner you begin to address these, the closer you get to making a decision that moves your relationship forward. Because you are older, wiser, and more experienced with life in and outside of marriage, it really is different this time. So follow your heart, get some competent help, and enjoy. This could be the relationship you always wanted.

(from February 2015)


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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