One of my all-time favorite movies is When Harry Met Sally.
Not really because it’s filled with virtuous messages, but more because it highlights the real-life struggles single men and women expdridncd in trying to make their dating and marriage relationships work – and what happens when they don’t.
An especially favorite scene of mine is when Billy Crystal’s character, Harry, melts down in front of his friends after bumping into his ex-wife, confronted with staggering feelings of anger and failure.
“Right now, everything is great,” he says to the couple moving in together, “everyone is in love, but do yourselves a favor and put your names in your books now because believe it or not, one day you’re going to go ’round and ’round over this dish. This $8 dish is going to cost you a thousand dollars in phone calls to the law offices of that’s-mine-this-is-yours.”
For many, that line is so, so true.
Although terribly cynical, that perspective highlights what happens in many marriages these days. If you’ve been divorced, you of course want to do everything you can to avoid going through that scenario a second time. So what is the key to making a second marriage work?
Unfortunately, the statistics for second marriages that last are not favorable, and more often than not, any articles you might read regarding making a second marriage work don’t offer much hope either.
But as someone who has been remarried for 11 years, I believe that there doesn’t have to be a legacy of divorce that we hand down to our children. It definitely takes the commitment of both spouses to make a marriage work and last, and I believe beyond that, there are some key elements that are essential in the second marriage.
Without them, the relationship cannot survive. Let’s talk about the most important one of these elements, commitment.
Now, you may feel that there are other elements to the success of a marriage that are more important, but I’ve found that with the odds of life and the attitudes of society stacked against you when you’re married, if both spouses have their feet planted firmly on the foundation of commitment, it makes your ability to whether the storms that await with much greater certainty.
And just as Harry said in the movie quoted above, it’s easy to commit when things are good and everyone is in love. But when things get hard, that’s when a lot of people begin re-thinking their commitment to “till death do us part.”
Popular psychology and the media supports the “disposable” marriage idea, which does great damage to our society. Intact families are the fabric of society, and as these end in divorce, our culture and communities decay, leaving a wake of doubt for the average person that the institution of marriage is a good thing and can actually last a lifetime.
But the disposable marriage attitude is indeed a perversion of what is good, beautiful, and true: that two people can marry, build a life together, bring children into the world, and actually be happy!
To make this happen, both the man and the woman need to commit their entire selves – heart, mind, body and soul – to each other no matter what happens. So that means when jobs are lost, money is scarce, children are sick, in-laws meddle, arguments happen, addictions take hold, other friends get divorced…whatever it is, that undying, relentless commitment must be there for the relationship to last.
How do you find someone like this?
The key here is to know your future spouse as intensely as you can before you get married. I’m not talking about being sexually intimate, of course, and I guarantee you sexual intimacy before marriage will not bring clarity but simply muddy the waters.
To know someone as well as you can before you marry them, there must be a significant amount of communication that takes place. This is one reason why going to Pre-Cana events (yes, even as older adults) is so important and good. It fosters communication regarding things that are typically overlooked but critical to discuss.
Talk about previous relationships. Talk about expectations for the future. Talk about your goals and desires. Talk about your family relationships. Talk about money, children, hardships, good times.
Having a reasonable engagement period is important, too. Too long runs the risk of falling into the temptation to be intimate, but too fast is a recipe for disaster. Nine months to a year is a great length of time, especially if you are spending as much time with each other as you can. And doing fun things together as often as you can will be key to bringing your important matters to the forefront so you can discuss openly and honestly.
‘A daring fool’
In the book “Brave New Family,” G.K. Chesterton talks about what a daring fool a man is to have the audacity to start a family when everything in society flies against him.
I agree, and I think it is such an exciting adventure!
Most of all, after being married to my husband, Jim, for 11 years now, the quality of our relationship and my love for him is so much richer, deeper and better because when the hard times came along, we didn’t quit.
We said, “I do.”
This is the first of an exclusive five-part series by Lisa Duffy. Check back next Thursday for the second essential element to making a second marriage work.