The ‘second time around’ is not easier. It’s often touchier than the first time. …Second marriages fail both more frequently and more quickly than first marriages.”
– Dr. Mary Ann Artlip, James Artlip, & Dr. Earl Saltzman (1993, pp. 23-24)

Getting married is normally a joyful experience, built around little more than two people’s love and affection for one another. But getting married can be a whole new experience altogether, especially when children are involved. Unlike original marriages, there are many other things besides the partner’s love for one another that can determine whether the marriage succeeds or fails. As the aforementioned authors write, “Love is very important in any marriage, but, in itself, love is not enough. When two thirds of those men and women divorcing a second or third time claim that the marriage broke up because of problems related to children, the role of the children in the new marriage must be considered, and it’s best to do this before the marriage takes place.” (ibid, p. 36)

They add that “Nearly all of our survey respondents felt, before they had remarried, that: ‘This marriage will be BETTER!’ After marriage, 57% of these same people, on at least one occasion, thought seriously of divorce.” Nine percent had already gotten divorced by the time they received the survey, and another 3% had suffered a separation or experienced divorce during the course of the study. (ibid) There are many people who learn from their mistakes in a first marriage and go on to have happy, successful remarriages. But it’s clear that not enough couples are taking the challenges they’ll face seriously.

Reasons for getting married again

People enter second marriages for many of the same reasons as first marriages, and with many of the same goals in mind. Among 500+ American stepfamilies surveyed, the reasons people cited as “very important” for remarriage were:

  1. Love: 89%
  2. Emotional intimacy: 87%
  3. Need for companionship: 75%
  4. Need for regular sex partner: 39%
  5. A family for their children: 37%
  6. A parent for their children: 31%
  7. Financial security: 29%
  8. Advantages for children: 27%
  9. Increased status: 12%
  10. Community acceptance: 10%. (ibid, p. 35)

Should you remarry for the sake of your children?

As the above statistics show, around a third of parents remarry primarily for the sake of their children. But this may not be the best approach. As Artlip, Artlip & Saltzman state, those who married primarily for their children “reported a significantly lower success rate for their marriages than those who married for other reasons.” (ibid, p. 28)

It’s going to be a lot more difficult to survive the challenges you’ll face unless there’s more substance there to fall back on. After all, children are usually a detriment to a remarriage rather than an asset, at least initially. They may be quite hostile towards the idea of a stepfamily at first. If this is your primary reason for remarriage, you might have a rocky road ahead. It’s also not beneficial for the kids to be thrust into the chaos of a stepfamily situation only to endure another divorce two or three years later. So if this is your primary reason for tying the knot, think things over very carefully before you follow through with it.

The remarriage survey: A questionnaire for you and your partner

You and your partner should each take a moment to answer the following questions, which are designed to test your compatibility and the goals each of you have for remarriage. Be sure to imagine yourself in each scenario and then answer as honestly as possible:

  1. The most important things I expect from the children are:
  1. How should the discipline responsibilities be shared (who disciplines which children; do you both share duties; etc.)?
  1. My preferred methods of discipline are:
  1. Should a serious conflict arise between a stepchild and stepparent. I would like my partner to:
  1. I feel that children should have the following chores and/or responsibilities:
  1. The things I most want to see in the way my partner handles the children:
  1. What do you see as your role in providing for the financial needs of the family, and what do you see as your partner’s role?
  1. What is your philosophy towards money in general? (Spend it, save it, etc.):
  1. After marriage, how often will we participate in social activities with AND without the children, and what will these be?
  1. The kids are away, and we’re both off work for a day. How is this day spent?
  1. I envision my household tasks & responsibilities to be…
  1. I envision my partner’s household tasks & responsibilities to be…
  1. Social activities I envision doing with the children:
  1. Holiday traditions that are most important to me, & how these should be spent (which family, what traditions, etc.):
  1. When it comes to having additional children, my position is:
  1. After marriage, the most important thing I can do for my partner is:
  1. The most important thing my partner can do for me:
  1. Ten years from now I dream that our life will be…
  1. How I feel when my partner has contact with their ex:
  1. If custody arrangements change, my feelings would be:

Once you’re done, go through and compare answers for similarity. Give yourself a point for each answer that is close in meaning to the answer your partner gave. Once you have your score, assess it according to the following ranking:

16 or more similar = Good
13 or more similar = On the right track
10 or more similar = Some serious discussions need to happen
Below 10 = These things need to be worked out before you marry