“Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience”
– Samuel Johnson
Rationally, logically, I totally understand this. In addition to the complication of stepchildren and torn loyalties, many second marriages do not produce a biological child, so there is no “for the sake of the children” to get the marriage through those hard days (or weeks. Or months. Or years.). Money stress, especially when combined with child support or alimony, compounds.
More than anything, though, I think it has to do with what psychologists refer to as the “desensitization to divorce” factor. Whether for personal or religious reasons, many view marriage as a sacrament, as an inviolate institution. Once you’ve crossed that bridge, it’s just not as agonizing to burn it again.
So psychologists say. And like I said, logically, intellectually, I get it. It makes complete sense, from a sociological and psychological perspective.
But emotionally? Personally? I just can’t imagine it.
When my ex-husband chose to end our marriage, it was devastating. There is no “easy divorce”; my friends and acquaintances who have made the decision to divorce, even under the most mutual and amicable circumstances, even without infidelity and betrayal, describe it as one of the most, if not the most, challenging and difficult periods in their lives.
I never, ever want to go through that again. As a child of divorce myself, I already knew, all too well, that marriage isn’t forever. Like all children of divorce, I already carried a degree of “desensitization”. But navigating those waters as a wife, as a mother? Far from feeling, like the psychologists say, that divorce was less of a big deal, I survived my divorce believing it was the most traumatizing experience imaginable.
I was traumatized, clinically speaking.
And so, I found myself in 2010, saying that I was never, ever marrying again. I knew the odds were against me, statistically speaking, with a repeat performance. I was going to protect my children, and myself, and never let that devastation happen to us again.
We all know how that declaration played out.
Today is our second anniversary. I am my husband’s first marriage; he romantically (and yes, it’s a line, but yes, it totally works) says that he waited until he found the right one. In my less secure moments, I remind myself that surely, statistically speaking, his first marriage assets inoculate us against my second marriage liabilities.
Make no mistake, it is a clash of experience and expectations, for better or for worse. I can sometimes be cynical and dismissive of his perspective, like when he says sweetly “Two years! Can you believe we’ve been married for two whole years?”.
I divorced 17 days before what would have been my 13th wedding anniversary. I dated my high school boyfriend for longer than two years. For a (very) long-term monogamist such as myself, two years places us still squarely in neophyte newlywed territory.
It’s been short, but already we’ve had our share of challenges. The death of his father. A lawsuit from my ex-husband. Financial surprises. I forget, as a second-time wife, that this is all new to him, navigating tough terrain with a partner, the daily compromise, the constant negotiation of responsibilities and duties. I forget that he became, instantly and overnight, a father to three human beings that I had the luxury and privilege to know and nurture since conception.
I forget because he does such an amazing job with it all.
Until he reminds me. Like when he thanks me, every. single. weekend. when I do all the laundry and lay it out on his side of the bed. When he still, two years later, ruffles through the grocery bags and exclaims with delight like a child on Christmas morning that I bought his favorite beer! And saw he was almost out of almond milk and picked some up! And he didn’t even ask me! Or when he walks by me on Sunday afternoons, crankily balancing the checkbook and paying bills, and kisses the top of my head and thanks me for taking care of the family.
He never takes me for granted, after two years. After two years, I’m still surprised to receive the praise and acknowledgement for tasks that I consider part of my job, that I would do (and did do) indefinitely and without complaint, simply because I’m a wife and mother.
And I know it’s “only” been two years. I know, like anyone else in marriage for the second time around, that there are no guarantees, and that, perhaps, the odds are stacked against us, statistically speaking.
But then I look at my husband, and how takes care of his “step”children (who are as much in his heart as if his DNA was in their bones), and how he loves me, the only person he has ever vowed to love “until death do us part.”
And I believe that we will beat the odds.