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A second marriage is an opportunity. A meeting of hearts and minds of two people that have known heartbreak.

You don’t get to second marriage without experiencing the pain of a relationship demise either through break-up or death. Either way you know what it’s like at a visceral level to lose love.

Sometimes people in second marriages tell me they struggle with feelings of inadequacy. They feel tight in the stomach when someone announces smugly that it’s their 25 year anniversary or when they are referred to as the second wife. They may believe that a second relationship has less status than a first. That somehow this second chance is less worthy than the first.

Others struggle with the resentment of partner’s past lives without them. They may feel shut out when old friends or stepchildren tell stories from the partner’s life before the relationship. They may feel a sense of loss that they did not have an opportunity for first love or to have children with their partner. They may struggle with blended family issues such as the regular communication with exes over childcare and sharing holiday periods and weekends.

There is no doubt that second marriages come with their challenges but there are also strengths present. People in second marriages know making a public commitment does not give you an insurance policy for relationship success. There is knowledge that without working on a deeper connection and if respect is not nurtured, love can be lost. There can be a commitment to avoid making the mistakes of the past and being a better partner this time. When love has been lost and you’ve spent time alone, you are likely to value some of the unspoken benefits of marriage such as companionship and sharing financial responsibilities.

Find ways to value and honour your relationship rather than focusing on the difficult aspects or social perceptions.

You are a person who deserves love, end of story. Some ideas of how to do this are below.

  • Nurture the strengths of this marriage and talk about them regularly. Avoid frequently rehashing the problems.
  • Talk about your first marriage if you need to but only for the purpose of letting it go, not for rehashing the pains and wrongs of the first marriage.
  • Let go of the ideal of a first marriage. You may not have dreamed of a second marriage but this is what you have. Many people choose better partners for a second marriage, having been young and naïve or hopeful that there ex would change when getting married for the first time. Despite the challenges, if you have the partner choice part right, there’s every chance you can have a better marriage than your first.
  • Find things that bring you together. A shared project or a new pet. There’s lots of reminders of what history you don’t share, so these things help you focus on making your own history.
  • Make some new friends, who don’t know the exes. This is also part of creating your own history. Consider giving friends who make you feel less than or devalue your current relationship less of your time. These friends have their own reasons for doing this, maybe they are unhappy in their own marriage but aren’t strong enough to leave or maybe they feel resentment or loss because they miss the social ease of spending time with you and your ex-partner.
  • Forgive yourself for making a poor choice of a first partner if need be. Or for any errors you made that contributed to the first marriage ending. No one has a crystal ball and all humans make mistakes. Give yourself a chance to have love by letting go of that particular poison.
  • Stop calling yourself the second wife or husband. There can only be one marriage partner by law, so you are the wife or the husband. It’s nobody’s business which number you are. If others refer to you as this, politely correct them with “I’m his wife”.

Be proud of your relationship. You are courageous and brave to try again. You are worth it.

Nadene van der Linden

Nadene van der Linden is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Perth, Australia. Nadene is the author of best-selling Tales from the Parenting Trenches: A Clinical Psychologist vs. Motherhood and  recently published Live life to the full. Your guide to feeling better sooner.  Nadene created Positive Living cards and Positive Kids available on her webstore.

For more tips to create connection and feel good follow Nadene on instagram @nadenev.thepsychologist or facebook: Nadenev.thepsychologist and visit her at lindenclinicalpsychology.com.au for more posts.

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