Making Your Second Marriage (or Relationship) Better than the First

Some folk leave their marriage or long-term relationship with elegance and grace. Some of us have catastrophic break ups that leave us cowering under the covers for months, if not years.

When we move on to a new relationship, we bring with us a truck load of heavy baggage. And as our new relationship turns into something long-term, the doubts begin to creep in.

“I’ve fucked this up once, I’m going to do it again.”

“My track record with love is abysmal. I’m crazy to think this will ever work.”

My marriage was brutal and messy. Our breakup was volatile and damaging. The experience left me broken, wounded and doubting everything I thought I believed in.

But in spite of that, here I am coming up on six years in my second significant relationship. Here are some of the things I have learned about how to navigate the terrain between a disastrous relationship and a delightful one.

The Past isn’t a Blueprint for the Future

Even though you have had terrible experiences in the past, there is no reason to expect the same thing in the future. Our destiny isn’t written in the stars — and if it was, it would be handwritten with twinkling points of pleasure and joy.

Teach yourself to live in the moment, appreciating what you have right now without worrying about an eventual disaster which will probably never arrive. When panic arrives at 3am, whisper to yourself, “My past has no influence on my current or future life. It is finished and complete. I let it go.”

Forgive Everyone

Forgive your ex-partner for being a dick. Forgive your friends for taking his side. Forgive your mother for saying, “I told you so.”

Most of all, forgive yourself. You did the best you could at the time, even though you might do things differently now. Failing at a relationship doesn’t mean you’re bad, or flawed, or unlovable, it just means there came a time when you changed your mind about what you wanted. 

Be the Love You Never Received

Call to mind all the ways you felt unloved and invisible in your previous relationship and use that data to behave different with your new lover.

If your ex-husband never listened to you, make an effort to be a great listener. If your ex-husband gave you the silent treatment, try to say how you are feeling when you feel hurt or upset. If you ex-partner never touched you, be warm and affectionate.  Give out the kind of love you’ve always wanted to experience.

Practice Gratitude

One thing terrible relationships show us is how painful and cruel our circumstances can be. If you have to compare your past to your present, search for the differences rather than the similarities.

Be thankful for all the small things your new lover does for you – texting, putting out the bins, picking you up from work, kissing you goodbye. Never let small acts of love go unnoticed, or taken for granted. Say thank you to your lover and to the Universe for the good things in your life.

Use a Light Touch

Now you’ve got the most important,  “till death us do part” relationship over and done with, you can relax. You’re allowed to have any kind of relationship you want now – it’s totally up to you. Be light and playful with love — quick to give it away and slow to expect everything in return. You are no longer defined by the title of wife, so enjoy the freedom.

Even if you decide to marry again, there is no need to struggle under the weight of expectations. The stakes have been lowered.

If it doesn’t work out, it’s not that big a deal. You’ve survived once, you’ll do it again. Enjoy being part of couple but don’t make it the entire focus of your life. The paradox is, the more you let go of control, the better your relationship will be.

Second-time relationships don’t have to be repeats of the first time around. You’re older, wiser, more battle-worn, and less likely to put up with bullshit. All that experience has made you an expert on what you want and what you don’t want. Put that expertise to good use and make this relationship or your next relationship the best one you’ve ever had.

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Have you moved on from your first “till death us do part” relationship? What is your advice?

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

34 thoughts on “Making Your Second Marriage (or Relationship) Better than the First

  1. it has always seemed to me, that the secret of a successful relationship can be summed up in two words
    “forget yourself”
    but of course for this to work it has to function that way for both.
    If one is giving while the other is selfish (and it can happen with either partner) then the whole thing will ultimately break apart.
    Finding that perfect balance is incredibly difficult.

  2. In my experience I think you’re spot on. The hardest and the most important thing to do, as I’ve learnt this time round (2nd marriage), is that your “new” loved one is a completely different person than your ex – in views, in ways, in tastes, in likes – from sex to life in general – and that you need to put your past experiences in the back of your mind and enjoy discovering this person who is now by your side. It’s harder to do than you think, but totally rewarding when you manage to do so.

  3. Good advice. Now, that means no rebound marriages, which I did, so my 2nd was doomed. And marry for love, nothing else. It makes all the little things tolerable. And it’s much easier to come from love, of course. 😉

  4. I love the forgiveness part. I think when we forgive, it brings peace to our souls. It’s a form of letting go and I don’t think we can move forward without it.

  5. Hi Katie! Really good stuff here. And just the fact that you can offer such good advice is confirmation that you’ve healed from the past. I think our writing either confirms or denies that fact whenever we take on a topic. Good for you for discovering all of your “tips” but the one that really stands out for me is the first one where you remind us all that the past DOES NOT have to be repeated!!!! That applies to us all in every single circumstance. Let it go! And congratulations on your happy relationship! ~Kathy

  6. Well. it is good to know that there is hope for second timers. You have outlined some great advice. I think everyone works extra hard hoping that they will never have to do it again. This post should be placed on the fridge, for both to see.

  7. I like the thought that it’s not going to be the same – that history won’t necessarily repeat itself. Not sure I want to go for a second try, but I’m having a nice time being ME in the meantime 🙂

  8. L O V E you Katie – thank you, how do you write what needs to be said in a “be kind to yourself way” XO

  9. “If you see something, say something.” Don’t pretend there isn’t a problem – whether it’s differing opinions, interfering parents, how money is spent. If you can’t talk through an issue, seek counseling. Stick with it. I left therapy after a few of sessions. I expressed my anger subtly and I was the one who left. Fast forward, I packed up the mean girl & have worked on being kind. A much better outcome second time around.

  10. Another terrific and honest post, Katie. I truly believe that all our “mistakes” are merely preparing us to recognize the right one when he or she comes along. Once we learn what we don’t want or need (often painfully, I’m afraid), we’re able to more clearly welcome what’s right and good into our lives.

  11. I’ve got that totally terrified feeling right now. I f’d up the first one sure I’ll do the same with this one! And yes, I need to lighten up on myself. The stakes and definitions of success have def been lowered!

  12. I’m not in an after marriage serious relationship yet but I can imagine it may be a little lighter. Not take as seriously, etc. But I’m nowhere near yet wanting to try… I’m giving all my time to me now.

  13. This is right on Katie. I also had a messy ending to marriage #1 and was devastated. Being divorced was not in my life plan, and I was also a single mother. Marriage #2 is 24 years old and a true blessing in my life. I married a fantastic man 9 years younger than me. He has been a fantastic husband, step father and life partner. Life is grand the second time around.

  14. I really, really agree with being quick to give your love away. There’s no point in letting a previous bad experience turn you into a closed off person. That’s just setting you up for more failure in the future. I had a series of relationships after my first marriage that I entered into with a completely open heart and then when I saw that they weren’t for me, I left again with the same open heart. When I finally met my husband, my heart was still open and ready for him. I think that made a huge difference. It’s impossible to be in a good relationship if you’ve let yourself become jaded.

  15. Great advice, I am a true story of how the second time is wayyyyy better then the first. So many people don’t realize that you have to be “right” before they meet Mr./Mrs. Learn from the mistakes made the first time, owning up to the ones you made, forgiving the ones your ex made.

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