Prior to our marriage 26 years ago, Joe and I were asked by a friend, "Aren’t you going to get premarital counselling?"
"Oh, we don’t need it," I said with confidence. "We’ve both decided that our past mistakes prepared us for remarriage better than a class ever could."
We were wrong. Within months, we experienced the first of three separations. Even after becoming Christians a few years later, we continued to struggle in our marriage and separated for two years before our final reconciliation in 1990. Then after a long season of healing and through the prompting of our pastor, we started helping others whose marriages were in crisis.
Today, we are in full-time marriage ministry. More than half of the couples who contact us for help have had a divorce, and many are on their third marriages. Like us, most had misconceptions about remarriage and were ill-equipped to face the challenges.
Remarriage expectations are numerous, but here are three myths we hear most often before couples marry again:
Our remarriage will succeed because we took premarital classes at our church. The truth is, most churches use material geared for first-time marriage. Consequently, issues such as ex-spouses, ex-in-laws, financial problems stemming from divorce, emotional baggage from a failed marriage and much more never get addressed.
Our remarriage will make it because we lived together first and we really know each other. The truth is, the divorce rate is very high for couples who live together. One study found that the divorce rate is at least 50 per cent higher for couples who live together first. Mike McManus, founder of Marriage Savers and author of Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers, says, "What many call a ‘trial marriage’ should be called a ‘trial divorce.’ The only question is whether they break up before the wedding or after."
Our remarriage will work because my new spouse is so different from my previous spouse. Most people remarry without dealing with the issues that caused their previous marriage to end. If you have never taken time to understand how you contributed to your divorce, your new spouse may be different than your ex-spouse, but you are still the same.
Happily ever after?
Because engaged couples want to believe their remarriage will succeed, they are optimistically biased toward myths that create hope. But once the honeymoon is over and challenges specific to remarriage surface, pessimism creeps in.
We’ve noticed that couples tend to believe three myths that fuel hopelessness:
Now that we have marriage problems, we are doomed. Yes, the divorce rate is higher for couples in a remarriage, but there is plenty of help available today. Your marriage can be saved when you focus on God and get the help you need.
Because I haven’t bonded with my stepchildren, I will always be an outsider in this family. Don’t be disheartened if things are still messy in your blended family relationships. Hang in there. In almost every stepfamily we know, including ours, the sense of family grows and strengthens over time.
I can never serve God because of my divorce and remarriage. God uses people with repentant hearts – regardless of their pasts – to spread the good news and help others. Many churches realise that the very ones who can help couples avoid divorce or walk alongside abandoned spouses are those who understand the devastation first-hand.
The beautiful reality? Once you have an intact remarriage with God at the centre, you will be uniquely qualified to help others in their marriages, too.
© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.