I am different because my former spouse "went off the deep end," "had an affair," or "laid around in his underwear all day looking at porn instead of working." "I picked a better person this time, so things will be fine." How many times have we heard this kind of thinking in the mid-single community? Almost every divorce story I've heard involves a tragic tale of how the teller could have had a great marriage if not for the woefully inadequate spouse. So all of our energy in dating (if we are dating at all), is directed at looking for "red flags" that a new dating partner might inflict the same harm as a former spouse.
Is there something wrong with this picture? I think it misses two very important ideas:
1. It is tremendously self-centered. A focus on the other person's contribution to marital problems allows us to escape responsibility for our own contribution--or of the ways we might have been a better spouse. Our brains are millions of years old and they are wired for survival. This includes confidence in our own judgment. We want to be right more than we want to be happy. This can cause us to dig our heels in and fight for our positions. It also prevents the kind of honest self-reflection required to build an intentional relationship.
God said in Ether 12:27, "if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness." Why would I want to "come unto" someone or something that would show me my weakness? Why would I hold up a mirror to my own face and say, "look how ugly you are"? When we seek out friends, post-divorce, we tend to seek out people who tell us we were right and reinforce us in our opinions of ourselves and our former partners. A good coach is a mirror for you. Jesus also promised, in the same verse, that if we have the courage and faith to come unto Him and face our weakness, He will, "make weak things become strong unto them."
A good coach will help you to become more self reflective and more intentional, and will help you and your partner learn to craft agreements that will help you to build the relationship you both want. In the process, you will become more clear about the kind of relationship you want.
2. A good coach will help you to face the things you are afraid of in an atmosphere that is safe and supportive. Your first marriage (if you were previously married) inevitably shaped and molded you. It even shaped and molded your expectations of marriage. If your marriage ended in divorce, you are probably carrying a lot of fears about the things that went wrong last time. I guarantee that you have a certain amount of trauma and that you will get triggered sometimes in a new relationship (whether your response is to explode or to stuff your feelings). Figuring out how to navigate these waters together is essential to getting your new marriage off to a good start. A good coach can help you to find your footing in these matters.
You also have a more complicated life than you may have had when you married in your twenties (if you did). One or both of you may have children. Blending families comes with some tricky issues. Your kids had different rules and come from a different family culture. You may have kids coming and going at different times based on parenting plans. You will need to create a new family culture that blends elements of both prior cultures and events some new and unique things to give your blended family an identity of its own. A good coach can help you to ask the right questions and have the right discussions.
I am very open with people about the fact that Cathy and I got premarital coaching. It didn't mean that something was particularly wrong with our relationship. We just wanted to ask the right questions and be more conscious and intentional about creating a great relationship this time. It is a wise thing to do if you want to give your relationship a better chance.