As some of you know, Cathy and I each had a brief second marriage following lengthy first marriages. We disclose and discuss this in our book, Intentional Courtship. In my case, a deal breaker issue showed up a few days after I got engaged. I went ahead with the wedding because I allowed her to convince me that it was a one-time event and completely out of character. I was so invested by then that I was ready to believe almost anything. After we were married, however, the intolerable issue showed up frequently.
After trying several things to improve the marriage and a couple of very clear warnings, I left my second wife. Yep. I actually gave up on a marriage for the second time. I did not like the person I would have to become to stay with her.
I loved her and did not want to leave her. But I woke up, every day, feeling like I was living someone else's life. I was starting to sink into a very deep depression over it. I couldn't get a break from that deal breaker issue to relax and take care of myself. I was gaining weight out of control and becoming more miserable by the day at the end.
My youngest son, Henry, was living with me at the time I left my second marriage. (My oldest was on a mission at the time.) Henry and I checked into a hotel to get some sleep before we started packing and moving many of my things into a storage unit for the time being. That night, we decided to go to a movie. On the way back to our hotel, I broke down and told Henry, "I don't know how much more of this I can take. I feel like giving up." Henry was only 17 at the time, but he said "Dad, you are the most positive person I know. You can't give up." That little bit of encouragement from him did a lot to lift my spirits and help me believe I had something beautiful to give the world and a future third wife.
Most Latter-day Saint divorcees I know say they never expected to be divorced and never considered that it could happen to them. I REALLY did not expect it to happen twice.
The brief second marriage that also ends in divorce is a story I've heard a lot in the mid-singles community. Sometimes, the person rushes into a second marriage to prove something to their former spouse or because they don't know how to be alone or for financial reasons. In my case, I got married the second time almost 5 years after separating from my first wife, and I dated wife number two for a year.
I learned a lot from my brief second marriage. Here are just a few things I learned:
1. I am important. My self-care is important. I cannot and should not have to live in a situation where I am hypervigilant for abusive behavior.
2. I do not need another person's permission to take care of myself. I should not abdicate my responsibility for my own well-being because my need for peaceful calmness and other personal restoration bothers someone else.
3. I can start over again as many times as necessary. I never have to settle for a life filled with contempt, hostility, and darkness.
4. In my first marriage, I was the pursuer and my first wife was the distancer. Getting space was not a problem for me. I wanted more closeness and connection. I also wanted someone who would talk with me about problems. In my second marriage, the situation was totally reversed. I felt smothered and overwhelmed. I had been completely blind to the fact that I could be smothered in a relationship. I learned that I need time and space to restore my shalom from time to time. That includes clearing my head and gaining perspective. If someone is always in my face, I don't have time to downshift from stressed out emotions to more centered and peaceful ones. Looking back, I should have insisted on giving myself time and space. I allowed my second wife to give me guilt trips about taking time away from her, which might have made life with her more bearable.
5. Time-outs are essential for reasons previously explained.
6. I am a relentlessly positive person.
7. Radical acceptance of what is hastens emotional healing more than anything else.
If you have been divorced twice, what did you learn from your second divorce? Has it caused you to doubt your competence in relationships? Have you done serious self-reflection about what went wrong? Did you make the same mistakes in the second marriage or did you make all new ones? I would love to read your thoughts on these questions.