10 Things to Know Before You Remarry
In the late 1800’s, remarriage was very common in the U.S. In fact, it was as common as it is today. Surprised? It’s true. But consider a key difference between remarriage then and now. In early America, remarriage usually came about because of the death of one spouse. The average marriage only lasted seven years before one of the partners died. Today, however, remarriage usually follows divorce. A full 75% of divorced persons will remarry, most within three or four years, making nearly half (46%) of weddings a remarriage for one or both of the partners 1.

As someone who specializes in Christian stepfamily education and pre-remarital counseling, I wish we could make remarriage in our churches a very difficult task (especially for the 65% that involve children from a previous relationship). I propose this not just because of scriptural reasons (some remarriages close the door on a possible reconciliation of the first marriage; see 1 Corinthians 7: 10-11), but primarily because stepfamily living is extremely challenging. Couples should carefully count the costs and be highly educated about the struggles and tasks of building a successful stepfamily—before they leap.

The Reality
Nearly half of children will watch their parents divorce; half of those children will watch at least one parent divorce a second time. Why? Because the remarriage divorce rate is at least 60% 2. Why is it higher than the first marriage divorce rate? One key reason has to do with the complicated relationship issues in stepfamilies: parenting stepchildren, loyalties, ex-spouses, multiple households, and unique barriers to marital oneness. The reality is that stepcoupling is tough—and not many survive it. Singles need to know that remaining single is a viable option for them and their children and that remarriage generally complicates life for everyone in a stepfamily—at least initially. Then, only stable, long-term stepfamilies bring about emotional and spiritual blessings that outweigh the struggles.
For remarriages with children to succeed, single ministries and pre-remarital training must raise the awareness of parents as to the challenges of stepfamily living. And they need to be given practical tools to help them create a harmonious family. They need us to open both their eyes and equip them for the road ahead.

Eyes Wide Open
The following list represents key "costs" and "challenges" every single-parent (or those dating a single-parent) should know before deciding to remarry. Your role in ministering to singles must include educating them as to these basic dynamics.

1. Wait 2-3 years following divorce or the death of your spouse before seriously dating.
No, I’m not kidding. Most people need a few years to fully heal from the ending of a previous relationship. Moving into new relationships short-circuits the healing process. So do yourself a favor and grieve the pain, don’t run from it. In addition, your children will need at least this much time to heal and find stability in their visitation schedule. Slow down.

2. Date two years before deciding to marry; then date the other’s children before the wedding.
Dating two years gives you time to really get to know one another. Too many relationships are formed on the rebound when both persons lack godly discernment about their fit with a new person. Give yourself plenty of time to get to know them thoroughly. Keep in mind—and this is very important—that dating is inconsistent with remarried life. Even if everything feels right, dramatic psychological and emotional shifts often take place for children, parents, and stepparents right after the wedding. What seems like smooth sailing can become a rocky storm in a hurry. Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t experience difficulties. As one parent said, "Falling in love is not enough when it comes to remarriage; there’s just more required than that."

When you do become serious about marriage, date with the intention of deepening the steppparent-stepchild relationships. Young children can attach themselves to a future stepparent rather quickly, so make sure you’re serious before spending lots of time together. Older children will need more time. In fact, research suggests that the best time to remarry is before a child’s 10th birthday or after his/her 16th; couples who marry between those years collide with the teens developmental needs.

3. Know how to cook a stepfamily.
Most people think the way to cook a stepfamily is with a blender ("blended family"), microwave, pressure cooker, or food processor. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of these "cooking styles" attempt to combine the family ingredients in a rapid fashion. Unfortunately, resentment and frustration are the only results.

The way to cook a stepfamily is with a crock-pot. Once thrown into the pot, it will take time and low-heat to bring ingredients together, requiring that adults step into a new marriage with determination and patience. The average stepfamily takes 5-7 years to combine; some take longer. There are no quick recipes, only dedicated journeyman.

4. Realize that the "honeymoon" comes at the end of the journey for remarried couples, not the beginning.
Ingredients thrown into a crock-pot that have not had sufficient time to cook don’t taste good—and might make you sick. Couples need to understand that the rewards of stepfamily life (e.g., security, family identity, and gratitude for one another) come at the end of the journey. Just as the Israelites traveled a long time before entering the Promise Land, so will it be for your stepfamily. Be patient and trust God to lead your journey.

5. Consider the loss issues of children.
Children experience numerous losses before entering a stepfamily. In fact, your remarriage is another. It sabotages their fantasy that mom and dad can reconcile, or that a deceased parent will always hold a unique place in the home. Seriously consider your children’s losses before deciding to remarry. If waiting till your children leave home before you remarry is not an option, work to be sensitive to your child’s loss issues. Don’t rush them and don’t take their grief away.

6. Manage and be sensitive to old loyalties.
Even in the best of circumstances children feel torn between their biological parents and likely feel that enjoying your dating partner will please you but betray their other parent. Don’t force children to make choices (an "emotional tug-of-war") and examine the binds they feel. Give them your permission to love and respect new people in the other home and let them warm up to your new spouse in their own time.

7. Don’t expect your partner (new spouse) to feel the same about your children as you do.
It’s a good fantasy, but stepparents won’t experience or care for your children to the same degree as you do. This is not to say that stepparents and stepchildren can’t have close bonds—they can. But it won’t be the same. When looking at your daughter, you will see a sixteen-year-old who brought you mud pies when they were four and showered you with hugs each night after work. Your spouse will see a self-centered brat who won’t abide by the house rules. Expect to have different opinions and to disagree on parenting decisions.

8. Realize that remarriage has unique barriers.
Are you more committed to your children or your marriage? If you aren’t willing to risk losing your child to the other home, for example, don’t make the commitment of marriage. Making a covenant does not mean neglecting your kids, but it does mean that they are taught which relationship is your ultimate priority. A marriage that is not the priority will be mediocre at best.
Another unique barrier involves the ghost of marriage past. Individuals can be haunted by the negative experiences of previous relationships and not even recognize how it is impacting the new marriage. Work to not interpret the present in light of the past, or you might be destined to repeat it.

9. Parent as a team; get your plan ready.
No single challenge is more predictive of stepfamily success than the ability of the couple to parent as a team. Stepparents must find their role, know their limits in authority, and borrow power from the biological parent in order to contribute to parental leadership. Biological parents must keep alive their role as primary disciplinarian and nurturer while supporting the stepparent’s developing role (read The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family for a complete discussion of parental roles). Managing these roles will not be easy; get a plan and stick together.

10. Know what to tell the kids. Tell them:
• It’s okay to be confused about the new people in your life.
• It’s okay to be sad about our divorce (or parent’s death).
• You need to find someone safe to talk to about all this.
• You don’t have to love my new spouse, but you do need to treat them with the same respect you would give a coach or teacher at school.
• You don’t have to take sides. When you feel caught in the middle between our home and your other home, please tell me and we’ll stop.
• You belong to two homes with different rules, routines, and relationships. Find your place and contribute good things in each.
• The stress of our new home will reduce—eventually.
• I love you and will always have enough room in my heart for you. I know it’s hard sharing me with someone else. I love you.

Work Smarter, Not Harder
For stepfamilies, accidentally finding their way through the wilderness to the Promised Land is a rarity. Successful navigation requires a map. Encourage the singles you work with to work smarter, not harder, at a new relationship. Discourage them from beginning a new family until they educate themselves on the options and challenges that lie ahead.

Key Resource: The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron L. Deal, Bethany House Publishers, 1992. Includes discussion questions for groups and questions for pre-remarital couples considering remarriage.

1 According to the US Bureau of Statistics, 1995
2 Norton, A.J. & Miller, L.F. (1992). Marriage, divorce and remarriage in the 1990's. Current Population.

About the Author: Ron L. Deal, M.MFT. is author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family. He is family life minister for the Southwest Church of Christ and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor with the Better Life Counseling Center, Inc. in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He also serves on the Institute Faculty of the Stepfamily Association of America. Find Christian resources for church and home at www.SuccessfulStepfamilies.com.

THIS is very interesting and seems to be very good
advice for all considered.

I thought it was good advice but, then I've never been in that situation. I do know that quite often some divorced singles in our group will get married and then in a year or two will be back with us. So, yes, I think these 10 things would certainly be good to remember when one is involved in a serious relationship. They are something to measure a relationship by.

WELL since I have been married and divoriced I
can relate to some of these

For #1, I wouldn't say to wait 2-3 years, I would say wait at least 2-3 years, preferably 5 years before seriously dating. A couple of divorced men friends told me that their counsellors told them that it takes 5 years to heal from a divorce. I think part of the poor success rate for second marriages is that people jump into them before they have healed and learned how to do things differently. They take the same toxic habits into the new relationship that contributed to the breakdown of the first relationship. I know that many people get defensive when I say this. They figure it was all the ex's fault: he/she was abusive, he/she cheated, etc, etc, etc. We all have faults and I do not believe that there is any such thing as a divorce being 100% the fault of one spouse. Even if your only fault was in picking that type of person in the first place. You have to get to the bottom of why you were attracted to that kind of person so that it won't happen again.
So, definitely take the time to heal.

THANK you for posting your comments and thoughts

Yes, these are some very important things to remember before you remarry.  I have someone who remarried 2 times and still struggles.  Sometimes we marry to complete ourselves but, shouldn't we marry to contribute something to a relationship?  What do you think?
Make it Happen! :-)
If you were divorced and wanted to remarry, would you consider some of these 10 things before you remarried?  Love to hear your thoughts on this.
Make it Happen! :-)

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