I’m astonished that second marriages fail at such high rates. It’s proof that evolution remains a theory; natural selection hasn’t eradicated our capacity to repeat stupid mistakes. God knows I’m a champion of marriage; the Queen and I plan to wed one day. I just don’t understand how so many are unable to make it work the second go-round. One would think that after enduring the 10th circle of Dante’s hellfire (Divorce), the canto he purposefully omitted because he couldn’t devise a ghastly enough punishment, we would have learned a thing or two before reapplying for the job.
Even with stats that give the Queen and I a three in ten chance of lasting, and continually burdened by the plague of co-parenting, we eagerly and often frustratingly await the day when we to can test those odds for ourselves. Yet this apparent snubbing of scientific evidence doesn’t mean we’re oblivious to the mountain ahead. We’ve rented enough minivans to appreciate that if an eight hour ride with four kids is painful, a lifetime under one roof will not be easier. Road trips are fresh reminders that the decision to postpone our marriage is still the right idea.
Though many take this marital holding pattern as evidence that I’m non-committal, there is a sound principle that the 70% would do well to ponder.
There’s only one thing that could prevent the Queen and I from having a great marriage – our kids. We’ve been a pseudo family long enough to know that if she and I were married right now we’d have already divorced or killed each other. This isn’t a mark on any of our children; they’re four great kids, but they don’t all share the same genes. The rules between blood siblings do not apply just because one’s mom is married to the other’s dad. The same holds true for the Queen and I; we love each other’s kids, but not as much as we love our own. And I’m convinced these two distinctions aren’t taken seriously enough in the decision to blend families.
Our youngest children are alike in many respects. Both are energetic and social and come with dominant personalities that can be controlling. They’re also similar in that they’ve struggled with the Queen’s and my relationship – neither knows how to fully process this stranger in their parent’s life. One believes any form of affection means he’s cheating on his mom while the other thinks I intend to kidnap her mother. The Queen and I have been treating this affliction with the right medicine but symptoms still linger.
It’s these experiences that have taught us if we want a successful marriage that will beat the odds we must reexamine how to factor the children. In virtually ever second marriage I’ve been witness to the kids play a secondary role. What I mean is they are merely afterthoughts; mom and dad are so caught up in the rainbows and butterflies of romance and their own happiness they pay little attention to the relationship’s impact on the kids and how that could impact the marriage.
The effects are all too common. A child can grow accustom to having a single parent all to himself and usually on his terms. It’s a perk most kids won’t give up easily. So anyone coming in to disrupt his good thing is viewed as a threat – initiate Operation Break-up. The kid wants things back to the way they were, but what he needs is the time to sort out his feelings. He needs the opportunity to run through a spectrum of emotions, to act out, fight back, argue, complain, and ultimately come to terms with his mom or dad’s new life and what that will mean for him.
But this is a basic mistake for too many parents contemplating second marriages. They rush the decision to wed and their children aren’t given the necessary time to work through all the details of what those changes mean. Kids, and especially teens, get weirded out very easily; the smallest incongruity can send their heads in a tailspin and their natural reaction is shutting themselves off while decoding the problem. It’s when when they feel caught off guard and aren’t given the time and support to navigate through those emotions that kids can and often do send a second marriage over the cliff.
The Queen and I have held off on marriage for two basic reasons. First, we want our kids, especially mine, to gain the emotional maturity to live in a blended family. Second, we want to provide them enough runway to get there. That means time and patience. So the alternative, which no one seems to comprehend, is to give our kids all the runway they need so they can get their mind around what our marriage will mean for each them.
So while we wait the Queen and I ‘date’, all the while talking to and discussing with our kids what the future will hold. Through everyday conversations we talk about our eventual marriage, how we will ultimately live together, and what our holiday celebrations should look like. We discuss what type of house we might live in and whether I will actually buy that minivan, all with the purpose of giving them a sufficient ‘head’s up’ and at the same time building some excitement for what’s to come.
I know this logic contradicts everything culture and nail salon technicians believe. It’s a sacrifice – putting our happiness on hold – and isn’t without a fair amount of frustration and a dash of resentment. But we see it as a minor irritation when framed against the bigger downside. Because in the end we have two choices, we can try, fail, and become just another statistic that made another stupid mistake or we can do things differently and be ones who defeated the odds.