There is always a danger when two roads merge; warning signs and flashing lights signal to drivers the peril lying ahead. It’s only through awareness, patience, and diligence that collisions are avoided. Remarriage shares similar risks as two divergent and often complicated pasts join into one shared future.
It’s not lost on the Queen or I that the majority of second marriages fail, miserably. Nor have we ignored the reality of how those numbers get worse when kids are involved. Our future as husband and wife, on stats alone, is rather bleak; in fact, we’ve got about a 20% chance of making it past five years.
Those odds leave us three choices; just don’t get married, simply ignore the data and press ahead, or we can approach our marriage from different angle than everyone else. Since the day she and I met, our relationship has seemed odd to most. Our first date was at church, after five years we still don’t live together, and we’ve never had sleepovers with the kids. That’s prehistoric by most measures, but has worked out pretty well up to now so we’ll continue to play it weird.
Shortly after our engagement she and I decided to begin reading a ‘how-to’ for engaged couples. The one chosen isn’t written for engaged divorced single parents (none are) so we improvise in spots. I’ll read a chapter during most of our nights together then we’ll talk it out, ask questions, and try to learn something new about each other. A few of the topics are of little use for our situation but others open up considerations and conversations that may have never happened otherwise.
Writing this new series has two purposes. First, I hope it will remain a gentle reminder for the Queen and I as married life wears on. Second, that it might give other divorced dating couples something to think about if they consider remarriage.
Every relationship begins on a blank canvas; and much like the painter, we stare at it expectantly in the hopes of what ‘might be’. Could this become the masterpiece we believe, and many have said, is in us? Will we finally have something worthy of our walls and the adoration of others? Yet there’s a wariness, even fatigue, because we’ve stood in front of this easel before only to set the brush aside and throw the spent canvas into the fire- a fire fueled by heart break and brokenness.
It’s the neglected pain and disappointment from our past relationships that can bleed into our new ones. If a couple isn’t careful it becomes easy to paint that pristine canvas in shades of past mistakes and the hues of other’s sins. These seeds of assumption and expectation, sown most often by the betrayal and lies of others, can take root and creep into new a relationship strangling the life from it.
The Queen and I both have ideas about how a great marriage should work. Some of those expectations are grounded in truth; others are the result of someone else’s wrongdoing, lessons (expectations) learned because of another’s sins. That’s the interesting thing about expectations; most are vaguely self-centered and demanded of the other person – painting in colors from the past.
Recently she and I went through an exercise trying to understand some of those anticipations. She shared three expectations that she has of me (I hope you will always….) , and in turn, I shared three expectations she should have of me (I can expect me to always….), and vice versa. The first was easy. The second, however, proved to be nerve wracking, for obvious reasons. How often do we tell a partner or wife, when it comes to our marriage, what she should expect from us?
The experience was eye opening. It gave me a better understanding of what she believes makes a marriage work, those expectations of me and of herself reveal what is most important to her in a relationship. Furthermore, it affirmed what made her to fall in love me in the first place and what she needs from me to continue feeling loved. I also realized that simply talking about this openly adds a level of accountability that wouldn’t be there if I simply take for granted that she already knows. To hear myself telling her what I will do is far different that merely thinking it.
I had to admit a few times I was looking at our relationship and soon-to-be marriage through the lens of my past relationship failures. I caught myself attempting to paint our canvas with the dark colors of bitterness and resentment from another’s past sins, and putting these things into words showed me just how ridiculous, selfish, and unrealistic some of my expectations were.
I think, as couples, we underestimate just how dangerous our expectations, especially those we have about marriage, can really be, and we forget how important it is to act intentionally and talk openly, honestly, and regularly about those anticipations and expectations – if we hope to always paint with the colors of our own choosing.
Click here to read other posts in the series.