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Third Time Isn’t Always the Charm: Divorce More Likely After Second and Third Marriages

Publish Date: 11/12/2013

We have all heard the statistic that in the United States, nearly 50% of all first marriages end in divorce. Although the accuracy of this statistic may be disputed by some, data that may be harder to dispute is that second and third marriages are more likely to fail than first marriages. According to some studies, 67% or second marriages and 73% of third marriages in the United States end in divorce. The question that naturally evolves from these numbers is: "Why?" It would seem that for many, a first marriage, even though it did not work out, would offer certain learning experiences that could be used to enhance a second or even a third marriage. But apparently, according to the above cited statistics, this is not so. Let's discuss some theories that may explain this occurrence.

The Rebound

One of the most common theories concerning why the divorce rate seems to be higher among second and third marriages is that people tend to enter a second or third marriage "on the rebound" of a first or second divorce. After the end of their previous marriage, individuals are often very vulnerable, hurt and lonely, and they do not allow sufficient time to recover from their divorce prior to walking down the aisle again. If a second or third marriage is entered into too soon after a divorce, the marriage may be entered into for the wrong reasons, and it is more likely that the individuals entering into the marriage may repeat the mistakes of the previous marriage because they have not had time to heal and learn from the mistakes of the prior marriage.

Time to Leave

The higher rate of divorce among second and third marriages may not always be due to negative reasons. For example, those who have navigated divorce previously understand that divorce may be hard, but it is manageable and it is not the end of the world. They also may be better able to the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship earlier than they did first time around and are quicker to react, either by seeking to repair the relationship or by seeking to end the marriage though divorce if the circumstance is irreparable.

The Walls Go Up

Divorce hurts, not only emotionally by financially as well. After going through the experience of divorce, many seek to protect themselves emotionally and financially in their second and third marriages. Although this may seem like the only rational course of action, especially in light of their prior experiences, this actually may do more harm than good. When walls go up, especially emotional ones, it is hard for both spouses to fully commit to the relationship. When financial walls go up, marital contention may ensue due to disagreement or fights concerning how finances will be handled in the marriage. Entering into a premarital agreement may be a good way to resolve this issue. However, the topic of entering in to a prenuptial agreement may cause contention in itself.

The Kids

Although this last theory may seem counter intuitive, children may be another reason that second or third marriages tend to end in divorce more often. Generally, couples tend not to have children during their subsequent marriages. This is most often the case, because many have children their first marriages. The lack of the parent child bond may make it more likely for couples to call it quits during a rough patch, because there is no concern over how the divorce may impact the children.

Additionally, the presence of children from previous marriages or relationships may also cause problems and lead to tension. Having to adjust to your spouse's children and his or her relationship with them is often difficult for couples. Conflict may arise over how to raise the children, or what role the step parent should play in the children's lives.

Statistics may indicate that the chances that a second or third marriage will survive the test of time are not great. However, there are several people who move on to healthy and happy subsequent marriages. If you are a divorce' use your prior marriage as a learning experience, and make you next marriage the lifelong friendship it is meant to be.


Family Law (general)
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