Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Gary Smalley of smalley.cc.
If you are preparing for remarriage or helping couples prepare for remarriage, you need to know there are many unique circumstances and situations that make remarried hearts more vulnerable to confusion, hurt, anger and conflict than hearts looking forward to being joined in a first marriage.
If you’re already remarried, you probably know exactly what we mean.
Closed for Business
When a marriage ends because of death or divorce, it leaves a void, an empty space in the heart, whether you experienced the loss or were the one who did the leaving.
Regardless of how a marriage ends, it causes devastation, even when it is accompanied by a feeling of relief.
When a loss of such magnitude is suffered, people react in a variety of ways to try to fill the now-empty space inside or to dull the guilt and pain of the consequences that came with their actions. Some numb the pain with alcohol drugs, food, work, television or any other method or substance they can think of to escape. Some let their anger take over the space inside, growing roots of bitterness toward a former spouse and dead-bolting the doors of their heart. The most common way that most people fill the void left by a spouse who is no longer there is to jump too quickly into a new romantic relationship.
Talk to remarried couples about what they did right and wrong during their courtship. Find out how they feel they could have better prepared for remarriage.
The problem with all of these misguided efforts is that they cut off the healing process and keep the heart in pain—but the one in agony doesn’t know it!
The “good” feelings induced by alcohol, drugs and even food, or the emotional high of receiving affection and admiration from a new person form a nice, neat scab over the heart’s gaping wounds. But without taking time to clean out the heart first, the deep emotional wounds will eventually fester and hearts will become closed for business
Shortcuts Short Circuit Healing
There is no way to get around one universal truth: Healing takes time.
Lots of it.
In the national video-based series DivorceCare, founder Steve Grissom and other experts say it takes years, perhaps as many as five to seven years, to fully recover from divorce. Yet in the United States, three-fourths of those who divorce legally remarry, and most of them do it within four years of their divorce.
In fact, some statistics show that about one-third of those who divorce remarry within a year!
When crucial healing time is short-circuited by remarriage, the probability that the new marriage will fail increases greatly. Why? Because wounded, broken hearts can’t really bond to another person until they are healed and transformed. Plus, remarriage comes with so much change and conflict that additional wounds are inflicted on spouses’ hearts.
In the midst of remarriage, there is no time to heal from the original hurts caused by divorce or death, let alone try to recover from the new hurts now piling up. Remarrying too soon after the end of a marriage is a recipe for disaster. In fact, any new romantic relationship that comes within two years of the death of a spouse or divorce will most likely lead to additional pain, conflict and heart damage.
If you are reading these words as you prepare for remarriage and it hasn’t been two years or more since your divorce or the loss of your spouse, please don’t think we are judging you or that you should stop reading now. And if you have already remarried soon after divorce, bear with us. You can still heal and have fully open, loving hearts in your remarriage.
We just believe that it will be a far more difficult task for you to accomplish. You will have to work doubly hard, because when you are already in a remarriage, it is a challenge to love your spouse and the kids, when you also need to heal your own heart. All of these will have to work in tandem, and it may feel like climbing Mt. Everest!
It can be done, but it will be painful, perhaps excruciating at times.
Adjust your expectations about the time it takes to heal. Don’t try to rush the grieving and healing process.
If you are on the verge of remarriage or hope to remarry one day, you are in the best position possible to allow healing. Take that time! The years it takes to fully heal are not a curse of loneliness because your marriage ended. No, you should begin to see them as a time of exciting opportunity to rediscover (or discover for the first time) your relationship with a higher power possibly, to focus on the fascinating person you can be, and to create a life that will complement a future spouse, not depend on a new mate for happiness. Those who use healing time wisely find that their lives are fuller, richer, and more satisfying when they enter remarriage. Plus, the hearts of their new spouses, children, and stepchildren will be safer for it.
If you are in a remarriage and are wanting some encouragement and advice, please look into attending Gary and Greg’s upcoming live webinar September 2nd. You can find out more information about the webinar here.