A key to a successful second marriage can be understanding the ‘baggage’ both of you bring

By Liz Paul, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

Second marriages are 20% more likely to fail than first marriages. Why is that?  

In my experience, it’s because each partner typically brings more ‘baggage’ to a second marriage than they did their first.

And this extra baggage, with all the stress and frustration it causes, can sometimes be the difference between a happy second marriage and a failure.

Here are a few common examples of baggage:

1. You might not fully trust your new partner because you were betrayed in a previous marriage.  This might mean you are unnecessarily suspicious of your new partner’s actions e.g. if they stay at work late.

2. You might prioritise your children above your new partner because you want to protect them, particularly if they were emotionally hurt by your divorce.  This is understandable, but your new partner might not like playing second or third fiddle for too long.

3. Your partner’s children may not like you parenting them, and could be upset if they think you are trying to replace their other parent.  The children might then try to drive a wedge between you and your new partner.  This can cause a lot of friction between you and your new partner, so it’s important the two of you discuss what role, if any, you will have in the parenting of their children, and for your partner to support you in that role.

4. You may not be comfortable being totally vulnerable with your new partner if your ex-partner was non-responsive, disdainful or insensitive when you showed vulnerability, and this can ultimately cause trust and intimacy issues in your second marriage.

5. There may be ongoing stress for you and your new partner caused by one or both of your ex-partners, for example if there are disagreements around co-parenting their children, or if there is residual anger caused by a toxic divorce.

6.  Money issues can also be a thorn in the side of a second marriage.  For example, you might not be happy that your new partner is paying a large amount of spouse/child maintenance, or that they came into the second marriage with a lot of debt.

As with any marriage, the key to managing these issues successfully is for both of you to communicate openly and regularly.  Discuss your expectations and your fears, agree on required actions, support your partner, respect your partner’s opinions, and be forgiving when one of you makes a mistake.

What are the issues for which most people seek assistance?

  • Relationship break-ups
  • Constantly fighting with your partner
  • Loss of intimacy with your partner
  • Communication problems with your partner or child
  • Difficulty parenting toddlers or teens
  • Pre-marriage counselling
  • A child misbehaving
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Family counselling
  • Wanting to separate from their partner amicably
  • Helping the children cope after a relationship break-up
  • Trouble staying in relationships
  • HSC stress for students and their families
  • Relationship commitment issues
  • Problems at work
  • Couple counselling
  • Difficulties with step-children
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Problems with in-laws
  • Substance addiction
  • Facing major life changes
  • Making new life choices
  • Relationship counselling