While no one gets married with the expectation of divorce, many studies suggest that about half of us will end up that way. So what will become of those folks? Many will re-marry or chose to be in committed partnerships of one sort or another. Is that wise? Will that work? Are they naive? I certainly hope not. As an attachment-based therapist I truly believe that it is in our DNA to form deep and abiding bonds with others. I think we simply cannot avoid the drive to do so. And romantic bonds, for many of us, fulfills that need. So I expect that even though a person may have been through one or even two divorces they may at some point want to "try, try again".
Sadly research does tell us that they may have a tough row to hoe. I think it's important to look at the data and try to learn what we can about how to help folks who are attempting to build another significant relationship after perhaps not being so successful the first time. Studies show us that divorce amongst first marriages are 40-50%. Women most often leave and there has been a trend for the past 20 years for less divorce amongst higher socio-economic households compared to lower ones. Divorce amongst second marriages rises to somewhere between 60-67% and in third marriages is a depressing 70-73%.
What can be made of these statistics? The increase in divorce rates as we move from one relationship to another is thought by many researchers to be due in large part to children. In first marriages the children are usually a product of that union. Therefore they can exert a stabilizing influence in the couple as both parents try to "stay together for the kids". Extended family may also exert this influence, giving messages that they want the family to stay together. In second and third unions children and extended families exert completely different effects. Children in these households are often not the product of the marriage. They are instead part of a blended-family, one in which parents may have stronger ties to their own children than to the children they inherit with the marriage. This can lead to skewed alliances in which each partner chooses their own children over their spouse. Additionally there may be less felt pressure to keep this union together for the sake of the children since the children are not of that union. And finally there are now often ex-spouses involved, along with their families of origin, who can be most unwelcoming to the new partner.
So what can be done about these grim statistics? I have a few recommendations based on my years of working with couples.
Wishing you health and happiness in your connections to others,
Krista Jordan, Ph.D., ABPP
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