Second marriages are challenging, this has been statistically proven. The odds of divorce for second marriages are higher, especially when children are involved.
When my husband, Bob and I first met, I kind of blew him off. I know, it sounds awful, but I did. We met one another at a sushi restaurant for the first time (we had been given each other’s numbers from mutual co-workers), so neither of us were really sure what to expect. My husband reminds me of a fox, camouflaging with his surroundings, watching everything happening around him in silence, often without being noticed. Opening doors, hanging on my every word, he was a gentleman. I felt the conversation lagged, unless I kept it going. He was a nice guy -nicer than I was accustomed to- and I really did not give him much of a chance. About a month went by, and after another guy was a jerk to me, I decided to give him another chance. I sent him a text. One thing Bob said to me that I’ve never forgotten, and probably what sealed the deal as far as my agreeing to a second date: I know you have met a lot of assholes and men haven’t always treated you very well, but there are some nice guys still out there. I can tell you this all day long and I know it won’t do me any good. I’ll have to show you, so as long as you will let me that is what I’m going to do.
A man had never said anything like that to me before and I was curious to see if he was serious. Over the next few months we both fell in love quickly. He not only read everything I wrote, he also read books I loved so we could discuss them. We went out frequently, regardless of what night it happened to fall on. He left little notes hidden in drawers and cabinets for me to find, brought flowers every time the last bouquet turned brittle, and he listened to me. The last one was the biggest deal to me. He REALLY listened, not with the glazed over look some men get when you talk to them, but he gave me his full undivided attention. Bob and I could and did talk about anything and everything. Three months after we started dating I had my first hip surgery, and he took care of me. I waited three months before introducing him to my girls, and was actually planning to wait a little longer the day it happened. They both loved him right away. Jumping right in to the whole parenting thing, he poured himself into us. All of us.
I like to think I am not a completely naïve person. I thought my second marriage would be so much easier than my first, mainly because our relationship seemed so perfect in the beginning. I never believed my ex was the primary cause for all of our marital issues. I have always accepted responsibility for at least half of our issues.
“Having a mate is like holding a mirror up to yourself. You see both how good you look and how much emotional surgery is required. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. The fairy-tale notion of happily-ever-after that we’ve all bought into is indeed a tale and nothing like real love.” -Oprah
Five months after our first date, he proposed to me and I said yes. We took a year to plan the wedding. Several people warned me it was way too quick, but I knew in my heart I did not want to live a life without him. I didn’t need to date other men to know what I wanted. We made it through a year of planning a wedding, in the midst of two more hip surgeries, recovery (he shaved my legs and painted my toenails for me), sick kids, and a new sibling (the other house). My youngest freaked out a little as the date approached, and the stress of everything took a toll on our nerves. Two weeks before the big day, my cat of thirteen years died. Bob found her in the hallway. A symphony of other things happened, challenging all of us up until our wedding day. The DJ we originally hired decided to send a total stranger to us, who turned out to be the worst DJ ever! We fired him in the middle of the reception. Half of our “dream wedding” went off the rails and I cried more than once -not only happy tears. When I remember our wedding I think of my sweet friend, Richard, and how he stood up for me when some of the guests were being less than nice to me. I think of our other friends, Mike and Jeremy, who yelled at the joke of a DJ for us. Mike told him to leave, and Jeremy set up his own speakers to finish off the music. I remember dancing with my father who has now passed on to the other side, and how hard he laughed as we watched the photograph stalk us on the dance floor.
I felt like I won the relationship lottery. I had a man who adored me for exactly who I was; a wonderfully flawed, sometimes annoying, frustratingly stubborn, and at times very closed off person. Bob saw the very best parts of me even when he shaved my legs and painted my toenails post-hip replacement. No man had never taken care of me the way he did. He treated me like the most precious thing in his entire world, and I could see the love in his eyes. I felt completely and totally loved by him every single day. His love made me want to be the best person I could be and to try to make him feel as special as he made me feel.
I can be blindly optimistic, which leads to disappointment and heartbreak sometimes. Magic can be found on the fringe of heartbreak, in between the cracks hidden away like treasure. You never would have found it if you had not been down in the dirt in the first place. I knew what happened to my first marriage; we had both grown apart and given up. I thought, I found the perfect man for me, and now I know better so I will do better. We will stay this happy couple who never fights and always finishes each other’s sentences. What I was soon reminded was, marriage is NOT easy. Life got really messy and we were tossed down into the dirt. Someone hurt one of our kids. It led to the loss of family members in our lives, which led to so much pain. Months later, my father died. I was devastated. Our dog died. Bob was heartbroken. As soon as wounds began to scab over, the first thing would resurface again, ripping the pain wide open all over again. My brother-in-law (Jeff’s brother) passed away. My girls, Jeff and his family, and all of us were shocked and dismayed. My health issues multiplied and our priorities changed. Factor in another household with added opinions, the stress of work, plus a pre-teen girl and a teen girl who fight my husband for my attention, and you have the perfect storm. There are many days I feel I can’t win.
Negative thoughts are like dandelions. They multiply rapidly, until one day you can no longer see the grass through all of the weeds. I found myself slipping into old patterns with my husband, and he developed some of his own. Communication began breaking down and walls were built. Some of the things we both did for one another in the first two years faded. We stopped going out as much, and I worried about where we were headed. Other couples I know who are on their second marriages have started to separate and get divorced. I’ve counted three couples so far.
“Love cannot survive if you just give it scraps of yourself, scraps of your time, scraps of your thoughts.” -Mary O’Hara
My husband and I just celebrated our four-year anniversary last week. The photos above are the gifts we gave to one another for our anniversary. The one on top is a copper wallet insert that I had personalized; it contains a line from his wedding vows to me, so he will always be reminded of how much I love him. The missing heart was made into a necklace for me, engraved with B+T. I wanted to give him something to show him I’m in for whatever comes next. The ring on the bottom is from my husband, and it means so much to me.
The last four years have been full of challenges, battles, and pain. In the midst of all of those things were endless laughs, passionate kisses, comforting hugs, long talks, and two growing girls we are blessed to parent together in spite of the drama.
Relationships are complex. I think the biggest and most important lesson in life is self-love, self-forgiveness, and self-acceptance. How can you have a successful relationship with another person if you don’t like what you see in the mirror? My ex and I let our relationship go on too long without attention, and the one connection was neither of us were happy with ourselves at the time. We divorced, we grew, we changed, and we moved on. This time I recognize the signs. My marriage is not failing, it is growing and changing along with us. As long as we continue to evolve together, to nurture one another in the things that teach and challenge us, I know everything will be okay. I love the man I married deeply. No matter what life brings our way, I feel so much better with him by my side. The truth is, the love between us is still there, everyone else is just louder and we get lost in all of their noise. I think the challenge for any relationship is to remember who you both are as individuals, why you fell in love in the first place, and to continue falling for one another in spite of all of the other noise. Find your own quiet rhythm together.
“There are a lot of little divorces that have to occur for a good marriage to last. Barbie Doll and Fantasizing Hubby didn’t last. We did because we were able to discard them.” -Julia Alvarez
Wedding photos by Spilker Portraits.
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of twelve and sixteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. In addition to Family Fusion Community, Trish is also the owner and creator of Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed, A photographic adventure in the abandoned and forgotten. She is a regular feature writer on Her View From Home, a lifestyle magazine that connects your view to the rest of the world. Trish Eklund has an essay, Happy Endings, in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz. The first book telling the story of blended family life from the perspective of the stepkids. Trish revisits the rocky relationship with her own stepmom, one of the main reasons she is so determined to co-parent with her children’s stepmom, and her own idea of a happy ending. The book is available on Amazon for Kindle now! To preorder the print copy: Barnes & Noble. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, and www.bigblendedfamily.com. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.