Is your past bleeding into your marriage?
A while ago one of you suggested I say something to the men who are in their second marriage (or third, or …). As I have only been married once, I don’t have personal experience with this. However, I am my bride’s second marriage, and I’ve talked with plenty of men and women married more than once, so I know some of the issues.
The bottom line is you need to be honest. Your current wife is not your first, and the first set some standards (be they good or bad) and expectations (good and bad). Additionally, you developed habits, and given we are creatures of habit, some of those will show up even if you don’t want them to. The odds of you calling her by your first wife’s name are high (remember all the kids in kindergarten who called the teacher “mommy”?). This does not mean you wish you were with your first wife, nor does it mean she was better. It means your brain found the wrong bit of information. Explaining that won’t help much, but it’s true, and it should help some. Other habits and automatic responses are going to be less obvious – especially to her – but may be far more harmful. Your first wife was not the expression of all women or even of the average woman – she was herself. Your current wife is the same, and there are significant differences between the two. Do not EVER assume you know something about your current bride because you had it figured out with your first wife.
It might seem like a good idea to gripe about your first wife; surely it will make your current lady feel she is better. However, as discussed in Should I thank or forgive her?, complaining about others does not make you the kind of person anyone enjoys being with. Besides, if all you do is complain about the first wife, your current wife may wonder what you say about her behind her back.
I do think a good long talk about your relationship with your first wife – an honest discussion of the good, the bad, and the I-don’t-even-want-to-think-about-it. It will help your bride understand you, and will clue her in as to why certain things cause you to twitch. Just don’t make bad mouthing the previous wife your new hobby!
What about sex? Odds are you enjoyed sex with your first bride at one time. Maybe you enjoyed it a lot. That’s okay, and you don’t need to feel bad about it or hide it. Of course it’s not good pillow talk with the lady who shares your bed now. It should be part of the conversation I mentioned above, but only part, and focused on what she needs to know to understand you. As with other things, your current lady is not the same sexually as the one(s) you have been with before. She won’t like some of what your first wife liked, and will like some things the first one did not like. That special guaranteed move you had with the first wife probably won’t work as well, if at all, with the second. You need to be ready to set aside something you really liked before because it’s not good for the women you are with now. The words you used for sex in your first marriage are not the best possible words, so don’t get hung up on using them. In addition, your current bride does not owe you ANYTHING for what the first one may have “done” to you. You start from zero, not with a deficit to be repaid.
If you lost your first wife to death rather than divorce, things are both easier and more difficult. Your second wife may feel she is a replacement, or feel she is always being checked to see if she measures up. A friend of mine who recently announced he was marrying again after losing his first wife did it so very well by telling the world he was twice blessed in marriage with two wonderful women. He honoured the first, and told everyone the second was not a replacement, but another unique and wonderful provision from his Daddy (God). If you are married again after the death of your first wife, be clear to everyone, including your new bride, this woman is your wife, you are her husband, and you are dedicated to being the best husband you can be for her.
Finally, regardless of why you have a second wife, it’s your job to make sure your family treats her right. Those who can’t have made a choice not against her, but against the two of you as a couple. Warn once, privately, and then start to make distance as necessary. You are married, and you are supposed to leave and cleave – again.