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I was married for about a year and a half before my wife and I divorced. It’s been about a year since the divorce, and I’ve dated off and on. I haven’t found anybody interesting, and my ex-wife and I have started talking again. We are thinking about getting remarried in a few months, and I was wondering if I could get some advice on how to better my marriage, to her or to anybody else, so it doesn’t happen again. We had a lot of communication problems, and that seem to be the reason why we divorced. But, we are doing better in communicating. We want to work this out.
First, are you sure you’re ready to remarry your ex-wife? You don’t sound so certain. If you’re only getting back with her because you couldn’t find anyone more interesting than her, then please don’t remarry her. She doesn’t need to be your backup plan.
Remarrying a former spouse isn’t a straightforward issue. There are many questions that need to be answered thoroughly before you jump back into marriage. The reasons you divorced matter. Was there a betrayal? If your marriage ended because of a betrayal, has that been resolved? You mentioned communication problems. What have each of you done in the past year or so to address your struggle with communication? What have you learned about since your divorce? What has she learned about herself?
I’m supportive of any couple that wants to remarry. However, you have to make sure you evaluate the old marriage patterns completely and create a new way of relating to each other. The divorce meant that the old way of relating wasn’t working. While there might be elements of your relationship that will still be part of your interactions, old beliefs, interactions, and responses need to die with the old marriage.
This is a critical time for the two of you to educate yourselves on healthy marriages and work together to intentionally create something that works for both. The one advantage you have is that you aren’t going into this marriage with the naiveté of a starry-eyed engaged couple who haven’t seen a relationship go down in flames. You’re now going to ask better questions. You’re going to be realistic about how quickly things can unravel. This is a time to be completely honest and real about why things ended up where they did and what you’re each willing to do differently this time around.
It’s a good idea to work with a marriage counselor who can help you see your patterns more accurately. Invest the time and effort to build a new marriage. You can do a lot of work on the relationship before you marry, so make sure you give yourself enough time to see real changes.
This is going to require more than good intentions. You have to get specific and identify those things that led to the downfall of your first marriage. Remarriage, especially if there are children, can feel nostalgic and familiar. Sometimes the thrill of salvaging a former relationship can blind you to the need to make the necessary changes. The magic quickly wears off if the old patterns emerge again.
You are already divorced from each other, so take your time to make sure you are both sure this is going to be a good fit. Now that the urgency of saving the marriage is past, you can focus on building a relationship that will last.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at email@example.com
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.