3 love lessons from his first marriage
When it comes to guys remarrying, the response from their acquaintances is often: “wow…really?” There’s an odd bias against guys finding love a second time. After all, Chris Rock famously said: “You were out… why would you go back in?” But in a world where even Howard Stern found that life as a single guy was too empty, we need to understand that guys do want love, marriage and the whole domestic lifestyle — as long as it’s done right.
So if a guy’s been burned once, how can he avoid repeating the same mistakes? On an episode of Modern Family, Gloria (played by the voluptuous Sofia Vergara) berated her husband, saying: “I’m the second wife, Jay. Why do you insist on treating me like the first?” It’s funny because one thing guys are supposed to finally get after their first marriage falls apart is to take nothing for granted!
Lesson #1: Focus on finding the best match for you, not just your ex’s opposite
What else can guys learn from a failed first marriage? According to Evan Marc Katz, a dating coach and author of Why You’re Still Single, lesson one is not to play ping-pong with your heart. “People tend to go to the opposite end of the spectrum in a second relationship, and that’s a mistake,” he says. “You had zero passion, so you go for 100% passion — and when that feeling wears off 18 to 24 months later, you’re left with someone you don’t have a lot in common with and you end up having to pick up the pieces all over again.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Look for ways in which you were complicit in the breakup of your first marriage — even if it was just turning a blind eye to the reasons why she was wrong for you — and look for someone who’s a better overall match, not simply the total opposite of your ex.
Lesson #2: Honesty and communication are crucial for a healthy relationship
Joe F., of Sausalito, CA, learned a lot from his first marriage. “The biggest lesson I learned was not to lie,” he says. “The first person you deceive is yourself.” His current marriage is much more open — even when it leads to difficult conversations. After all, Joe concedes, it’s better to have those discussions with your wife than with her lawyer. As a parent, he also notes one important lesson he learned from a long-term relationship that occurred between his first and second marriage: “Make dates with your kids that include real face time spent doing something together (not a movie). And if having a great relationship with your kids bothers your partner, well, you’ve got the wrong woman there — don’t marry her.”
In the end, Joe quips, “you never really know a woman until you have divorced her at least once.” It’s funny, but there’s also a grain of truth in Joe’s remark: “Marriage and divorce are very educational, but the tuition is too high,” he says. “I believe I’ve found the right partner now because I really understand her — [and that’s] because of how much I learned in my previous relationships.”
Lesson #3: Love means accepting your partner as-is, no changes required
After 17 years of marriage, Scott U. of El Cerrito, CA, took away one valuable lesson: “My new wife and I are both around 50, age-wise, and I doubt we’re going to change our behaviors in large ways. Life with her is more about acceptance. She’s spent years becoming this person, and I have, too.” After all, why would Scott try to change someone he loved enough to marry in the first place? That’s nothing but a power play, he notes — a dynamic he’s avoiding this time around.
The other thing Scott learned echoes Katz’s advice: “The things that attract us to other people are the [same] things that later drive us away,” he says. “With my first wife, I was drawn to a more serious, grounded, reliable person, and she seemed to see me as being frivolous, spontaneous and nonconformist. Some people can make that work, but we couldn’t — and I think that in the end we were both good people who just needed different partners.”
Put more simply, Randy H. of San Francisco, CA, says: “If you’ve got cold feet, that’s your instincts telling you to back out while you have the chance. It’s OK to wait until you meet the right person… [which is] someone who doesn’t feel like he or she has to fix you.” (In the interest of full disclosure, Randy’s my husband.) Aww!
For the other side of the story, read Love lessons from her first marriage.
Amy Keyishian has written for Cosmopolitan and other national magazines.