Remarriage: Laying Firm Foundations

Posted at 02:55am on 9th May 2009

A marriage is a lot like our house. While new it sparkles. Fresh smells, fun surprises and new discoveries... As time passes, however... the grit of responsibility mixed with the grind of routine starts to take its toll... Weeds sprout. Doors squeak and sag. Windows stick. Paint peels. Roofs leak...
From Strike The Original Match by Charles R Swindoll, pb Multnomah Press 1980.

THOSE WORDS WERE written nearly thirty years ago by one of America’s most popular authors, a father of four. They show a realism about family life that goes beyond the obvious falling in love and living happily ever after. They point to a time when the wonder and newness of a relationship may be wearing thin.

Now I’m assuming that you’re reading this book because you want your relationship to survive. No! Not merely surivive. You want it to thrive. So let’s begin by taking a good hard look at what it’s going to entail.

A SITE INSPECTION

  • Marriage requires two people to live together, intimately and harmoniously for perhaps the best part of fifty years, or longer.
  • Parenting demands that you survive the stresses of modern society whilst attempting to raise offspring that are half-way decent human beings.
  • Society then expects you to come out the other side as wise and wonderful grandparents whose own lives can be counted on to be useful and fulfilling.

The truth is that if any couple are hoping to achieve that level of commitment, they’re going to be in need of an ongoing ‘maintenance scheme’. Some plan, or other, will be required:

  • to ‘dig out the weeds’ of neglected companionship before they take root properly
  • to ‘oil the hinges’ of disagreement
  • to ‘smooth down the peeled paint’ of hurt pride
  • to ‘release the sticking windows’ of deep-seated misunderstandings
  • and to ‘repair the leaking roof’ of damaged emotions.

What’s needed, in fact, for our relationships to withstand the rigours of elements and time and still go on looking good and improving, is an understanding of the building techniques that go into making them work. And that is as true of second (and subsequent) marriages as it is of first. Only perhaps more so.

For anyone contemplating a second marriage, the planning stage is crucial. Although it’s almost never too late to effect repairs if everything has already gone horribly wrong, there’s no doubt that time and care taken at the beginning can go a long way towards eliminating future disasters. So what is the procedure?

CONVERSION

If Charles Swindoll equates a marriage (or a family) to a house, then second marriages (or stepfamilies) may be likened to a conversion job – knocking two homes into one. But no one in their right mind would simply take in a bulldozer, demolish walls willy-nilly, and expect the building to remain standing. If we’re going to embark on the conversion of two houses into one, we need to consider the whole project, objectively, to understand the nature of what we’re taking on. Beginning with the foundations, stepfamilies, like first families, are in need of a sensitive planning and rebuilding schedule.

FOUNDATIONS: THE MYTHS & MISCONCEPTIONS OF MARRIAGE

Hollywood, soap opera, the pulp press and pop culture have, between them, sold the idea to generations that ‘love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage’, and that to sustain the ideal ‘all you need is love’. So far, so good. But it’s in the concept of ‘love’ that the refrain loses its credibility. Love – as either a heady, intoxicating condition, or a state of heightened sexual and physical attraction – is clearly a romantic illusion that for dozens of its film star and pop-singer proponents has failed them dismally. The fact is that all the modern experiments continue to fall short of the promise to deliver, in terms of love, happiness and security for the whole family.

  • OPEN MARRIAGE – where each partner is ‘free’ to indulge in extra-marital sexual affairs and children are left confused and insecure.
  • CO-HABITATION – where children are subjected to a series of father-figures.
  • LONE-PARENTHOOD – where children have no father-figure.

So called ‘free-love’ is actually often costly in terms of human suffering. Jealousy is not simply a negative emotion. It is an instinctive survival mechanism, built into human nature to preserve – not the sanctity of marriage which is a pious-sounding phrase – but the stability and security which is better found in marriage than outside of it. True, marriage offers no guarantees. If it did, there would be no need for this book to be written.

The fact is that ‘free love’ can be found only in the paradox of commitment because love, in its true sense, has at least as much to do with the Will as with the Emotions.

That’s because emotions can go up and down with the barometer. Sunshine, a good meal, job promotion or a pay rise; a new outfit, a compliment, or a phone call from a friend – all may produce a sense of euphoria that can rub off. It may be easy at such times to feel loving. Even sexy. And ‘minor conflicts’ – such as how we’re going to meet the mortgage repayments this month – appear to be just that: too insignificant to be allowed to intrude upon those warm loving feelings. Even ‘major’ areas of annoyance – like why, whenever we reach for the Cornflakes packet, we get only dry dust which, with the addition of milk, instantly turns to wet cement – can fail to disturb our sunny mood.

But what happens when the weather is grey? When we’re cold, hungry and tired because we’ve had to work late, the car’s broken down in the rain, we haven’t had time to get to the shops, the family is in anarchy over the prospect of fish fingers yet again, and Nobody understands? What happens when a junior colleague becomes your Superior; the dry cleaners wreck your new suit; you’re told you’re looking a bit thin on top, thick in the middle, and slow on your feet? What happens when the bedtime ‘headaches’ put paid to your love-life; mum’s pre-menstrual tension appears to grip the entire household; even the children behave as if we have bad breath or body odour – and the grass looks greener elsewhere?

Well, that’s where the Will comes in. The Will to stick to the blueprint – exactly as the architect designed it. Not in the sense of ‘mind-over-matter’. But because it makes sense to turn to an expert.

Do leave a comment to share your experience.

NEXT FRIDAY we'll look further into the issue of remarriage, and hear what someone who's tried it has to say.

Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.

ALL PROCEEDS FROM HER LATEST NOVEL, A Painful Post Mortem, ARE FOR CHARITIES BENEFITING CHILDREN WORLDWIDE. PLEASE BUY A COPY AND HELP PROJECTS LIKE THIS, OVERSEAS, OR THIS IN UK.

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