Second and Third Marriages, an Uphill Battle

It is relatively well-known that all time divorce rates (overall, not for a specific time period) generally hover around 40-45%.  National statistics indicate that 1st marriages have an all-time divorce rate of 42%, (and 49% in 2018). Second marriages have an overall divorce rate of 60%, and 3rd marriages’ rate of marital dissolution is a staggering 73% since the time this country began taking statistics in the mid 1920’s, and they are slowly creeping upward.  Why is it that subsequent marriages are so difficult, even more than the first? There are never simple answers, but there are several observations that may explain this trend.  

Behind every statistic is an underlying cause (or “root” cause as the older generation used to say), and usually the cause is multifaceted.  Not one single factor can be said to contribute to the phenomenon that first marriages are (believe it or not for those of you seeking divorce) more likely to succeed than a marriage after a divorce or multiple divorces.  The message I would like to convey to those of you seeking a divorce is best said by remembering the old saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”. 

My observation is simple….those who abruptly sever marital bonds are essentially more likely to fail for their inability to stand firm with the partner they chose in youth, therefore complicating their lives.  The complexity of any social interaction is a strong predictor of the likelihood of its failure. Simplicity is not always a bad thing, a concept that is often lost in an era when we seek the newest, most complex, difficult to engineer piece of smart device in our cars, homes, and lives.  We live in a society that prefers to throw the broken away and replace it rather than considering whether a fix is possible.

When I first began my legal career as an attorney in 2004, the head of my division told me on the first day, “Matthew, we follow the kiss method here, which means we keep it simple stupid”. Those words are not only important in litigation, they are tantamount to a lynchpin in marriage.  If you realize that life complexity will likely cause future dramatics, you have already made the first step to saving a broken marriage or making a good decision to re-marry. When people marry and have pre-existing legal obligations from a prior marriage such as child support, alimony, and visitation or custody issues in-tow, they have complicated their lives significantly with a remarriage.  Wiping the slate clean is seldom a possibility because our lives are complex, and so are our relationships.  

In sum, it appears to me that the more social issues one has to deal with, the more likelihood of divorce.  A system that has more moving parts has more parts that may break. Marriage is no different. I want to make very clear that there is always hope, but to any person considering a divorce, please know that it does not get easier the second time around.  If you do divorce and look to be remarried, consider all of the complexities you will both bring to your second or third marriage, lay them all out on the proverbial table with honesty, and have a simple, clear gameplan to deal with the challenges ahead.  It is very much an uphill battle, but it can be won. However, in the end, maybe simple really is better.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Domestic Attorney and single father.  He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.

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