Why Do Second Marriages Fail?

No one can confidently say why anyone’s second marriage might fail or even a first or third. Numerous things can cause the breakdown of a partnership. 

The statistics are staggering, suggesting that of all first marriages, over half will end in divorce (this is speaking in the United States). Second marriages fall in with a more glum prediction having a nearly 70% chance that the couples will part ways and third marriages are just a bit more than that. 

Marriage as a whole seems like a bleak prospect when you look at it from these guidelines. The question on many people’s minds would probably be if you didn’t fare well the first time but chose to marry a second time anyway, wouldn’t you think you’d do it a bit better the next time since you have experience and practice. 

And what’s up with the third time; wouldn’t that be a breeze? Not necessarily, and no one should put expectations on you or the relationship. Let’s focus on the second marriages and why these might face challenges.

Reasons why a second marriage might fail

First and foremost, what needs to be said is, if you’re in a second marriage, don’t let statistics or anyone tell you that your marriage is bound for failure. Many second marriages are quite successful, withstanding the obstacles and coming out on top.

Sadly, when the entirety of the country was surveyed, not everybody was as fortunate, leading to the discouraging statistics. It’s curious if couples involved in a second marriage would put forth additional effort before seeking a divorce or if these individuals are faster to jump to that conclusion. 

More so, should marriage be a ready consideration a second time? Perhaps some do so a little too quickly. Let’s look at a few of the suggested reasons some couples give why the second marriage didn’t work out.

Did it once, still here to share the story

The suggestion is that more people who marry a second time are less afraid of letting go because they survived a first divorce with few “scars.” It makes them less afraid and actually “on the ready” to do it again if things get rocky. 

Probably a little too ready. Anytime an issue arises, the inclination might be to make the threat. 

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In saying that, the problem with subsequent marriages is not so much that people haven’t taken the opportunity to use the first marriage to become a better person or learn to communicate more effectively. 

The issue is some have become hardened to the problems recognizing that there’s an out. They decide they’re not afraid after the first time to use divorce again if these problems rear their head a second time.

There hasn’t been a whole healing process

Carrying “divorce baggage” can prevent you from fully allowing yourself to open up vulnerably with a new partner. Divorce is a traumatic, emotionally draining, and heartbreaking experience that takes significant time to heal. 

When you don’t allow yourself that opportunity before pursuing a new relationship and subsequent marriage, you carry the raw wounds from one relationship to the new one. 

So not only are you unavailable to your new spouse, but the part of you that is present is unhealthy, a recipe for a toxic second marriage. 

No one should enter into a second marriage or even a new relationship before they’ve had the opportunity to work through all the pain from their divorce. It’s unfair to yourself and the person you’ll be building a connection with. 

A second marriage is your answer

When you divorce a first spouse, there will be issues that you need to deal with that you’re not prepared for. That’s often because many people leaving a first marriage have been in it for a decade or more. Perhaps you’ve never lived alone before or been on your own. 

Maybe you never held a job or handled finances, at least didn’t work through money issues without help from your spouse. Perhaps you’ve never been one to make heavy decisions. Your solution to these difficult circumstances is to get married again as quickly as possible.

You don’t take time to think through your decision carefully and maturely. You need to ensure the person you’re considering for a second marriage is not merely a rebound or simply the answer to your conundrum. Instead, you react hastily, setting yourself up for a second marriage failure.

Getting attention from someone when you’re lonely or afraid can be invigorating, even intoxicating. But rushing into a partnership straight from another in a short period with no real time to know the person can be hazardous. 

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After the infatuation period, the individual might not be such a prize, and you’ll be stuck or looking at another divorce.

Do you really know the person?

In that same vein, taking sufficient time to get to know the person before you walk down the aisle is essential. When people date, especially in the beginning stages, most often they put on airs. 

There are a lot of pretenses and not much authenticity until things become more exclusive and committed. That’s when familiarity and comfortability set in. 

You don’t want to develop that stage as a married couple. You want to see the comfortable side of this new person before you even consider a marriage proposal or engagement. 

That means experiencing them when they’ve had a long stressful, and frustrating workday. There should be moments of strife between the two of you so you can see how the two of you communicate and work through problems.

That doesn’t mean creating these rough patches but when they naturally arise. If you have children, whether they’re grown or small, it’s important to watch the interaction to ensure there are no challenges. 

Kids are always the priority. If your child doesn’t like someone, there is a reason. Talk to them; learning how they feel and why is essential.

If you were to marry this person, they would become a new member of the family; everyone needs to be accepting of the individual and feel comfortable.

The ex is still a consideration

When you are still dealing with the ex, it can create extreme tension and bitterness in your new marriage. That’s especially true if the topic is one you discuss regularly. 

A partner doesn’t want to continuously hear about the person you used to be married to. It doesn’t matter whether you’re venting frustrations seething with anger, or discussing unresolved divorce issues; the subject should be avoided. 

Likely you have a support system of close friends and family members with whom you can discuss these problems, so you don’t take them home to your second spouse. 

As a rule, if you haven’t resolved the entire divorce proceedings, a second marriage shouldn’t have occurred until everything was final. You can’t give yourself entirely to another person when you’re still wrapped up in settling disputes with your first spouse.

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In addition, the second spouse is watching you. They see how you’re responding to the ex. They’re learning how you handle stress, how you communicate when there is strife and your methods of dealing with anger. 

Your new partner is also becoming aware of how you discuss another person when they’re not present.

It’s only natural that a spouse would begin to apply what they see to their own situation, wondering how things will be between you as a couple. 

Perhaps you’ll discuss your marital problems with others when this partner is not around. To say the least, this will result in friction in the second marriage.


A first divorce is scary. It leaves the couple devastated, broken, and emotionally destroyed for the most part. Often the relationship has gone on for several years, maybe a decade or longer. 

That leaves each person unsure how to do life again as a singleton. Sometimes, people haven’t spent time on their own or never lived alone. 

However, once you marry the second time, all that fear of the unknown is gone. Now, instead of being afraid the other person will leave or be upset by the rough patches, couples threaten divorce or want to run when a problem arises. 

Rather than learn to handle marriage in a healthy, constructive, and communicative manner, it seems those in their second marriage are primed for divorce. 

It’s regrettable and sort of scary that we’ve reached this point. Instead of working through problems, everyone takes the easy way out as soon as there’s a sign of trouble. There’s no effort put forth into working through difficulties of any kind.

Second marriages don’t have to be fraught with problems, nor do they have to have merely that little sliver of a chance for success that the statistics give them. 

That can change if people who enter their second marriage do so intending to succeed and are not ready to run. Not to mention an appreciation for the sanctity of marriage they gain from having already lost one. 

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