Letting go of the shadows: Marriage, the second time around

Krithika Akkaraju

Published on


When 34-year-old Maitreyi first came into therapy, she was angry. She had worked hard to build a life with Rohit, her now ex-husband. Rohit and Maitreyi had met at work; become friends first, dated for over a year, gently brought their respective parents into the picture, and with their blessings over a destination wedding in Mauritius, embarked on their life of wedded bliss…for five years. And then, much to the shock of friends and family, they had agreed to divorce by mutual consent, citing ‘incompatibility’ and irretrievable breakdown of marriage as the reasons.

But all that was over six years ago and Maitreyi had seemingly come to terms with that chapter of her life. Her anger was not directed at Rohit, but at Vidur, her colleague and best friend. Over dinner last week, Vidur had proposed marriage and Maitreyi had stormed out, asking why he ‘couldn’t let things remain the way they were?’ She was still seething when she came in for counseling, blaming Vidur for trying to disrupt her life yet again with marriage.

Over the next several sessions of therapy, Maitreyi identified the reasons for her anger and spoke in great depth about her experience of marriage. She also kept her communication with Vidur open and they had several meaningful discussions about their relationship during this time. Without revealing (just yet) how Maitreyi’s story panned out, what do you think is helpful for someone looking to enter into marriage the second time round?

How should you approach a proposal (mentally)?

Respect yourself: Ask yourself if you are ready for this step or if friends, family or society are pushing you into it. Don’t get pulled into decisions made out of guilt, coercion or emotional blackmail. Do it when the time feels right for you.

Don’t limit your expectations. Just because marriage didn’t work out for you the first time, it doesn’t mean you have to compromise and settle for ‘second best’. Be open to possibilities, to brighter and better things for yourself. You may just come away with a few surprises.

Be clear about your intentions: It would help to understand your own intentions of getting into marriage the second time. Are you looking for a partner for companionship? Financial security? Co-parenting? Sexual fulfilment? It could be one, many or any other reason. Speak to someone you trust or start by making a list for yourself to get this clarity.

Make sure you’ve come to terms with your past first: While approaching a proposal, it is important to anchor yourself in the present. What this means is, be aware and deal with your ‘baggage’ of your past marriage/relationship first. Approach the proposal with new eyes and new wisdom. If you find yourself constantly comparing every new prospect with your ex, lapsing into the past, or letting the anger, disappointment, sadness of the past overtake you, you know you have some homework to do before moving on.

Be open: Give your new prospect his due. He’s not a replacement or ‘version 2.0’ of your ex. Be open to his individuality, understand his worldview and see him for what he is – you never know what you might find! Expecting him to be someone else or an antidote to someone else isn’t going to help matters.

How deep should you go in terms of background checks?

This really depends on (i) you, (ii) the channel through which you’ve met your ‘prospect’ and (iii) how much you trust that channel.

Here are some questions to help you decide how deep you want to go with your background check.

You:

– What has been your past experience in marriage? Did you have some nasty surprises with respect to your ex, his family or his circumstances? Understandably, you don’t want to go down that path again. Make a list, a resume of sorts, if you must, and gather information about your ‘prospect’.

– What, according to you are aspects that important to you and your future marriage – is it his family, background, career capability, financial stability, medical history, parenting ability or any other? Ask yourself this question first, jot it down on a piece of paper if you must or discuss this with a trusted friend, family member or counselor.

The Channel:

– How have you met the ‘prospect’ and how much do you trust the channel? Have you been introduced by friends or family, through a dating service, social networking or through any other channel? If you’ve only just met and you’d like to know more about the person before taking it to the next level, by all means, carry out a background check – it is fairly simple to do that in today’s digital age. If you’ve met through a trusted relative/friend, request for details directly. If your relationship with the ‘prospect’ is at a stage where you can communicate openly, be honest with your questions.

Don’t get cowed down by social pressure to quickly settle into another marriage, remember you have to be the one to live with the decision.

Take your time to gather the information you must, either first hand or through someone and make the decision when you feel comfortable.

What important aspects should you check on before taking it further?

This would vary from individual to individual, so it is important that you answer these questions for yourself first:

(i) Why do I want to get married again? (ii) What do I want from this marriage?

(iii) How can I ensure my safety and well being in this marriage?

For example, if family support ranks high on your list of priorities, ask about your prospects’ family, how close they are, what are their family values and so on. If you’re wary about having to give up on your career and looking after your prospects’ ailing parents, think about how you might negotiate this or how this would affect your decision to get married.

While you introspect these answers for yourself, it might be worth getting some answers from your husband-to-be as well: (i) what are his reasons for getting married? (ii) What are his expectations from you? (iii) What are his thoughts/beliefs/feelings around marrying someone who’s been married before?

How can lessons from your first marriage work here?

It is most likely that your first marriage has left you with some notions about life, relationships, men, marriage or even yourself. Perhaps you realize that you could have done things differently or perhaps you’re clear about what you want or not want out of a second marriage.

Be aware of these feelings, thoughts and attitudes. If you’re to ‘learn’ something from your first marriage and do things differently, be honest with yourself first – see your experience for what it was, take responsibility where its due and let go of things that weren’t in your control. Don’t let the burden of guilt weigh you down or pin all the blame on your ex.

If it helps, talk to a counselor who will be able to help you gently work through these issues, talk through what went wrong, help you come to terms with the feelings and help you move ahead to a place of greater strength.

Here are some tips to navigate the next steps leading to marriage:

– Keep the communication honest and open: as you move along your relationship, there may be a number of issues that come up time and again. The biggest tool you have going for you is to keep the communication open and honest between you and your partner. As long as you can talk to each other, you can cross any hurdle that comes your way.

– Take care of your needs: there may be times when you need to talk to someone separately, or you find past issues creeping into your present. Reach out to your support system (friends, family, counselor) when you need to, stay tuned to your own feelings as you move through your new relationship.

– It is ok to change your mind: If at any point you feel your priorities changing, or for some reason don’t feel this is the right partner for you, evaluate that feeling. Talk to someone and understand where it is coming from – are insecurities creeping up or fear paralyzing you? If you’ve introspected and still feel he is not the right person for you, it is okay to change your mind. There is no reason for you to bow to pressure and ‘make it work no matter what’.

What can you expect from second marriage?

Considering you have already entered into the marriage, what can you expect from it? That is hard to say, only you and your partner can answer that! Broadly, though, here are some things that you can ‘expect’ from your second marriage:

– Don’t expect it to be ‘just like’ your first marriage or the ‘opposite’ of your first marriage. Though there might be similarities and dissimilarities now and then, realize that this relationship is not your first marriage; treat it with the respect and uniqueness that it deserves.

– Expect that it needs to be worked upon: A second marriage will not magically be all that you didn’t have the first time around, and your husband is not going to know how to make it ‘perfect’ for you. You and your partner will need to navigate these roads together – iron out differences, respect each others needs, set and meet your goals as a couple and so on. Be prepared to work on it and give your relationship the space, time and respect it deserves.

– Expect new awareness: the experience of your first marriage may have given you new insights into yourself, relationships, life and marriage. You are not the same person you were. So, if you find yourself doing things differently or thinking about situations differently, don’t be surprised. Go with the flow, keep the communication flowing with your partner and reach out for help when you need to.

– Expect some surprises along the way! Be prepared to let the relationship take you by surprise sometimes. It could be pleasant or wholly unpleasant at times, you could not have, under any circumstances, predicted the rest of your married life when you decided to take the plunge. Treat each day and issue as it comes, be open with your partner and use your collective wisdom to navigate your marriage to a place of strength and support.

As for Maitreyi, she decided to give Vidur’s proposal a miss for the moment. Over several weeks of therapy, she talked through the experience of her first marriage and discovered several things about herself in the process. Vidur and Maitreyi continue to be a couple, and for the moment, they are content with their relationship status.