It’s well known that first marriages end at a rate of 40-50%. But why do second marriages end at a rate of 67% and third marriages at 73% – despite the extra relationship experience accumulated?
In this episode, I explore what we take with us from relationship to relationship and how responsibility is shared in divorce. I also share ways to heal yourself and shift your “background music behaviors” so you can find success in future relationships, whether you stay where you are or seek happiness elsewhere.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In This Episode:
- Why the divorce rate rises with second, third, and fourth marriages
- 3 common concerns of women facing their second divorce
- How to determine who’s really responsible for a marriage ending
- Why trying to find someone who “makes you feel the way you want to feel” is an unproductive goal (and what to do instead)
- How to heal yourself (regardless of whether you stay in or leave your marriage)
Featured On The Show:
Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you’re serious about finding that answer?
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“Welcome to The Loving Truth podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now, your host relationship expert and certified master life coach: Sharon Pope.
“Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. Today we're talking about why second and third marriages are ending at such a staggering rate, and I wanna talk about why that's important to you if you are struggling with potentially looking down the path of ending your marriage, and how shame plays a role in this.
“All right, so first, let's just get the stats out there. If you have not heard these stats before, it might surprise you. First marriages end at a rate of 40 to 50%, and that's been pretty consistent over the last, at least. decade. Second marriages are ending at a rate of 67%, and third marriages are ending at a rate of 73 to 74%. I've seen both of those numbers. Those are big numbers, right? And so I want you to think to yourself, why do you think that second and third marriages are ending at such a high rate? Why aren't we being more successful, the more experience we have in relationships, as opposed to being less successful?
“So I have some thoughts on that, but I wonder what your thoughts are, right? You might be thinking, well, maybe after you've had one divorce, it's no big deal to have a second or third divorce. Maybe we become more flippant, or we just don't take our commitment to marriage as seriously, the more we do it. I don't think that those are the answers. I think that I've got some ideas that I wanna share with you about what the answer is and how to think about it. But I also think it's important to first talk about the shame that's associated with navigating potentially a second or third divorce.
“So, I'll share with you the story of a client of mine that I'll refer to as Melissa. Obviously, that is not her name. So Melissa had been married previously for fourteen years, and when I asked her about that relationship and why it ended, she said, ‘You know, we just grew really, really far apart after our first child. We started operating very independently of one another, and it just became very obvious that that relationship needed to end.’
“Then a few years later, she told me about how she met her current husband, and now they're eleven years into their marriage. And they too have grown apart for different reasons and in different ways; now, they just very much want different things. You know, she is in her fifties and she wants to start a new business, and she's got a lot of excitement and passion about what she wants to create in her life, whereas her husband is more like, I don't wanna say on the downturn, but he's more like, ‘You know, I've worked really hard for a lot of decades, and now I'm kind of wanting to chill a little.’ So where she's ready to amp it all up, he's ready to dial it down.
“And so they're having a hard time finding those places of connection between them. And one of the things that she says to me, she's like, ‘What am I gonna do? How can I possibly get divorced a second time?’ Now, the underlying questions, the unspoken stuff that's going on there for her, like, she didn't say this out loud, but as we explored it, here's what came up. There were three underlying questions or thoughts. One was, what will people think? If I'm divorced two times, what are people going to think? Number two was, maybe I'll be alone forever. Like, what if I'm just not cut out for being in an intimate relationship? And then the third one, and this was the really prickly one for her, which was, what if it's me? What if I'm the issue?
“You see, when you're going through or facing a second or third divorce, at some point you're going to look at that and go, maybe I'm the common denominator here. Like, I'm the only thread that's running through this, so what does that mean for me?
“Right? And it gets you wondering, like, maybe I'm just unlucky at love, or I used to have a phrase myself; I said, ‘Oh, my man picker's broken, right?’ And that's not necessarily true. The other thing that can happen… so I want you to think about this. So I talk about, in my coaching, this idea of what I call the lens.
“And the lens is - consider like you're wearing a pair of glasses, okay? And what's embedded inside of the lens of your glasses is the totality of your life experiences, your thoughts and beliefs, your values, your judgments. It's all embedded inside the lens. And so as you look out into the world and how you experience the world and other people, everything you see goes through that lens.
“Now, everyone on the planet has a different lens, everyone, because nobody has had the exact same life experiences that you have had. No one has the exact same, you know, thoughts and beliefs and judgments and values in the exact same order to the exact same degree that you do. So everybody has a different lens. And so everyone is seeing the world and experiencing the world and the people in it slightly differently.
“Now, no one is walking around thinking, you know, ‘I bet the way I see things isn't really all that true.’ Like, no, it's by far the opposite. Everyone thinks that the way they see the world is truth with a capital T, when it's not. It's just a perspective, it's just a thought based upon the totality of your life experiences, right? So no one's walking around thinking, you know, everything. I think about the world and the people and the circumstances around me. It's all just bull. Nobody thinks that. Everyone thinks that their perspective is the right perspective or the correct perspective, when all it is, is just a perspective.
“So if we all believe our own perspective is the right one, well then we can't really see our partner's perspective, right? And so then if we think he's the problem, my partner is the problem; well, if I get rid of him, problem solved. That, my friends, is the reason that I think second and third marriages are ending at such a staggering rate. It's because we're so afraid to look at ourselves and the role that we have played in the creation of our experience, that it's easier to reach for blame.
“It's easier to see the faults or the mistakes in our partners, and we think they're the problem because, of course, we don't think that our perspective is the problem. Many times we think our partner is the problem, and then what ends up happening is, if I blame my partner and they're the problem, then I gotta get rid of that problem. I've gotta change that circumstance in order for me to feel better. The problem is that you're going to take yourself with you. You can end your first marriage, your second marriage. But you are taking yourself with you, and my friends, it's never just one person's fault.
“And I actually don't love the word ‘fault’ because I don't think anyone is at fault. But I do think that there's an element of responsibility, right? And even if you think I am completely blameless here - okay, let's say that that's true. Let's just take that at face value that you didn't do anything wrong inside the relationship to help get you to this place of struggle inside your relationship.
“Like let's say your partner's just a big jerk and everyone agrees on it, right? But maybe there was something that you allowed or you overlooked, or you accommodated when you shouldn't have. So let's say it's 90% their fault and 10% your fault… you still had a role in the creation of where the two of you are. But that's even an extreme example, right? It's never just one person and their contributions that get you to this place, even if they do something really, really egregious and really, really hurtful. I mean, we betray each other in a lot of ways inside of our most intimate relationship, and some of them just aren't big enough to show up on the radar. But the little give-ups, the little ways in which we go quiet or we don't speak what's true for us - like there's a bunch of ways that we betray each other and the ways that we hurt each other and the ways that we get triggered by each other.
“And it's going to happen when you're going to spend decades together in a really close capacity, in your most intimate relationship, which by the way, they know how to press all your buttons, right? So let's talk about this idea of fault versus responsibility for a second. So I was saying, I don't think that it's fault; fault feels prickly, right? And so I like to just use the word responsibility. And I think part of the task here is being able to tease out what is my responsibility in how we got to this place as a couple? What's mine to own? And what's my partner’s to own? That's a healthy way, even if this marriage ends, to be able to move forward into another new relationship in the future and create an experience that is much, much different than the last experience.
“But if you are unwilling to look at yourself in the creation of this experience, then what will happen is that you will move forward into another new relationship and you will create similar dysfunction inside that next relationship because you never healed your part in it. So we think it's all about like, oh, we just need to find the guy that's gonna make me feel the way I want to feel.
“First of all, I think that's giving way too much power to your partner in terms of how you feel and your level of happiness. It's like kind of bowing out of the responsibility of you taking responsibility for your own happiness, right? And you're just handing it off. I just need to find someone who's willing to take that ball and run with it, and almost no one is able to do that for us ultimately. So it's all about like, am I willing to look at myself? Am I willing to just be honest with myself? Because when I become conscious to how I've contributed, well now I have the ability to change it, right? If I'm not consciously aware of how I've contributed to the creation of my own experience, well then I'm just going to keep recreating that experience over and over and over again until I finally learn the lesson that life is presenting to me.
“I think relationships are our greatest teachers because of the ways that we get triggered inside of our relationships, because those triggers are things that are trying to wake us up and go, ‘Hey, there's something to pay attention to here.’ Okay?
“So this idea that we take ourselves with us, let's just talk about that. What am I literally referring to? I'm talking about our patterns, our behaviors, when things get hard or when we get uncomfortable, or the ways in which we argue our expectations. We take our expectations with us, we take our perspectives with us, and all of our perspectives, by the way, if you go back to the lens, are all based in this idea of this unconscious conditioning, right? All the things that we learned growing up, all the things that we experienced - some of that came from society, some of that came from our culture, some of that came from religion - it came from our family of origin, right? We are certainly impacted by all of that. And it's sort of this unconscious dialogue that's running as background music in our lives - the ways that we engage, the ways that we disengage, the ways that we argue, the ways that we will avoid difficult conversations or shut down completely, the ways that we'll stonewall, the ways that we will shrink, that we will get smaller in order to keep the peace. Like these are all the things that I'm talking about when I say you take yourself with you if you don't heal.
“Let's take the example, if when things get really difficult and you're so afraid of conflict, let's say, or having that difficult conversation, that open, honest, but very difficult conversation, and you'd rather just go quiet and shut down or get small - if that's the go-to, and you don't heal that, it's going to show up in the next relationship, I promise you, because things are going to get difficult. There is no partner out there that you can find where you're never going to face any difficulty. And so it's really worthwhile to heal this stuff in your current relationship before just going, ‘Well, they're the problem. I need to get rid of them.’
“If our partners are our greatest teachers, and I think they are, then it does give us this opportunity to heal this part inside this current relationship. Not necessarily to save this relationship, but just to heal it for yourself so that you don't carry it forward with you into future relationships. So I hope that all of that makes sense. I don't want you to ever feel like, oh, you should carry shame if you've had a second or third marriage that has ended in divorce. And I never consider divorce a failure. I don't use that term as it relates to divorce. And it doesn't mean that those relationships weren't worthwhile. I think we've gotta come up with another metric beyond just longevity in order to say that something was successful, right? If, if the only marker for success in a marriage is, does it last until you die, then we're missing a lot of the opportunity that is available to us in terms of the growth that happened inside that relationship, the experiences inside that relationship, even the generations that are changed because two people decided to come together and try to love each other the best that they could.
“So sometimes it does last forever, and that's lovely, and sometimes it doesn't last forever. And that too, I think it's also lovely, but most people can't quite get there. So that's okay. But I think it's certainly realistic that sometimes we screw it up. Sometimes hurts can be healed and sometimes they can't. And if they can't, and it's time to close the chapter on that particular relationship, all I'm asking or suggesting is that you're going to move forward and you're going to take yourself with you. And I want you to be a different version of yourself so that your future relationships look and feel dramatically different than the past ones.
“All right? I hope that was helpful for you. I will see you next week, and until then, take really good care.
“If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth and Clarity session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and me to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage.
“Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now. That's clarityformymarriage.com.”