When we got all teary-eyed watching Meghan Markle and Prince Harry tie the knot in May, it was easy to forget Meghan (36) had been there, done that before.
Her 2011 marriage – to American film and TV producer Trevor Engelson (41) – lasted just two years and the former actress was single for three years before falling for Prince Harry (33). Enough time, experts say, to have processed what had happened and – hopefully – make sure she didn’t to repeat the problems of the past.
Marrying again is her second chance at happily ever after, and plenty of people have gone on to have lasting marriages the second time around.
Second marriages can be a new lease of life, experts say, provided you go into your new relationship with your eyes wide open and follow a few important guidelines.
Before you meet at the altar
Make sure you’ve dealt with your emotions from your previous marriage and have gained closure, says Paula Quinsee, a Johannesburg-based relationship expert, author of Embracing Conflict, and consultant on the South African TV show Married at First Sight.
“If you don’t, you’ll carry your baggage with you,” she warns. Closure comes after you’ve sought clarity on why the relationship failed and understand each party’s contribution to the situation.
You also need to forgive yourself and your former partner and “take insights from what worked and didn’t work so as not to repeat the same patterns”, she adds.
“It’s also important to take time out for yourself and reconnect with who you are and the type of relationship and life partner you’re looking for.”
A rule of thumb, Quinsee says, is to take one month off from dating for every year you were married – so if you were married for five years try not to dip your toes in the dating waters for at least five months. Of course, this isn’t set in stone and all people grieve the loss of a relationship differently.
“It’s important to mourn the loss of your marriage with the help of a therapist,” says Leandie Buys, a clinical psychologist and relationship and marriage counsellor from Port Elizabeth.
“You need to learn how to invest emotionally in a relationship and learn how to rebuild intimacy.
Maintain your individuality
It’s easy when you meet someone after a painful divorce to lose yourself in the moment, Quinsee says, but it’s vital you retain your identity too.
“Don’t become so dependent on your partner that you distance yourself from family and friends in the process,” she warns.
It’s vital that you resolve the issues that made your first marriage fail. If you don’t, you’ll enter into your new marriage with a negative frame of mind and “risk things heading down that toxic spiral of no return”.
Buys agrees – you need to enter your new marriage with a fresh frame of mind and not expect the same problems to crop up. For instance, if your ex cheated on you, there’s no reason to suspect your new partner will too. “All people are different,” she says. “Just because trust fell apart the first time doesn’t mean it will again.
Make sure you marry for the right reasons
If you rush into a second marriage because you can’t bear to be alone, you’re asking for trouble, the experts agree.
“A second marriage can work only if you’ve done the work, dealt with your emotional baggage, are open to learn from the mistakes of your past relationship and consciously do things differently to get a different outcome,” Quinsee says.
It’s crucial that you respect your new partner 100%, that you make a point of spending quality time together and that you realise communication is key.
“If you don’t make time for your relationship, over time you won’t have a relationship,” Quinsee adds.
Buys also believes you need to be true to yourself, your qualities and your values so you’re sure of the kind of person you can live with – and the kind you don’t have a chance of happiness with.
“Knowing yourself means you’ll choose a person you’re compatible with, which makes you more open to accepting the other person – flaws, warts and all.
“The last thing you want to do is go into a marriage hoping your partner will change somewhere along the line – it’s highly unlikely they will.”
Yes, marriage is all about compromise, but people don’t really change. If you have doubts about the person, don’t take the marriage step. Remember, you’ve been burnt before.
Know what you’re looking for
Be clear on what you want in a life partner, is Quinsee advice to anyone who wants to remarry. Physical attraction is important, she says, but you need to go “a lot deeper than the superficial stuff”.
“Think about aspects such as their culture, beliefs, spirituality, family values, influences such as friends, hobbies and interests, career aspirations, relationship deal-breakers, money management
and expectations,” she says. Ask yourself if these align with yours or if too many alarm bells start ringing – and if they do, think long and hard about your future.
Buys says knowing what you expect from each other and knowing each other’s boundaries are also key to a happy, long-lasting relationship.
“Know what each other’s expectations are regarding sex, for instance, but also talk about important things such as your relationship going forward with your ex and your ex-in-laws if there are children involved,” she advises.
Realise no marriage is perfect
“There’s no such thing as the perfect person or perfect relationship. Rather, it’s about how perfect can you be for each other,” Quinsee says.
“If you value and respect each other, your relationship should succeed – because you want to succeed together.” Relationships require constant work and you need to approach things with a positive mindset.
“Commit to the process,” she says. “Look for ways to navigate the speed bumps together and constantly communicate with each other. If you do thisthere’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a long, happy marriage.”
Buys adds it’s important to acknowledge that you and your partner are two individuals – yes, you might have a lot in common but you’re also different entities.
“You need to respect that you have different roles in the relationship and you need to honour them.”
Most of all, actively seek pleasure in this relationship, she adds.
As it’s your second marriage you should be going in with your eyes wide open, willing to learn from your first failed venture and eager to make this one work.
“Make a conscious effort to show your appreciation of each other,” Buys says. “In words and in actions.”