By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Susan and Dale Mathis's new book, The Re-Marriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love and Happiness (Tyndale, 2012).
Getting married for the second (or more) time is challenging. Dealing with the pain from a divorce or death of a spouse is hard enough; adding the demands of blending families with children is even more stressful.
The bad news is that three out of four remarriages don’t survive. But the good news is that your remarriage can survive – and thrive – if you and your fiancé or fiancée prepare for it wisely and ask God to help you start your new marriage on a strong foundation.
Here’s how you can prepare for remarriage with God’s help, so it will be an exciting adventure for you:
Ask God to give you a redemptive vision for your new marriage. Invite God to redeem your past pain, mistakes, sin, fears, and broken dreams, and expect Him to respond by forgiving you, healing you, and restoring your hope and joy. Pray for God to transform you and your future spouse into people who will give each other love and grace while relying on God to empower you every day. Make Jesus your role model and work on developing character like that modeled by Jesus. View your upcoming marriage as an opportunity to grow in spiritual maturity. Ask God to give you and your future spouse a vision of what He wants your marriage to be like, and then create common goals based on that vision, with specific time frames for when you hope to achieve those goals.
Avoid living together, or stop if you already are. Cohabiting with your future spouse can significantly damage your upcoming marriage by eroding trust and intimacy between you – and it’s also a serious sin in God’s eyes. If you’re already living together, move out soon to stay with a family member or friend until after your wedding.
Beware of the danger signs of a romantic partner in bad spiritual or emotional health. Don’t move ahead with marriage plans until you assess your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s spiritual and emotional health, identify any danger signs, and work on resolving them. Danger signs include: being on the rebound from a previous romantic relationship, emotional instability, codependence, addiction, abuse, having sex before marriage, financial irresponsibility, a lack of faith, a critical nature, incompatibility (such as values, interests, or a lifestyle that differs from yours), personal habits that trouble you, and children who aren’t ready to accept a stepparent into their lives.
Discuss each other’s expectations. Openly and honestly talk with your fiancé or fiancée about what’s really important to each of you spiritually, physically, educationally, financially, emotionally, and sexually. If either of you has children, discuss expectations for them. Once you’ve had thorough conversations, determine which expectations are realistic and which need to be adjusted. Then talk with each other’s kids about the expectations they have for their new family life.
Learn how to serve each other. Start a habit of working unselfishly to meet each other’s needs whenever possible. Talk with your future spouse to discern the difference between each other’s desires and needs, and to understand the real needs. Do your best to serve each other, but give each other grace when you all fall short, as well.
Improve your communication. Ask God to show you and your fiancé or fiancée how you each should improve the way you communicate. Consider areas such as listening skills, tone of voice, body language, being honest and transparent, articulating thoughts clearly, and measuring words appropriately. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you both develop the patience and kindness you’ll need to communicate well.
Learn how to resolve conflict well. Talk with your future spouse about what has caused conflict between you so far (from stress related to your children or former spouses to misunderstandings or unmet needs). Choose only the most important battles and let the rest go. Analyze the issues that matter most and identify what’s really causing each problem. Discuss possible solutions calmly, focusing on the issue at hand and avoiding attacking each other personally. Forgive each other if you hurt or offend each other.
Deal with your differences wisely. Ask God to show you each how to find peace and contentment while living with your differences. Consider how you can best work with differences in the following areas so you all can complement each other: goals, communication styles, decision making, social needs, financial philosophies, role expectations, your family structure, views about family, parenting styles, lifestyles, family traditions, weaknesses or faults, physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual views, and relationships with in-laws.
Manage your finances wisely. Reflect on your financial history and ask your spouse to do the same. Be honest with yourself and each other about what financial attitudes and behaviors you should change in order to manage money according to biblical principles (such as staying out of debt, saving, and giving). List your income, expenses, and debt individually, and then talk about the information together. Create a budget for your life together before you get married. Ask God to help you get out debt (if either of you currently has debt) and make whatever other changes necessary to enter marriage in a financially responsible way.
Manage your sexuality wisely. Decide to obey God’s command to save sex for marriage so you can enjoy the quality of marriage that He wants for you. Pray for the help you need to protect your sexual purity or heal from unhealthy sexual experiences you’ve already had. Seek help from a pastor or counselor to deal with issues such as sexual abuse or a pornography addiction in your background. If either of you has been sexually active, get medically tested for sexually transmitted diseases and share the results with your fiancé or fiancée.
Build strong extended family relationships. Ask God to show you and your future spouse how best to invite in-laws, grandparents, and other extended family members to participate in the new nuclear family you’re creating with your remarriage. Honestly share expectations with each other and set boundaries to try to create relationships marked by respect, trust, and love.
Learn how to work as a team. Figure out how best to manage roles in your new household so that the necessary chores and errands will be fairly divided, your work schedules will be in sync, and any children you each have will be cared for and disciplined well. Follow Jesus’ example of how to be a servant and aim to serve each other as you work together.
Adapted from The Re-Marriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love and Happiness, copyright 2012 by Susan and Dale Mathis. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Ill., www.tyndale.com.
Susan and Dale Mathis are passionate about helping couples prepare for remarriage. Dale has two master’s degrees in counseling and has worked in counseling for more than 30 years. Susan has written prolifically for magazines and newspapers, and serves as a consultant, writer, and speaker. Their blended family includes five adult children and three granddaughters.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: [email protected] to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: November 23, 2012
Photo credit: © Getty Images/clownbusiness