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Clearer Connections

Remarried couples often bring baggage into their marriage. Here's how to work through the issues to gain stronger communication skills.
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My husband's favorite proverb is, "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." He usually quotes that right before I agree with him by sending him to sleep in the garage.

How is it that the one topic we've had drilled into our heads over and over is still one of the most difficult for us to master—especially for those couples in remarriages? We know how important communication is. But remarried couples have unique communication challenges that can be difficult to overcome without really grasping the problems of the past marriage and the needs of the current one. So how can we sort through everything that hasn't worked to find the things that do?

Talk to yourself first

If your spouse has done or said something that bothers you, before you confront, ask yourself some questions:

Could my mate's fear, stress, worry, or hurt have provoked his action or words?
Is she reacting more to her own painful past than to me?
Did my spouse say or do that to hurt me on purpose?
Am I feeling frustrated? Hurt? Angry? Scared?
Is this bothering me because I'm feeling insecure? Why?
Does this stem back to an experience from my previous marriage?
Am I misreading or exaggerating his actions?

Answer honestly, so you can tell your mate, "I felt frustrated when you charged all those clothes last week. It brought back the paranoia from when my ex-wife would spend money we didn't have. And that scared me."

Naming exactly what we're feeling allows us to confront gently and with more clarity. It also keeps our spouse in the dialogue.

Check out your expectations

Ask yourself if you expect too much from your spouse. It's impossible to enter marriage without certain expectations—that our spouse will love and respect us, remain faithful and loyal, and be our companion and encourager.

However, some expectations are unrealistic and unfair. In "Special Tasks in a Second Marriage" from The Complete Marriage Book, author Jim Smoke writes, "It is easy to compile a long list of what did not happen in a prior marriage and expect your new list to be fulfilled in the first three months. Hope often lies in your new spouse doing all the things that your former spouse did not do: namely, fulfill all of your new expectations."

It's important that we consciously reprogram our expectations, reminding ourselves, "He is not my ex, and I can't expect him to fulfill what my ex never did."

Be honest about trust issues

Part of communication involves trust. Yet fear plays a strong role in second marriages, says Dr. Gary Oliver, in his MP article, "The Upside of Failure."

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Ginger E. Kolbaba

Ginger Kolbaba is the author of Desperate Pastors' Wives and The Old Fashioned Way. Connect with her on Twitter @gingerkolbaba.

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Carol Nicolet Loewen

June 26, 2011  8:29pm

Helpful article, Ginger. I appreciate the examples you've given of how baggage from a prior marriage carries over into a remarriage. The recommendations for building trust are practical and also help to identify where some of our individual trigger points lie. When I tell my (new) husband I love him, he sometimes asks "Why." I consider my answer carefully because I know it means a lot to him to understand where that is coming from at this particular moment, and I want to build him up--"your integrity; the work you do; the wonderful ways you express your love for me; the fun and laughter we share ..." Thanks for a well written and practical piece.

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September 25, 2010  11:36am

I can relate to this article. I've been re-married for 7 years and have found my soulmate only becuase we put God first. God was absent from our first marriages in which are former partners never chose to attend. This is the foundation we needed & the rest has fallen in place...not overnight but as a daily growing process.

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Joybelle Malcolm

September 04, 2010  7:02am

I just read Clearer Connections and it is an awesome piece. It brought to light a different understanding as I am in a re-marrige relationship with both of us carrying in excess baggage. This article brought new understand and also surprisingly sealed some issues that I have been handling in a positive way. It was great to see I am on the right track. Thank you.

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