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