Successful Second Marriage

Your Quick Guide to Relationship Success
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Your Quick Guide to Relationship Success
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Perhaps not surprisingly, the factors leading to a successful second marriage are very similar to the things that make first marriages successful. Things like communication, commitment, equality, and good health contribute to the success of a marriage whether it be the first, second or fiftieth match.

Steven M Cohn, PhD, LMFT
The Portland Couples Counseling Center
1940 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon  97232

Couple in bed

Why is it important to consider successful second marriages? One reason is that the strain associated with an unhappy marriage is associated with adverse health outcomes. For example, one study found that women who "self-silence" during an argument with their husbands are four times as likely to die as women who continued with the argument. Conversely, the fact that the couple disagreed on a topic was not related to coronary heart disease and death.(1)

In addition, successful second marriages are tied to feelings of psychological well-being. People who divorce or separate have been found to show a decline in feelings of well-being when compared to those who remain in a marriage.(2) You may have experienced this when your first marriage ended, and it is not likely you want to feel that way again.

So, what makes a for a successful second marriage? One of the most important factors is an attitude that both partners are equal. When a woman feels that she benefits less from the relationship than her husband does, the risk of divorce rises.(3)

A study in the journal Social Forces showed that women were happiest in marriage when there was gender equity and commitment to the marriage.(4) In other words, women want men to feel that the institution of marriage is important and sacred, and they want men to share in the workload of household chores and childcare.

An interesting determinant of a successful second marriage is the overall health of the marriage partners. When a husband or wife feels less than his or her best, he or she is likely to report a slightly lower quality of marriage. However, when wives reported that their husbands’ health had declined, there was extensive damage to marital quality. What’s interesting is that when husbands reported to researchers that their wives were in ill health, marital quality actually went up! As you might expect, younger couples had more trouble with their spouses being ill than older couples did, probably because older couples expect to be met with health challenges.(5)

One of the key challenges to a successful second marriage may be the balance between work and home. In one study of dual-career marriages, researchers found that negotiation skills learned at work were valuable in maintaining marital happiness. One surprising outcome of this study was that the presence of helpers such as nannies and housekeepers (a key perk of having two incomes) was related to career satisfaction, but did not contribute to marital satisfaction.(6)

If you are struggling to make a successful second marriage or want some advice on whether or not you should re-marry, you might want to consult a Relationship Specialist. Another resource is the blog written by marriage therapist Stan Dubin, author of When the Thrill Wears Off. The blog is located at

End Notes

(1)Eaker, Elaine D; Sullivan, Lia M.; Kelly-Hayes, Margaret.; D'Agostino, Ralph B.; and Benjamin, Emelia J. Marital Status, Marital Strain, and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease or Total Mortality: The Framingham Offspring Study. Psychosomatic Medicine 69:509-513. 2007.

(2)Waite, Linda J.; Luo, Ye; and Lewin, Alisa C. Marital Happiness and Marital Stability: Consequences for Psychological Well-Being. Social Science Research 38(1): 201-212. March, 2009.

(3)DeMaris, Alfred. The Role of Relationship Inequity in Marital Disruption. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 24(2): 177-195. 2007.

(4)Wilcox, William Brandford and Nock, Steven L. What’s Love Got to Do with It? Equality, Equity, Commitment, and Women’s Marital Quality. Social Forces 84(3): 1321-1345. March, 2006.

(5)Yorgaseon, Jeremy B.; Booth, Alan; and Johnson, David. Health, Disability, and Marital Quality. Research on Aging 30(6): 623-648. 2008.

(6)Jeffcoat Bartley, Sharon; Judge, Willliam; Judge, Sharon. Antecedents of Marital Happiness and Career Satisfaction: An Empirical Study of Dual Career Managers. Journal of Business and Public Affairs 1(1). 2007.

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