Does Divorce Teach You How to Have a Good Marriage?

According to George Bernard Shaw, ‘A thousand divorces may mean two thousand marriages; for the couples may marry again. Divorce only re-assorts the couples: a very desirable thing when they are ill-assorted.’ He may have written it in 1908, but Shaw’s words may ring truer than ever today, as new research from the Marriage Foundation shows that, contrary to popular belief, second marriages have a better chance of success. The researchers found that only 31% of second marriages end in divorce, while 45% of first marriages do.

Divorce is a traumatic ordeal that affects the wellbeing of any family, and so it stands to reason that divorcees ensure a second relationship will stand the test of time before they tie the legal knot. Author Kate Figes interviewed one such person for her upcoming book, Couples. Sue and her second husband were both married to other people when they were younger, but as Sue had two children, she said she had ‘wanted to make sure it was absolutely the right thing to do, that I wasn’t messing up the children any more. I didn’t want lots of men coming in and out of their lives so I was very cagey. It feels like a much bigger commitment second time around. You’re doing it with the experience of, well, having failed.’

But divorce doesn’t only make second-timers more cautious about taking the plunge, it also enables greater self-awareness. Clover Stroud recently wrote about her experiences in The Telegraph, noting ‘A decade has passed between my two marriages, a decade to take a hard look at my behaviour and acknowledge the role I played. I understand that making this marriage work isn’t down to luck, having made the “right” decision this time as opposed to the “wrong” decision last time, but is destined by choice and me choosing to make the marriage work.’

When you’re young, you have highly romanticised notions of marriage, and lack knowledge of how relationships and people change through adversity, over the natural course of time. However, knowing what doesn’t work in a marriage can teach you what does the second time around. The need for mutual respect, consideration and support, as well as honesty, friendship, communication and a healthy sex life, are the building blocks for family wellness and a healthy marriage, whether you learn that the first time around, or if the second time’s a charm.

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