Second Marriage (Part 1)
In a perfect world, men and women would marry, live long and happy lives together and leave this world at about the same time. There would be no need for second marriages. But we live in a world that is far from perfect. People sometimes die young, leaving behind grieving spouses with potentially long lives ahead of them. And too many marriages simply do not last and collapse into divorce.
Having served as a mentor for the past 30 years, I have seen it all; second marriages that thrive, second marriages that are doomed from the start; second marriages wrecked by children; second marriages in which the children from both sides fuse together into a happy and cooperative unit; second marriages that collapse under financial strain and second marriages that endure, but unhappily. Interestingly, the divorce rate among second marriages is higher than that among first marriages. One would think that an individual who has gone through a divorce would have “learned his lesson” and will, therefore not repeat the mistakes of the past. Alas, this is often not the case. Those who marry to fulfill certain needs but are not prepared to give in return usually marry with the same intent the next time around. The second marriage becomes nothing more than a walk down a precipice, a courtship leading to fresh disaster (fresh only because it involves a new partner).
Sometimes, another questionable pattern is at work. One who leaves a marriage because of financial instability, may, for example, try to find a new partner who offers the promise of financial security. The same is true of the other significant marital issues – sexual fulfillment, lack of emotional connectedness (communication), problems with in-laws, et cetera. Since the spouse left the marriage because of a particular problem, she understandably wants to ensure that she will not have to contend with the same problem all over again. But life often plays funny tricks on people. The second-time newlywed finds out, often after it is too late, that the new spouse is indeed different from the first. And while the new spouse may have what the first spouse lacked, he may also lack what the first spouse had.
Does it make sense for someone who failed to marry again? Hardly anyone considers this question seriously, and even though we know the answer in advance, it is wise to give this question some thought.
Though it is generally true that it takes two to tango and only one to “un-tango” there is hardly a divorce in which the break – up is exclusively the fault of one of the partners. So, it behooves any divorced person to engage in serious soul-searching before remarrying, to contemplate what will be done differently so that the next marriage will endure.
Anyone who fails to do this before remarrying is irresponsible and not ready for remarriage. One who cannot recognize his mistakes and learn from them is bound to repeat them. This common-sense observation falls into the general ambit of “Love your fellow Jew as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), which is Talmudical understood as the obligation to engage in the type of activity that will enhance the viability of an impending marriage.
A second marriage following the death of one’s spouse poses other challenges. One may wrestle with various emotions when contemplating remarriage. The unease can affect one’s ability to remarry even years after the death.
It is odd that many people are more likely to question a marriage following the death of a spouse than one following a divorce. The key element in this upside down reaction is the loyalty factor. No loyalty is expected towards a divorced spouse, but loyalty is expected towards the deceased spouse.
There are those who regard remarrying as an act of betrayal. But if loyalty means maintaining whatever was built in the first marriage, it is entirely likely that the surviving partner can more successfully accomplish this with an understanding new partner. Another faulty perception is that a remarriage reflects negatively on the former spouse. A good first marriage naturally begets a second marriage. If anything, remarrying testifies to how good the first marriage was, good enough to warrant another marriage. Loyalty needs to be viewed from a Torah perspective. Clearly, the Torah mandate to marry is not to give marriage a try; it is to be married. If a first marriage is terminated, the imperative to marry remains. How can the fulfillment of a Torah mandate be considered disloyal?