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Should She Remarry Ex for Third Time?

QUESTION: I am 35 and getting back together with my ex-husband whom I have already married and divorced twice in the past. We are thinking of marrying again now that we both have good careers, and are very supportive to one another. We do have a 13-year-old son from our previous marriage, but the love we feel now couldn't even compare with that of before! Are we making a mistake?

ANSWER: It is unlikely that "love" has a lot to do with the reasons the two of you divorced in the past. Research shows that it is more likely that your relationship dissolved due to unresolved conflict. You appear to maintain passion through a dance of alternating closeness and distance. Divorce has likely functioned to regulate the needs for closeness and distance in your relationship which you were unable to master.

Intimacy requires a conscious regulation of the needs for togetherness and autonomy, yet the two of you avoided developing this dimension of the relationship. Rather than finding successful means for negotiation, you were forced to depend on outside agencies (the legal system) to solve conflicting needs.

Why not leave "good enough" alone? You and your ex-husband have a cooperative and supportive relationship. Only half of divorced parents are able to be friends following divorce. Establish stability for your son. And consider the significance of the trauma your son has endured in twice witnessing the break up of his family. A third remarriage would cause your son renewed anxiety. Your present situation is positive. Why upset the balance for romantic reasons that have not borne out in the past?

Your son may be learning that romance and passion alone do not ensure a commitment to marriage. He may even avoid relationship based on the confusion his parents' marriages represent. Consider his needs in the equation. Seek to understand the impact of the emotional roller coaster that you and his father precipitated for him. This kind of emotional instability can prove problematic for him. Spend time devoted to being the best parents you can be together and let that inform any possible decision about remarriage.

Decision-making, negotiating skills and communication are key elements to success in marriage. Sustained passion and romance is often a result of an ability to communicate and work together to fulfill each other's needs. Although you and your ex-husband may, indeed, love one another more than ever, it does not mean you have the ability to sustain this love in the context of marriage!

Consider couples counseling to explore the reality vs. the fantasy of remarriage. And ask yourselves the reasons for another remarriage. Why do you want to marry? What does marriage mean to you at this point in time? If after a thorough examination you are able to identify what needs to change in order to succeed at living together in harmony, proceed to establish these new relationship patterns before considering a third trip to the alter with each other.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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