Making a Second Marriage Work

First Spouse Syndrome can cause a few difficulties in a second marriage. John Gray offers readers advice on how to deal with FSS in order to make your marriage be a success.

By John Gray, Ph.D.
Updated: February 10, 2015
Mars and Venus: Advice from John Gray

After taking what you felt was the necessary time to heal, to reclaim yourself, and to set new personal priorities, you've now found your way back on the path to love. And your new partner is a dream come true! In fact, sometimes you feel you have to pinch yourself because you find it so hard to believe that there isn't another, perhaps darker side to this relationship.

Waiting for that dark side to appear -- even when there are no rational indications that it ever will -- is a symptom of "First Spouse Syndrome," a trauma you may experience over the fear that the mistakes and issues of the last relationship will haunt you again in this new partnership.

FSS rears its ugly head in unexpected times, and in the most innocuous ways: perhaps an innocent remark made by your partner was a phrase once used -- and used against you -- by your prior partner; or, maybe you have not fully resolved a trust issue, and some behavior you've witnessed in your new partner is hurtfully reminiscent of that enacted by your old love.

Very few divorced people are able to sidestep FSS. However, you can confront this trauma. At the end of this article, you'll find four steps to keep you on the path of the love you so greatly deserve.

Can those readers who are married to a previously divorced partner help lessen any FSS that their loved ones may be experiencing? You bet! Your partner is your strongest ally in staying on course. Partners, here are three tips to help you both cope with FSS:

Tip #1: Don't take it personally.
To put your loved one's behavior into perspective, you must realize that 90% of your partner's overreactions is based on a previous hurt. That means that only 10% of the hurt your partner is feeling has to do with what he or she thinks is upsetting him/her. Knowing that there are bogeymen in your partner's closet, you can now reassure him or her that you aren't one of them.

Tip #2: Don't overreact.
Instead, center yourself, even if that means leaving the room -- or the house -- for an hour or so. Combative behavior will only exacerbate his or her fears and delay a resolution to the issue currently confronting you. The best defense is no offense, just your support to bring about a positive result.

Tip #3: Encourage your partner to face his/her fears.
This is best done by suggesting that they write down all issues that concern them: any lack of trust, communication blocks, the loss of you. Then, one by one, your partner should put in writing his or her desires regarding these issues. Finally, a plan to address these fears rationally can be developed -- with your nurturing encouragement, of course.

Remember, soulmates are not always perfect. But then again, neither are we. Relationships survive through give and take, and with flexibility and forgiveness. Readers, here are four things to do to put this new relationship into perspective -- and on a more successful path:

Step One: Don't confuse your second spouse with your first.
Your new partner does not have the same flaws as your last one. We are all individuals, and we should be appreciated as such. Give your spouse the benefit of your love -- and your trust.

Step Two: Don't let the little things get to you.
Sometimes, we get bogged down in finding fault with the little things that affect our lives, or the smaller issues we have with our partners. Life is a panoramic picture. To have a happy, fulfilling life, you have to step back and take in the full scope of all its accomplishments.

Step Three: Seek answers to your fears.
The best way to move beyond your fears is to confront them. Open your heart to your spouse about some of these issues, and seek professional counseling for issues that you simply cannot resolve.

Step Four: Forgive yourself when you forget to follow Steps One, Two, and Three.
You will make mistakes. We all do. Just put them in perspective, and put your mind in the right place: believe in your partner, and in the underlying strength of your relationship.

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By John Gray, Ph.D.| May 27, 2008

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