Your Fiancé Has Been Married Before, But You Haven't—Here's What You Need to Know
Relationship experts share their thoughts.
If your soon-to-be spouse has been married before, you may be worried they that won't be as excited about marrying you as you are about marrying them. Don't be. While it's true that the two of you may be feeling differently about your upcoming nuptials, it likely isn't in terms of happiness. As someone who's never experienced a wedding day as part of the couple of honor, you may be feeling nervous butterflies about the big day and beyond. Your partner, however, is probably anxiously anticipating the future you two will share. You also may be thinking about how things will change once you tie the knot, especially in regards to his or her former union. "The one getting married for the first time is often apprehensive about the influence or intrusion an ex-spouse may present," explains Michele Moore, licensed professional counselor, certified coach, and relationship expert at Marriage Mojo. "This is especially true when their partner shares custody with that person so they know this person will be a fixed facet of their lives for years to come."
If you're entering into a marriage where it's your first time, but it's your partner's second (or third, or fourth), there are some things worth knowing to streamline the process and help you cope. First and foremost: Don't assume that your partner gives up on relationships easily just because he or she has been married before and divorced, stresses Colleen Mullen, Psy.D., L.M.F.T., founder of Coaching Through Chaos. "Do, however, make sure you understand their perspective on what went wrong, what they wish were different and how making a choice to divorce affected them," she adds.
Another important thing to remember is that family, especially children, come first. "When there are children from a previous relationship, the new partner will need to understand what their expected role is in this new family they are marrying into," says Mullen. Prior to the marriage is the time to discuss this, as well as how you will balance time for your relationship and time spent with your spouse's children. "If the couple has not lived together prior to the marriage, there may be some adjusting to how this looks on a daily basis, but before the wedding is the time to talk about the expectations," adds Mullen. "If this is not clear, the marriage can start off on rocky ground."
Past relationship issues are another important discussion point, although not the most enjoyable of conversations to have. This shouldn't include just your partner's previous marital issues, but also any relationship hurdles you, yourself, have overcome. "Unless your partner has intentionally addressed the reasons for their previous marriage failure, these issues will likely present themselves again in this new marriage," warns Moore.
Ongoing financial strains may also become a burden, given the legal obligations your spouse might have to a previous spouse. "Although a divorce usually straightens out and divides the financial ties, some may still linger around," says Mercedes Coffman, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "For example, if the couple was in business together, you may need to be prepared that there will be business communications between your partner and his/her ex. Also, Coffman points out, if there are alimony agreements, you may have to be aware that these payments will have to be paid, which can interfere with financial plans that you may have for the marriage.
Ready for the good news? There are plenty of marriages that have successfully adapted to any or all of the points mentioned here. "These are merely reminders of what you may have to prepare yourself for when marrying someone who has been married before," says Coffman. "If the right questions are asked prior to tying the knot, and the couple remains open and honest with each other, there can be a wonderful union formed between the two."