“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.” — Groucho Marx
In the last 60 years, marriage in the United States has gone from sanctity to insanity. Celebrities lead the pack of divorcees ready to dive right back in after yet another shot at serial monogamy. Blues singer Jerry Lee Lewis has been married seven times; film director Martin Scorcese five times; and elderly film actress Zsa Zsa Gabor — God Bless her! — has gone and done the deed a whopping nine times.
But you don’t need to be a celebrity to be a statistic. If you’re retired or about to retire — or more precisely, if you were born during the years between 1945 and 1964 (another words, if you’re a “Baby Boomer”) — the odds are 50-50 that you've been married more than once, or are single and considering marching up to the altar just one more time. In fact, is it imprudent of us to ask whether you happen to be still married yet are considering that march again… with someone else?
According to University of Washington sociology professor and author Pepper Schwartz, Baby Boomers are a pampered generation flung into a strong post-WWII economy: “…with their adolescent disrespect for the past and their theme of ‘sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll,’ they pushed against the restrictive conventions of social life their parents more or less had accepted.”
"In many ways, divorce rates are the Baby Boomers’ legacy."
If you fit the Boomer age range, and you’re single, there’s a good chance you’re thinking of re-marrying. Frankly, if you’re married, there’s also a good chance you’re thinking of re-marrying. To quote Professor Schwartz again, “As boomer men and women wavered between choosing self-fulfillment over older traditions of duty, loyalty, and lifetime marriage at any cost, the institution of marriage became, over time, more of a voluntary association than a predictably permanent one…. In many ways, divorce rates are the Boomers’ legacy.”
Or to quote the lyric in a popular Count Basie album, “just one more time!”
Far be it from us to dispute the possible triumph of hope over experience; but even if you fall into the younger age group cited by Professor Schwartz (placing you in the Generation X or Millennial groups), with a 60% chance of doing it right this time, you've got some serious thinking to do. Particularly since, at least in one year, according to a U.S. Census poll, “of men and women who married for the second or third time in the year prior to the interview, 91 % were remarrying after being divorced.”
So if you’re thinking of re-marrying, this is no time to kid yourself. Love may spring eternal, but marriage takes work. Here are five guidelines which can help you wade through moments of doubt and indecision before you proceed to make the matrimonial move one more time:
Don’t Tell Yourself a Story That This Time It’s Different: Sure, you've learned a lot and have grown. And yes, you have more money and are more secure. But you’re still the same person you were. You still respond to situations with the same set of reflexes and genetic programming. And, if you didn't like the taste of meat loaf in your first marriage, it’s a Vegas slam-dunk that you won’t like it in your second or third marriage (try explaining that to your new soon-to-be spouse in the courting stages when she insists you come over the house for dinner to sample her “specialty.” Three guesses what that will be?).
Okay, so this particular hubby is considerate, and isn't an alcoholic, as opposed to Hubby #1. But he still might launch into an argument about some of the same things you fought about with that first husband. He just might not drink himself to sleep over it. But the essential “who of you” in your first marriage is the same as the essential “who of you” in successive marriages. If you don’t believe us, give Zsa Zsa Gabor a call and ask her what she thinks.
Follow The Money!: And you thought this was a Watergate mantra! Have you forgotten what it cost you when you went Splitsville the first time? You got stuck with his credit card bills, and had your own credit nearly ruined. And the money you paid for the kids’ tuition… which leads us to our third guideline/warning…
Never Forget That You’re Marrying a Family, Not Just a Person: You found that out the hard way when you discovered you couldn't abide your mother-in-law’s condescending and interfering ways. But if your new fiancée had children in her previous marriage, you’ll want to make sure they’re kids you can not only enjoy, but influence and grow to love. And if they need money for tuition or starting a new business, you’ll want to make sure you and your fiancée agree about whether to provide these funds.
It’s Not All About Sex: Oh, you say you already knew that? Right! Isn't sex great in the era of Viagra, adult sex toys, and X-rated movies? But both of you are older now. If one or both of you do not have health issues now, you might in the near future. And getting married means honoring a commitment with someone when they get sick — and are unable to perform in bed the way they once did. Again, check with Zsa Zsa. She’s had to endure at least nine different commitments.
And, finally …
You’ll Always Have To Give Up Some Freedom: Even if you are fortunate enough to marry someone who wants to be alone only at the times you want to be alone, the relationship can't possibly stay blissful. People change, and their needs change. Freedom, or what we perceive to be freedom, is lost when we make a decision to give up our time for our significant other. Because, in the end, time is all we have. Janice Joplin put it another way: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Now, go ahead, get married again. You know it’s what you want to do.