Second marriages are tricky. According to the Internet, arguably the world’s most reliable source of accurate statistics and funny cat videos, second marriages have a divorce rate of 67%—making them even harder to pull off successfully than first marriages (50% divorce rate), but a little less tricky to pull off than third marriages, which boast a whopping 73% divorce rate.
Unless you’ve experienced a second marriage, ideally with step-parenting duties, you can’t fully appreciate this statistic. But for us veterans, it’s totally clear: A second marriage requires laser-like focus, and by focus I mean double Martinis; it also requires a sense of humor. And by humor, I mean a perverse ability to stare tragedy in the face and say, “I own you. Just kidding. You own me. Now let’s go have a beer.”
On our second anniversary, my husband informed that he longed to go back to Kauai, where we honeymooned. I agreed with him, and suggested that we shoot for our five-year anniversary.
“No way. Eight. We’re going back for our eighth anniversary.”
“Huh? Why eight?”
“Eight’s the big one. Neither of us made it to eight the first time.”
By golly, my husband was right. Our first marriages ended at seven-ish. We had yet to reach eight years as husband and wife—with anyone.
“Makes sense to me. Eight it is. We’ve got this,” I said cheerily.
Fast forward five years to this past summer, when we celebrated our seventh anniversary. We spent it in a neighboring county, in a small town known for its plentiful supply of wine tasting establishments within walking distance of a decent hotel. Off we sped toward our destination on the morning of our anniversary. It was only an hour drive, but halfway there, I grew restless. I just couldn’t wait. I spied a rural, picturesque turnout. So what if it happened to also sell gas and from the looks of it, double as a meth support group hub.
Me: Pull over.
Me: I can’t wait.
Me: Yes. I need to give it to you now so we can enjoy the drive.
Me: Here’s your present.
I handed him an envelope. It was a CD I put together of cool songs that remind me of us. I explained that I wanted to listen to it on the drive.
Me: Want to exchange cards now, too?
So we handed each other our cards, and smiled at the 50-something year old guy at the air/water station next to us, filling up the tires of his 1979 Pontiac Trans Am, the one with the bumper sticker that read, “Free mustache rides.”
That’s when my husband dropped the seven-year truth bomb.
“I’m really nervous.”
“Pre-wedding-night jitters?” I said coyly, batting my eyelashes, thinking we were about to do a little role-playing.
“No. As of today, the pressure is really on.”
“To make it to eight! We’ve got to make it through the next year!”
“Oh, right. I forgot,” I lied, not caring one bit about the silly number, but aware of the fact that my husband is a math guy. “We really need to be on our best behavior. We can’t take our eye off the ball!”
“We’ve got to stay diligent, babe. Think twice before going to the mall,” my husband said.
“Think twice before switching to football on a quiet Sunday morning when the children are all gone, hun,” I said.
“Think twice before leaving all the lights burning all over the house, sweetheart,” he said.
“Think twice before—.” Wait a second. What were we doing?
We were playing right into the statistics’ hands, that’s what!
So there we sat, listening to a bad-ass biker chick pound on the door of the men’s room hollering for Earl to poop or get off the pot, reading our cards, realizing how important it was for us to let the little things go, and enjoying the homemade CD.
Later that night, at a quiet, candlelit table, I thought about how compatible we actually were. Like our small wedding in a city park, today’s card exchange wasn’t about the venue, it was about us, and the decision we made to willingly take on the already fully-formed and not always pretty portions of each other’s lives, which included children and aging parents and parenting schedules and mid-life insecurities and a host of other opportunities to grow as human beings. As I gazed lovingly at my husband as he licked the side of his wine glass to catch a stray drop sliding downward, I didn’t even flinch. I recalled how my husband refrained from chastising me earlier in the day for not once remembering which way to turn, up the street or down the street, when we exited a wine bar—which numbered in the double digits. No snarky comments, just a tug on the back of my collar and we were back on track.
And that’s why some second marriages do beat the odds—because the participants realize there are so many big things staring the players in the face they have no choice but to let the little things go, and definitely not scoff at mini-marts as romantic destinations.
Kauai, here we come!