Prev Next

Wedding Redux: Facing Fears as a Second Time Bride


This week, we wanted to explore different perspectives on getting married. Yesterday, we discussed becoming a stepparent at a young age, and then we talked about finding out right after the wedding that you were having a baby (surprise!). So today, Dorie is here talking about the fears of being a second-time bride and the bravery it takes to jump into marriage, every single time.Wedding Redux: Facing Fears as a Second Time Bride | A Practical Wedding

I just hauled a bag full of marriage improvement, couple-oriented, self-help books in for trade credit at my local used bookstore.

That line makes me sound bitter, perhaps, or hopeless. One might think that I just now decided that my marriage was over, that I have just decided to file for divorce. The reality is, though, I have been divorced since 2007. Instead of dumping those books in preparation for a divorce, I am getting rid of the marriage advice books in preparation for my upcoming wedding.

My fiancé and I were the product of a whirlwind romance, courtesy of, well serendipity. A native East-Coaster, R. was in Arizona doing some consulting, and he had just reconnected with his old college roommate who lived in Phoenix. Said former roommate and I knew each other through volunteer work. One day R.’s former roommate said to me, “I’d like to introduce you to somebody. He’s here on a consulting gig and a little bored. I thought maybe you would want to play tour-guide.” We met, hit it off, I played tour guide, and then those outings became dates. I really liked him, but I wasn’t thinking (too much) about our future.

We had known each other for only about five months when my now-fiancé asked me, “When do you think we should maybe talk about talking about getting married?” Despite all the hedging in that question, I nearly fell off the sofa, thinking, “What? Get married? Talk about getting married? He’s crazy! What never-married, not quite 50-year-old says things like that after knowing somebody for five months?” Yet, instead of saying what I thought, I mumbled something about the fact that I would have to move and would not be able to find a job. Lack of job security, however, was not the real reason I did not want to talk about (talking about) getting married. The real reason was that, simply, I was afraid. I had done this once before, and even though our relationship felt right in ways the other one did not, I felt worried and fretful: What if it doesn’t work the second time around?

Once R. returned to the East Coast, we had dates via Skype and racked up frequent-flyer miles. I met his family, and he had a few test runs with my good friends in Phoenix. I had told him we couldn’t even broach the idea of marriage until 2011. And then (as my ever-astute sister had predicted), he officially proposed—and I accepted—at the very end of December 2010, about 10 months after our first date.

So, we began planning a wedding. There was no need to panic; I had been through it all before. I knew what questions to ask the caterer. I knew the pros and cons of having a hotel wedding vs. a venue that out-of-town guests can’t walk to. I knew how to avoid the WIC (though I still occasionally fall prey to its lure). This time around I have a partner who is more than willing to help with the planning. In fact, early in the planning process he chided me for not letting him do enough, so now he’s made more phone calls and more arrangements than I have! The event planning feels easier, but the marriage planning… that’s what has me panicked.

As a second-time bride, I already know from experience that despite intense, deep-felt love, marriages can and do fall apart. And while, of course, I do not want this marriage to fall apart because I love my fiancé to the very core of my being, because I cannot imagine life without him, and cannot imagine causing him that pain, I also still feel some trepidation because, well, I do not want to go through a divorce again. I do not want that pain, and I certainly don’t want that mark of failure—again.

Now that our engagement has been official for over a year, I’ve read more “making your marriage work” type books (most recommend here on APW) in the past several months than I did during the seven years I was married. However, they all make me feel a little inadequate, or don’t seem to apply to us, or, more frustratingly, offer contradictory advice. Besides, R. has no desire to read them, and the information is not really helpful if only half of the couple reads the text.

At one point I told R., “I’m worried I have no good models for marriage. My parents are divorced. I’m divorced. A lot of my friends are divorced. I’m not sure I know how to make a marriage work.” He told me that he’s sure that I’ve learned from my mistakes and by the way, not to worry, for his parents had a wonderful marriage. He had great role models.

But what if I haven’t learned enough from my mistakes? Or, what if I haven’t learned those lessons at all? What if I only think that I have learned? We know that we have learned from our mistakes when faced with a situation we previously faced and react differently and make different choices about our behaviors. But the catch with marriage is that we often don’t get to try out those lessons—those learned skills—until we are in the risky situation in which we need to apply them. There is no paper-pencil test for marriage skills. I understand the purpose of marriage counseling and role playing, but I think most of us know that we don’t know how we are going to react to trying situations—or even joyous ones—until we are in the situation. We can rehearse events in our heads and with our partners, but in the end, nobody can predict where our emotions will take us on any given day.

So where does that leave me now? In some ways, I am still the scared woman on the sofa. But I have determined that despite my fear, I must truly trust in my partner’s feelings for me—and trust myself. I need to accept that we would never grow if we never took risks, that we, as humans, are life-long learners, that many great things are unrehearsed. And, I need to accept that doing nothing for fear of failure gets us nowhere.

Photo by: Kateryn Silva (APW Sponsor)

More in Recent Posts Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Ceebee

    While I wanted to overshoot myself and say APW topics are starting to get dark,
    I mean to say that it is always darkest before sunrise. These topics provide the hope and support that will bring out the brightest sides of us to get out of tough situations.

    • meg

      I wouldn’t say they are dark as a RULE ;) Maybe deep mixed with funny? We have some funny bits coming up!

      • Josephine

        Don’t worry, deep is good! That, along with funny, is what keeps me coming back!

        • http://laughterinthelou.com Emma

          The word I use when describing APW (deep, dark, joyful or otherwise) is “legitimate”, meaning these are things worth writing about, things of substance.

      • Bernie

        Dark is good!! The deep, honest posts about marriage beyond the wedding day are what keep me reading APW :)

  • andthebeautyis

    This post is very brave, and I think marriage does require a large amount of faith (particularly in yourself). So, Dorie, bravo for taking that scary leap.
    I will add that for me, those “marriage prep/maintenance” books were very helpful in allaying my fears. I found that several of them gave me concrete tools I can use when things get emotional – so it’s not just about faith. Knowing what phrases or ways of arguing are counterproductive means I can recognize them even in an unforeseen situation. And knowing how to keep our relationship strong when we’re apart allows me to relax when we have to travel for work.
    But if all that only makes your fears worse, then, yeah, put the books down and believe in your own capabilities.

    • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

      “But if all that only makes your fears worse, then, yeah, put the books down and believe in your own capabilities.”

      Exactly! One person’s incredibly helpful book is another’s this-is-making-me-more-worried book. It’s like learning to un-bookmark all of those wedding blogs that make you feel inadequate.

  • Claire

    “we would never grow if we never took risks, that we, as humans, are life-long learners, that many great things are unrehearsed. And, I need to accept that doing nothing for fear of failure gets us nowhere.”

    So true. Thank you for sharing this chapter in your lifetime of learning. Best wishes for your upcoming wedding and a long, healthy marriage.

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

    “But I have determined that despite my fear, I must truly trust in my partner’s feelings for me—and trust myself. I need to accept that we would never grow if we never took risks, that we, as humans, are life-long learners, that many great things are unrehearsed.”

    Many great things are unrehearsed – it is so true!

    It sounds like you’ve been poking around a lot in your mind, jabbing at emotional bruises, picking reactions apart. Introspection with help as you walk into this experience that sounds, frankly, terrifying. But you’re walking – you’re DOING it. How courageous is that?

    And, what is more, you have identified that you are working to trust your partner’s feelings, which is so very important. In every relationship between two people, there comes a time when one of them is very close to an issue and can’t see the way ahead clearly, and they need to trust the other person to guide them. It happens between parents and children, between friends, between life partners. There will be times when YOU will be the one HE has to trust, because he is caught in the middle of something and can’t see the way through his fear.

    So, huzzah for taking such courageous steps forward, for trusting again after having been hurt. It’s inspiring to see – thank you for sharing this!

    • dorie goldman

      To PA
      RE “…you have identified that you are working to trust your partner’s feelings, which is so very important. In every relationship between two people, there comes a time when one of them is very close to an issue and can’t see the way ahead clearly, and they need to trust the other person to guide them. [...] here will be times when YOU will be the one HE has to trust, because he is caught in the middle of something and can’t see the way through his fear.”

      Thank-you so much for your comment on my post. It took me a looong time to arrive at this realization. In fact, I had the whole post pretty much written except for the conclusion because it took me such a great while to realize that trusting my partner’s feelings were a huge part of why I said “yes”. And it never occurred to me that the roles will be flipped at some point. Makes me feel a little better about being so trepidatious but also makes me value the partnership more as well.

  • Contessa

    Yes! Getting married a second time takes bravery along the lines of, “If you aren’t worried you aren’t paying attention.” I vacillate every day between feeling sure and remembering that a new marriage involves a new husband with new baggage and attitudes and it can’t be the same as the last one and wondering if I learned anything at all and OHMYGODWHATIFIDIDN’T????

    I calm myself by remembering that just as our mortality should help us appreciate life, knowing that a marriage can end and that someone can leave should help us appreciate all the days that it doesn’t and they don’t.

  • Anon

    Hey Dorie – I wish you all the best of luck. As someone who reads APW to try and get the bravery together to start her life again, I thank you xx

  • Another Meg

    “And while, of course, I do not want this marriage to fall apart because I love my fiancé to the very core of my being, because I cannot imagine life without him, and cannot imagine causing him that pain, I also still feel some trepidation because, well, I do not want to go through a divorce again. I do not want that pain, and I certainly don’t want that mark of failure—again.”

    Boy howdy do I feel you. It’s crazy how deep that cuts- the feeling that we failed. It’s been three years and I’m still trying to get past that feeling to the success that lies in figuring out what was right for my life- even if it was hard and hurt like a MF. But it is success.

    • http://www.lilpets.wordpress.com Sandy

      Exactly times a million. I just recently married for the second time and I had a lot of the same fears as Dorie. But this was the biggest one.

      When my husband and I started the flirtation that would eventually lead to to our relationship, I was very very worried that I wasn’t good enough for him. That I was used goods. He was so good, so sweet that I didn’t want burden him with trash like me. It took years, including pre-marriage counseling, to feel that I deserve to be loved by someone as good as he is. And to realize he has faults and fears, too.

    • http://twitter.com/whitney923 Whitney

      I am mortified at myself and the amount of time I spend thinking about how awful it would be if I ever had to change my FB relationship status from married to single ever again. That’s the thing that weirdly sticks in my head. I guess b/c for me, that was what made the last divorce real. Not the years of misery, sadness, tears leading UP to the divorce, because I didn’t tell anyone what was happening. Announcing it to the world, letting EVERYONE know that I had failed, that was the hard part.

      And it is what I fear now.

  • Richelle

    Good for you Dorie! You are afraid and doing it anyways. Good for you! I am thinking about what a was said yesterday about the tremendous value of pre-marital counseling, faith based or otherwise, and want to just throw out that one of the benefits to me from things like that has been to hear from a “professional” that my fears are ok. That they don’t mean that I’m on the road to doom. That I’m getting myself prepared. That I’m in a good-enough place. Sometimes I think there should be a perfect choice, and doubt myself when I have any concerns at all. Talking to a “professional” helps put that to rest. Just a thought for you. Good luck!

  • AMBI

    What a beautiful and honest post. I don’t even know you, and yet I feel so proud of you! And I think that recognizing that you don’t have good marraige role models is a huge first step – that realization will shape the way you view future events in your marraige and hopefully give you some perspective when times are tough.

    I want to preface what I am about to say by first being very clear that (1) I have never gone through a divorce, (2) no one in my close family has been divorced, and (3) I may not know what I am talking about at all, so feel free to ignore me . . . but in my own experience, having good marraige role models is really a whole lot about seeing people struggle through the bad times and stick it out. My parents had bad years – not weeks or months, but whole years where they were pretty miserable, and yet they made it through and are so much happier today. My partner’s parents openly talk about the fact that their first five years of marraige were awful, and they both wanted out. But they stayed, and they are very happy now. I’m not advocating that you let yourself be miserable for years – go to counseling before it gets that bad!!!! – I am just saying that, from someone surrounded by good marraige role models, I feel like a lot of what I learned was about looking at the big picture, thinking about how things are going to be in ten or twenty years, rather than how they are right now, and having faith that even if you hate your marraige at this moment, you can improve it and make it better and end up happier. And of course, that can take a lot of work. And part of what I saw with my parents and family (and still see every day with my partner’s family) is what that work looks like. I have gotten to see people practice patience and communication, get up and take the trash out as an active step towards imrpoving their marraige, go for a run because they’ve learned that exercise makes them a nicer human being, etc. What really sticks with me is the realization that these people that I know so well – stubborn, busy people, with hurt feelings and grudges and rejection issues – they were making difficult choices every single day to do things to save their marraige – choosing to swallow their anger and speak in a kinder tone, choosing to work a difficult and unpleasant job because the family needed the money, choosing not to vent to friends out of respect to their spouse. Choosing to let go of the dream for another baby or a move to a big city, or conversely, choosing to go forward with those plans. I guess, to boil it down, my experience with good marraige role models is watching them stick it out through the really nasty times and then fight tooth and nail for their marraiges, through small everyday actions as well as big decisions. I know that I am very lucky to have grown up witnessing these things, and they have shaped my view on relationships and marraige (and in a strange way, they have made me and my partner very hesitant to get married until we are SURE, because we have a very deep understanding of the work and difficulty that lie ahead). My experiences growing up taught me that marraige necessarily includes some conflict, and compromise, and even unhappiness. You are giving things up to be with your partner, and at times you will feel that sacrifice accutely. And it sucks. But you have to keep believing that it is worth it, because every single married couple I know that has made it through those dark times swears that they are happier and stronger and better because of them.

    Anyway, I am REALLY not trying to imply that divorce is a result of not sticking it out through the really nasty times, or that seeing all this while I grew up will somehow insulate me from divorce – I understand that the difficulties and complexities and sadness of each person’s marraige are things I just can’t fathom, and sometimes divorce is the best solution. But when you talked about feeling a bit lost because you don’t have good marriage role models, it made me think about the fact that I do have them, and what I have learned from them. I am sure none of this is anything new – probably stuff you’ve read in those marraige books. :)

    • Caroline

      Ambi, thank you. That was super helpful to read. I feel like I also have few good marriage role models. I thought that was very interesting and useful.

    • Kristine

      Ambi,
      I think you make a lot of great points. On the other hand, I did have amazing marriage role models. My parents were married 30 years before my dad passed away, and my grandparents were married 60 years. Divorce is the exception to the rule in my extended family.

      And yet I found myself married at 24 and divorced at 27. I actually think that in my case, the amazing marriages that surrounded me gave me the courage to walk away from a relationship that was unhealthy and dysfunctional on so many levels. I probably got married for the wrong reasons and I own that, but I think that seeing people who stuck it out and stuck around can help you know when it’s time to say “Enough is enough”.

      Now I’m 31, newly remarried and in a much better place. My husband and I lived together for three years before getting married and we’ve seen our share of conflict and compromise. Except this time the sucky parts make us stronger. :-)

  • R

    My grandparents like to joke that they’ve been married for 50 years, just not to each other. This marriage is the second one for the both of them, and they’re great role models for how you really can get it right the second time. They’ve been married to each other for 40ish years now, and they still dote on each other. Not that they haven’t had their own problems, but they learned from their first marriages and stuck it out. Which is to say, just because this is your second marriage doesn’t mean it won’t be your last one.

  • Lturtle

    My dad is 59 and getting married to wife number 6 (!) in July. I have often thought that he must be the most optimistic person I know, but after reading this I think it’s more than that. It is terribly brave to knowingly make yourself vulnerable again after being hurt or hurting one you care about. I admire those who do it.
    We all make mistakes and get hurt, but to get back in the saddle and try again takes a different kind of courage than taking that step in the first place. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go call my dad …

  • http://newcomfortfood.tumblr.com/ JenMac

    Thank you so much for this post, particularly your closing lines:

    “But I have determined that despite my fear, I must truly trust in my partner’s feelings for me—and trust myself. I need to accept that we would never grow if we never took risks, that we, as humans, are life-long learners, that many great things are unrehearsed. And, I need to accept that doing nothing for fear of failure gets us nowhere.”

    This is something I am trying to remember myself as a first-time engaged person, who still looks at all marriage is and finds it to be so huge and frightening – because what if it doesn’t work out? I think it’s really brave of you to discuss these fears, and it really helps to hear about them – and also to remember the importance of moving through those fears.

  • Pingback: My fiance does not want to set a day or speak about a wedding – really should I be worried?