I had an aunt and uncle who were married, divorced and remarried three times. None of them worked out, the three kids were driven to distraction and both the depression and the final break-up was far worse than the first time. This caused me to wonder if second (or third) marriages to the same person improved the chances of things going better than they had the first time around.
The phenomenon is not at all uncommon. Estimates range as high as 65% of divorced couples remarrying each other again. The relative success and failure rates of that number has not been empirically researched or documented. But, some common sense may be applied to figuring out the likelihood of success in a second or third attempt.
In the world of celebrities, there are far better known examples than that found in my own family. Most people of my generation recall the marital yo-yoing between the actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who were married from 1964-74, divorced, remarried from 1974-76 and then divorced again.
I never thought about my aunt and uncle as celebrities, but as adults who were unable to get along but seemingly unable to be apart. In this way, they seem to have had something in common.
Things did not work out the first time. What might move people to try it again? There are many, many possible reasons. Here are four of the most common ones:
Firstly, there is hope. There is the wish that somehow this time things will be better and that the dysfunction that developed in the first marriage will simply not recur. On its face, this is rather silly although it is entirely understandable.
If nothing substantial has changed, nothing different is apt to occur because as everyone knows (yet is sometimes prone to forget): If you want something to be different, you need to do something differently.
Secondly, there is undying infatuation. Some people become so taken with their distorted and often projective views of each other that they are unable to see each other clearly. This fogged vision can lead an otherwise rational person down a path where the light at the end of the tunnel is actually a train coming the other way ‘” again.
It is this situation that is often explained with words like, “We just love each other too much to remain apart” or “All couples fight sometimes. We just do it somewhat more than most.” These are rationalizations driven by denial of the fact that the coupling, legal or otherwise, was and continues to be a mistake.
Thirdly, there is sometimes the misguided idea that being together is somehow better for the children, even if the adults are living in a state of daily anger and misery. This is simply wrong. It is not that the children will be happy if the parents break up or remain broken up. Rather, the realization, demonstrated over many years of research, is that the children are hurt either way.
The decision about whether to stay together or to reunite is most appropriately based on what works best for the adults. Children are saddened and impacted by both parental break ups as they are by unhappy parents remaining together. It is ill advised to use the children as an excuse for a bad decision in which anguish and unhappiness are perpetuated.
Fourthly and finally, some people hate to admit that they have made a mistake. Sometimes reinforced by religious beliefs and doctrines, couples find themselves getting back together because they feel it is the right and/or required thing to do.
Without change, in all probability on the part of BOTH parties, remarriage motivated by obligation stands something close to a zero probability of succeeding.
To paraphrase an old saying, “Fool ourselves once, shame on us. Fool ourselves twice, shame on us and pity on the kids.”