- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2008

The leader of a support group for people who are divorced recently invited me to speak to the group about remarriage.

As the publisher of a magazine and Web site about remarriage, I was somewhat apprehensive about the idea of delivering a message that would sound too enthusiastic about marrying again to a group of 24 people who were experiencing the pains of divorce. After all, it was a divorce support group, not a remarriage or stepfamily support group.

Having very little foreknowledge of the group’s views on remarriage, I briefly introduced myself and dove right in with an opening exercise to get a feel for the waters in which I would be swimming. I asked each attendee to write down one word (or a few) that comes to mind when hearing the word “remarriage.”

I wasn’t anticipating any surprises; I thought that a group of recently divorced people could quite possibly be bitter, hurt or angry at this stage of life. After all, I had been in their shoes.

Some of the first responses I read aloud to the group did not quite dampen my anxiety. The first card actually had three words - “deceitful, liar, heartless.” Ouch!

The second card said, “no,” and the third card screamed, “NO!” complete with capital letters and an exclamation point. This was seemingly going to be a tough evening.

The mood of the room really lightened up, though, when the fourth card simply read, “Elizabeth Taylor.”

As it turns out, my feeling about the meeting was what 25 percent of the people thought about remarriage - fear.

Fearfulness was especially evident in the financial arena, as some of the responses were along the lines of “financial suicide.” A survey of 1,000 nationally representative adult Americans conducted in March 2008 by Remarriage LLC reveals that 33 percent of remarried or re-coupled Americans say their financial situation has improved since they remarried or considered remarriage, while 45 percent report it hasn’t changed. Fifteen percent of remarried or re-coupled Americans say they now have double or more than double the cash to spend freely. Perhaps the response of “financial suicide” referred more to the consequences of one’s divorce rather than remarriage.

After all the cards had been read, there was one stream of thought that was even more prevalent than fear. The highest number of responses reflected “happiness,” “hope” and “excitement about the future.” The majority of the support group members who were recently divorced were open to the idea of having a second chance for a successful marriage despite their fears.

In fact, about 75 percent of divorced persons eventually remarry, according to the National Stepfamily Resource Center, a division of Auburn University’s Center for Children, Youth and Families. And, while half of marriages end in divorce, within five years of divorcing, 89 percent of men and 79 percent of women remarry, according to some studies.

The biggest surprise to me at the meeting was that the support group members were enthralled positively with the discussion of remarriage and wanted to discuss the joys, challenges and issues it poses. One person was “scared but excited.” Another “really wanted” remarriage but was “really terrified.” And, another wrote “panic” and “maybe.”

It was exciting to be able to share with them the support and resources available for remarried couples. They acknowledged the complexities that a remarriage can bring and the benefits of dealing with one’s own baggage before entering into another marriage. Wanting to hear all of the nitty-gritty details and examples of stepfamily living, they had a strong desire to go into a loving remarriage with their eyes wide open.

Divorce rates for second marriages are higher than divorce rates for first marriages. My fears about this meeting melted due to this wise and inspiring group of people. All of us continued to work through our fears that night. I am sure that with the right resources and continued support of each other, each of them will find the happiness he or she deserves. And, I am excited to continue to share with others the often hard-to-find and valuable resources available today to enable successful remarriages and stepfamily living.

Paula Bisacre, founder of Remarriage LLC, is the publisher and executive editor of reMarriage magazine (www.remarriagemagazine.com). She can be reached at publisher@remarriagemagazine.com