With nearly sixty percent of remarriages ending in divorce, it seems unlikely that any textual discussion on this tread-lightly topic could be deemed as positive. Yet authors David and Lisa Frisbie accomplish this unlikely task most successfully.
Given that about 90 million people in the United States are now living in a stepfamily, divorce and remarriage are no longer "fringe" societal patterns. Divorce, even within the church, is a reality that must be reckoned with and faced head on. Surprisingly, those couples entering a second (or third, or fourth) marriage frequently exhibit some measure of extra-forgiveness than they did during their first marriages. The authors cite that with first marriages the high emotional component of physical attractiveness and romantic feelings often play an inordinate role in the formation of the relationship, whereas in the subsequent marriages both partners appear to be more rationally based when deciding to remarry. The deeper attraction is rooted in similarity of political and religious views, life experiences, and compatible personality types. It is on this basis that the authors say a remarriage can thrive despite the high divorce statistics.
Forgiveness of those who have hurt individuals in the past sets the new partners free of unwanted baggage often evidenced by anger, resentment and bitterness. Learning to forgive in the present, as couples adjust to differences in attitudes and values, also offers a sense of safety and shelter so necessary in a loving relationship. Further, embracing an attitude of personal forgiveness for past mistakes is essential. Accepting God's pardon completely allows each partner to look to the future with a solid hope instead of wallowing in regret over past errors.
The authors expound at length upon four foundation principles that are essential to a successful remarriage relationship. They recommend that both partners form a spiritual connection based on serving God together, determine to view their marriage as permanent and irreversible, embrace blanket forgiveness as cited above, and understand that conflict can bring about a deeper, more substantial relational bond.
While this text is soundly inspirational, it is also practical. Readers will glean countless tidbits of insight as they read about numerous other couples who've been there, done that, with resistant stepchildren, conflicting modes of discipline, blending within a new family home, creating memorable traditions, and overcoming financial stresses. Perhaps one of the most helpful chapters covers the hot topic of the "X" factor, or, in other words, "strategies for dealing with your former spouse." The authors remind the remarried that frequently well-behaved ex-spouses become jealous and angry when a former spouse gets married. These volatile emotions can play out in middle-school immature acts of purposefully withholding child support, being repeatedly late for picking up children, and becoming argumentative and aggressive. So what's an ex-spouse to do in the face of such behavior? Be the adult. Don't react in kind to such juvenile actions; rather, find ways to defuse them. Keep calm...at least be polite. Speak positively when the children are present, even when your emotions are groaning to vent. And make every effort to see interested, loving ex-in-laws as team players in raising your children. Tough call indeed.
Remarried couples and those individuals considering remarriage will find excellent counsel in this sensitively written text. Even those who have been married once will discover sound principles for deepening their marital relationship while simultaneously becoming more aware of the challenges their remarried friends and family members must face day to day as they seek to create a permanent, loving home environment.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on August 1, 2005