“Who? Me? Get married again? Are you crazy?!” The absolute last thing that most people want to do is jump back into another marriage after they have just gotten divorced! But once the dust has settled and their divorce is farther behind them, most people can’t help but wonder whether their life after divorce will include a new love.
If you pay attention to statistics, the outlook is pretty grim: 60% of all second marriages and 73% of all third marriages end in divorce. But, statistics can be misleading.
In 1986 Newsweek predicted that a 40 year old single woman had a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married. Twenty years later, Newsweek admitted that its story had been incorrect, but as a young, single, professional woman in the 1980s, reading that statistic made me want to either jump off the top of my office building and put myself out of my misery, or join the nearest convent and forget about marriage altogether! Thankfully, as a complete hopeless romantic (yes, a divorce lawyer can be romantic!) I didn’t give up. And, in case Newsweek cares, I did manage to get married to the love of my life … after I was 40!
Given my own experience with “shock and awe” statistics, I wasn’t surprised to learn lately that the grim statistics for second and third marriages might not be entirely accurate. A 75 year longitudinal study conducted by the Harvard Medical School known as the “Grant Study” found that few, if any, of the men in the study who were stuck in a bad marriage by middle age were able to turn it around. But many of the men who divorced went on to have happy new marriages which lasted for decades. (The study only included men.)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating divorce. The Grant Study wasn’t advocating divorce. But what the study did show was that it is possible to have a happy, healthy, and lengthy, second marriage.
Professor George Vaillant, who oversaw the Grant Study for over 45 years, admitted that he had been startled by the number of men who got divorced and then went on to find lasting love. He told the story of a man who had been divorced three times and, at age 45, met a woman who helped him turn his life around. He stayed happily married to her for the next 42 years.
Tara Parker Pope, the author of For Better: The Surprising Science of How Happy Couples Can Make Your Marriage Succeed, also disputes the validity of the divorce statistics we have all come to accept as true. Parker Pope states that, “because so many variables in the marriage-and-divorce equation are changing, a simple calculation comparing marriages and divorces in a given year ends up distorting the result and suggesting that the divorce rate is higher than it really is.”
The bottom line for anyone looking for love after divorce is this: you are not a statistic! Whether you find love in your life after divorce depends on you. Whether you make a second or a third marriage work depends on you: on who you choose to marry and how you live your life. You are not doomed to live a life of misery and loneliness just because you are divorced.
Trust me, if I could manage to find love, get married, and not get killed by a terrorist after I turned 40, you can find love, get married, and be happy too.
Karen Covy, J.D., is a Divorce Lawyer, Divorce Mediator, Divorce Educator, and a Collaborative Law Professional . She is a frequent expert contributor to Divorce Magazine, and the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally.