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Love Lessons From Her First Marriage


If your first marriage ended badly, don’t give up on love just yet! The lessons these ladies learned from their own experiences helped them turn their second marriage into “happily ever after.”

By Amy Keyishian

eople generally think of baggage as a bad thing, but what if the ghosts our past relationships actually helped us instead of haunting us? Your ex-husband doesn’t have to be a looming, negative force in your life — instead, you can use him (and the things you went
Your ex-husband doesn’t have to be a looming, negative force in your life.
through when you were married to each other) to make your second marriage go the distance.

“Your first marriage can be an education,” says Carol Gould, MST, a marriage and family therapist in San Francisco, CA. “You don’t just learn from your experiences — you’re transformed by them. If you work things out correctly, you’ll identify things that are now deal-breakers and you won’t accept them in your next partner.” So if you didn’t realize it before, you really are a different person when you enter into your second marriage, and believe it or not, you have your Master’s in Marriage from the University of Divorce to thank for that.

Below are just a few of the nuggets of wisdom these women learned from their experiences and brought with them into their second marriages:

Compatibility trumps a challenging partner
“I learned how to pick a partner based on who I want, not who I want to be. The second time, I decided to look for ultimate compatibility rather than what seemed excitingly just out of reach. I also chose someone who would be a true partner, not a ‘sometimes partner’ and otherwise [be my] adversary. I can challenge myself, thank you very much!”
– Alyson M., Mendham, NJ

Speak up when your needs aren’t being met
“After my first marriage failed to rescue me, I rescued myself… and then I was ready for my second marriage. Now I know how to ask for what I need rather than expecting marriage to help me figure it out — or my husband to do it for me.”
– Holly H., San Francisco, CA

Focus on your blessings instead of letting the little things get to you
“I’ve learned that both people should be thankful every day, even for the small things, and they should say it out loud. And don’t sweat the small
In my first marriage, I used to sulk and hold a grudge.
stuff. I sweated all the small stuff in my first marriage and all I got was sweaty — and divorced.”
– Jeanne M., Quakertown, PA

Avoid resentment by working through your differences together
“One thing that’s different now is that I don’t hold onto anger. In my first marriage, I used to sulk and hold a grudge. Now, if we have a disagreement, we talk about it right away.”
– Nancy M., Berkeley, CA

Your partner is not solely responsible for your happiness
“I learned not to look to my partner to serve up all my happiness. I depended on my first husband too much socially, and it led to a pretty dull life. I have to constantly fight that urge and make myself step out into the world, and I’m doing a better job of that this time.”
– Nancy M., Berkeley, CA

Get married because it feels right, not to meet other people’s expectations
“When I looked back at my diaries from before I got married the first time, I saw something I didn’t understand then: I was getting married to make him happy, not to make myself happy. I felt like I’d let him down, so I made myself go through with it. So it was pretty simple the second time around: [I thought], Am I being nagged into this? No — I want to do it! Why was that so hard?”
– Marjorie K., Morristown, NJ

For the other side of the story, read Love Lessons From His First Marriage.


Amy Keyishian has written for Cosmopolitan and other national magazines.
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