PREPARE/ENRICH Australia Blog

Working with Re-Marrying Couples

A review of the research literature from 1980 to the present on the premarital predictors of re-marrying couples' relationship satisfaction and quality (Falk & Larson, 2007) concluded that the major factors predicting lower re-marriage quality include:

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  • the roles of stepchildren
  • stepfamily complexity
  • emotional attachment to an ex-spouse
  • serial marriage (a history of re-marriage)
  • economic strain

Predictors related to higher quality of a re-marriage include:

  • couple consensus on important topics
  • social support from family and friends
  • financial stability

On the sensitive issue of emotional attachment to an ex-spouse the authors offer some comments that should be helpful to facilitators  working with couples:

"Negative feelings toward the ex-spouse may indicate insecurity, a lack of acceptance of the partner's first family (which may potentially cause problems with stepchildren), or a perception of a lingering attachment of one's current partner to the ex-spouse... Couples may need to process ways to demonstrate that the current relationship is more important and has a higher priority than previous relationships, and that both partners are committed to making the present relationship last."

The following comment provides helpful advice for any referral process:

"Although some psychological attachment to an ex-spouse is probably normal in most remarriages, exaggerated attachment to an ex-spouse appears to decrease remarriage success. When a spouse still feels excessively attached to an ex-spouse individual therapy may be necessary first to assess and treat unresolved feelings of loss or attachment to a former spouse. Some personal issues from the first marriage (e.g., continued loving feelings for the former spouse, missing the sexual relationship) may harm the new couple relationship if addressed in couple therapy first. Couple therapy may prove more beneficial after personal issues of loss or attachment are resolved first in individual therapy. Couples should be discouraged from remarrying until strong feelings of attachment to a former spouse are first resolved."

Reference:

Falk, S.I., & and Larson, J.H. (2007). Premarital Predictors of Remarital Quality: Implications for Clinicians. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 29, 9-23.

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