Marriage Multiplicity: Is the Third (+) Time the Charm?
By now, most people are aware of the research stating that second marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first marriages. In fact, we’ve discussed the longevity of second marriages on the Wevorce blog, but what about third, fourth, and fifth marriages (or more)?
Three or More Marriages — What the Experts Say
In the U.S., the divorce rate for third marriages is estimated to be between 73 and 74 percent, significantly higher than the 41 to 50 percent rate of divorce for first marriages, and higher than the 60 to 67 percent divorce rate for second marriages. Some estimate third marriages crumble at a rate higher than 80 percent.
So why the progressive increase?
“One common explanation is that a significant number of people enter a second or marriage ‘on the rebound’ of a first or second divorce,” says Mark Banschick, M.D. in The High Failure Rate of Second and Third Marriages, for Psychology Today.
“Often the people concerned are vulnerable,” he continues. “They do not allow sufficient time to recover from their divorce or to get their priorities straight before taking their vows again. They enter their next marriage for the wrong reasons, not having internalized the lessons of their past experience. They are liable to repeat their mistakes, making them susceptible to similar conflicts and another broken marriage follows.”
However, maybe there’s even more to it.
“I believe that the prime factor affecting the breakup of second and third marriages is that there is less glue holding the marriage together: children, family,” says Banschick. “Parent-child relationships can be a source of conflict in some marriages, but overall children act as a stabilizing factor in marriages and when children are absent the marriage is prone to be rocked by minor storms.
“Because the great majority of children born to married couples are born during their first marriage, when the parents are up to about thirty five years old, most couples in a second marriage do not have common children to bind them together,” he says. “Conversely, not having shared responsibility for kids means it’s easier to leave when you are going through a rough patch.”
In 7 Divorce Myths — Debunked, CNN relationship expert and author Wendy Walsh, PhD, concurs: “Divorce doesn’t help us choose a better partner or be a better mate in our next relationship. Divorce teaches us how to divorce.”
Is the Third Time Really the Charm?
Whatever the reason for increased divorce rates, marrying — and splitting — more than once certainly has its stigmas.
“It’s definitely embarrassing, to say the least,” admits David*, twice divorced and now married to his third wife of eight years. “No one likes to admit they failed at something repeatedly, especially something as serious as marriage. Plus, each time I was engaged, I was cautioned by several well-meaning friends, all who were concerned that we were rushing into things. So I knew the risks and took a chance on love anyway — then crashed and burned. My first divorce was painful, but the second was even more difficult. But now most of that is behind me and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. That’s really all that matters.”
Most of us know someone who has been married more than once and, like David, is “happier than ever.” In these cases, could experience be the best teacher? Do people get wiser with age and understanding — specifically when it comes to their choice of marital partner, reasons for marrying, conflict resolution skills, and generally keeping the so-called knot tied tight?
Couples Who’ve Made it Work
In the context of this conversation, it’s hard not to think of President Donald Trump, who is currently married to his third wife, Melania, with whom he shares a child. Or what about Larry King’s eight wives and such serial divorcees as the late celebrities Zsa Zsa Gabor (who had nine husbands) and Elizabeth Taylor (who married eight times, twice to the same man)?
Several other well-known celebrities have made their fair share of trips down the aisle. And their track records show that sometimes it takes more than one try to get it right. Here is a short list of Hollywood A-listers who have found marital bliss the third, fourth, and fifth time around:
- Harrison Ford (divorced twice, currently married to his third wife, Calista Flockhart)
- Kim Kardashian (divorced twice, currently married to her third husband, Kanye West)
- Anthony Hopkins (divorced twice, currently married to his third wife)
- Kate Winslet (divorced twice, currently married to her third husband)
- Sylvester Stallone (divorced twice, currently married to his third wife)
- Nicolas Cage (divorced twice, currently married to his third wife)
- Pamela Anderson (divorced three times, later secretly remarried her third husband)
- Loni Anderson (divorced three times, currently married to her fourth husband since 2008)
- Martin Scorsese (divorced four times, currently married to his fifth wife)
- Geraldo Rivera (divorced four times, currently married to his fifth wife)
While there as just as many (if not more) examples of second-or-more celebrity marriages that have not lasted, these respective wins and losses are evidence that the first time isn’t always the best time, nor may it be the last time.
So how does a person who has been divorced more than once know whether or not it’s a good idea to considering marrying again?
How to Improve Your Odds for Success
According to the PsychCentral article, Improving the Odds for Successful Second Marriages, Dr. Kalman Heller offers the following suggestions:
- Do your best to understand why the first marriage ended in divorce.
- Don’t rush into a second (or third, or fourth) marriage.
- Share a solid core of common interests.
- Be emotionally supportive when blending families and dealing with former spouses.
- Make sure your beliefs and values are reasonably aligned.
Despite the less-than-favorable divorce statistics cited earlier, it is possible to enjoy marital bliss the third (or fourth-plus) time around, as cited examples show. After all, even if marriage doesn’t go as planned, isn’t love worth another try?
*name has been changed.