Growing up here in the Bible Belt with two parents married for 32 years, I always had a certain construct about second marriages. Sadly, it wasn’t one of redemption and second chances at love. It was mostly marked by judgment and pity: “Oh, good for them. At least they can find someone else.” As if their second marriage was some poor consolation prize for having failed at their first attempt.
And then I got divorced at 34 after ten years of marriage. In the three years since, I sifted through the rubble, found what was still viable, and built a new foundation for my life. A huge part of that foundation is humility.
I also chose to remarry in those three years. We decided to elope in October after dating for the past two years. I knew early on that he was the man I wanted to do the long-term, hard things with, but he and I both took every step of our relationship deliberately slow. When he proposed, I wanted it to happen. When we eloped, I knew it was where I should be.
So why did I have so many nerves about it?
The day after he proposed, I looked for a long time at that ring on my left finger – the finger that had felt so naked after it shed its wedding bands of ten years, the finger that had gotten used to feeling bare and free. All of a sudden, it felt foreign to have the weight of a new band on it. I knew that I wanted it there, but I wasn’t ready for the rush of emotion that swirled around with the regret of the marriage that never came to fruition. I was elated, yet somber.
We planned an actual wedding, but as it turned out, I had zero chill for a second wedding. Something about having the huge dog-and-pony show the first time around just didn’t feel right this time. So on a Monday morning via text, we decided to elope the next day. I knew it was right for us. We never have really done anything conventionally, so why stop now?
We ordained our best friend with a sustainable farm outside of Chattanooga, secured our license, and did it the next day. And while I wouldn’t have it any other way, I teared up in the bathroom wearing my wedding dress to walk out.
Did I miss my mom, kids, and family? Yes. But this was saying goodbye to an entire life that I built – for myself. The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was walking away from that marriage, rediscovering myself, and building a life for my children and myself. This felt similar. I have always known that I can do anything if I wanted it – I can get it done. I am self-reliant, strong, and resilient. But in that moment, it dawned on me that as much as I loved that man waiting outside, I had not yet fully transitioned from surviving to thriving. Even in our worst circumstances, we cling to what is familiar.
Despite cultural norms, my husband came into the bathroom, and we talked. It wasn’t the epic “first look” that I had the first time around, but it was truly us – having hard and honest conversations, choosing us, and loving each other.
The minute I walked toward him in our ceremony, I knew. It was all confirmed. I know in my bones that this man brings out the good in me, as I do him. He is an appendage to my body and soul that follows me wherever I go, yet allows me to be exactly who I am without any apologies or explanation. He knows all my emotional baggage, and he me and my children like his own. He is the man I want to grow old with.
That being said, no one talks about how scary second marriages are. You’ve seen the worst it can possibly get. You’ve been to the darkest place and come back from it. It is brave as hell to dive back into those depths, to trust another human with your heart and soul that has done it all. I knew what I was doing, and my choice that October 30th, was brave. My advice to anyone in “second dating” is: take your time. Know that human in and out. Know their capacity for your humanity – when you screw up, when you are the worst version of you. See how they react. If they give you grace – keep them, even when your wounded heart feels like it doesn’t have the room for so much complication and confusion. Don’t settle for anything less.
So, my apologies to all those couples in second marriages I judged so harshly. You were the brave ones. You were willing to go back into the depths – knowing the dangers – and love again. I’m happily here with you.
I love this! You put into the words the way it feels to do it again. It feels smarter this time. Thank you!
Thanks, Natalie! It does feel smarter – partly from choosing differently in a partner at 38 than I did at 24, but mostly because I know and trust myself much more now.