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By: Jane Milardo, LMFT

DreamstimeIf you have remarried after having lost a spouse, you will find that it is a totally different experience than being married the first time. The first time around, you may have had a big ceremony, perhaps in a church, with all the pomp and circumstance in the presence of family and friends. The first time around, you most likely had children who have now grown up, and maybe even grandchildren who have become very important in your life.

The fact is, your new spouse also created a family in the past, and has years of memories, both good and bad. It is important for you to respect your new spouse’ memories and fondness for talking about the past. Just as you loved your late spouse and created a wonderful life together, so did your new spouse. You must be patient and understanding. You wouldn’t want them to insist that you forget your history, nor could you, so it is not fair to ask them to forget theirs. Your new spouse probably loves their late spouse as you love yours, and that is OK. Love exists beyond the grave and is an entity unto itself. You can’t turn off the love when someone dies, nor would you want to. Your love for your new spouse is another entity. There are many people in the world that each of us could love, and who could love us. Now you have found one!

Your new spouse had a whole life before meeting you, and you may find it fascinating if you ask questions and take an interest in it. To this day, I still learn new things about my second husband all the time; people he’s met, things he’s done, places he’s been, his achievements in the past.

There is no threat to you in listening to your spouse’ memories. You have both entered into this marriage older and wiser, and you may discuss mistakes of the past that you want to avoid in this marriage. Both of you have grown up. You are very different people than you used to be. You both enter into this new chapter of your life with years of experience behind you. Discuss with your spouse how you want this marriage to be, and don’t expect it to be exactly like the last.

A second marriage can be an adventure, doing things together you’ve never done, going places you’ve always wanted to go but couldn’t when you were raising children. It’s also an adventure of bonding with your spouse’ children in a new way, different from how you bonded with your biological children, and special in its own way. There may be grandchildren from his first marriage to bond with as well. You weren’t there when they were born, but they will appreciate you if you make the effort to know them and enjoy time together. Your spouse will also be touched and pleased that you are forming relationships with members of his/her first family. All of you are a blended family now. I hope that you will come to love your spouse’ children and grandchildren. It is a challenge, but one that gives immense rewards to those who try. The bigger the family, the more people there are to love and to be loved by.

Intimacy is also different as you age. Your sexual desire is probably not what is was when you were 20, and that is normal. Women’s sex libido tends to decrease after menopause. Men’s libido also decreases with age, but in a slow and steady way, not all at once. Intimacy ripens as we age, and having a companion is often as important as sex. It’s important to know what your new spouse wants and needs, and to express your own wants and needs as well. Cuddling and hugs are sometimes what you want, and that may be enough, but you need to let your spouse know what makes you happy. None of us are mind readers.

As you and your spouse discuss the past together, you will come to a new, richer understanding of what it means to love later in life. If you are open to the process and keep the communication open as well, you may arrive at a place where your new marriage fulfills lifelong dreams you never thought possible. In the words of poet Robert Browning, “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.”

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