Key To a Second Marriage Later in Life? Don’t Do His Laundry!

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Love & Relationships

Key To a Successful Second Marriage? Don’t Do His Laundry!

A marriage veteran shares 6 hilarious and ultra-honest truths

By Harriet Riley

It’s been said that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. While our past tribulations taught us that marriages fail, implode, or simply die, we can still dream that this one will work. 

I’ll admit I approached my second marriage later in life with great trepidation. My first marriage emotionally scarred me in ways that may never heal. But it’s also said that marriages are like pancakes: There is no shame in throwing out the first one. 

After the divorce, I remained single with two young children for nine years. For nine years I was on my own. I was able to make my own plans, my own decisions, my own repairs. I did not enter my next union lightly. But somehow hope triumphed. 

I married a caring, attentive, sexy Australian man that I had known for years. And I swore not to make the same mistakes I made in my previous marriage.

I heard the advice of some wise women I admire… Twice-married author Elizabeth Gilbert said, “Maybe the difference between the first marriage and the second marriage is that the second time at least you know you are gambling.” And a dear friend of mine said, “By the third time, you should admit you are an addict and need professional help.” She has been married three times. Bless her heart. Actress and journalist Helen Rowland, who wrote A Guide to Men in 1922, said, “A bride at her second marriage does not wear a veil. She wants to see what she is getting.” 

The point is this: Before you marry the second time, listen to them chew. If you can stand that noise for the rest of your life, go for it. 

6 Tips for a Successful Second Marriage Later in Life
Those of us in our second marriages admit that we learned a few things from our first marriages. Miscalculations that will not be repeated.

Tip 1: Don’t do their chores.
First, I’m serious about not doing anyone else’s laundry. Creating the illusion that a wife is a maid is not in my game plan. When I hear that a female spouse does laundry for her husband, I know that it is a first marriage. I learned from my previous, misguided errors. My dear second, whom I call my current, does his own laundry or gets our cleaners to do that chore. 

Which leads me to another gem. In your second marriage, just get a housekeeper. As I said earlier, you are not their servant. You will not pick up another’s clothes and shoes that are scattered across the floor. Furthermore, you will not close the cabinet doors that are left open. Just leave them open. Ignore things.

Like Benjamin Franklin said a long time ago, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut afterwards.”

Tip 2: Don’t expect perfection.
Before you start on a new endeavor make sure you have fully and completely accepted the fact that you cannot change anyone. Like another dear friend, twice married and divorced, said, “When he leaves all the cabinet doors open and can’t hit the laundry hamper on a dare, just accept it. This is your life now. You chose this.”

She’s single now. I wonder if she is laughing at me or with me?

Tip 3: Preserve your financial independence.
By your second marriage, you both have probably experienced financial independence. Keep it that way. Financial issues are one of the most common causes for divorce. Keeping your bank accounts separate — with maybe a joint household account — helps solve this issue.

Tip 4: Don’t share everything!
Another item to stay separate — your beauty secrets. No spouse needs to know about your regular Botox injections. But also, be grateful as their eyesight fades as they grow older. You will always be beautiful to your spouse. Or at least they should say you are. 

Equally important, try to have separate bathrooms. Maybe in your first marriage, you lived in a small space. Maybe that was part of the problem. Make sure you both have your own space, including the bathroom.

Tip 5: Get a prenup and respect privacy.
That leads me to another suggestion I’ve heard from friends over and over: Get a pre- or post-nuptial agreement. This may sound like a step that only extremely wealthy couples take, but I am here to say that legal agreements are for everyone. If you are combining families or income or even china sets, decide how everything will be divvied up in the event one of you unexpectedly dies or just departs from the marriage. No one likes to think about death or divorce when they are in love and planning to marry, but shit happens.

Make sure your belongings are protected from the other spouse’s children. I hate to sound so crass, but it’s a fact. Protect yourself and let your intended protect themselves. 

Tip 6: Be yourself…
Another friend said her second marriage is so much better because she doesn’t pretend this time around. For instance, she told her first husband she liked basketball. That was a lie. She was subjected to countless hours watching basketball just because he thought she liked it. With her second husband, she went in “with the good, the bad, and the ugly.” She is no longer afraid to be the person she really is

In her words, “I think second (or third or whichever!) time you must be more open and transparent about who you really are. You don’t want to fail again.”

“Make sure you marry someone who has friends. You don’t want to be their only friend,” a friend of mine once told me. Nor do you want to become your spouse’s therapist. By now, you should know you don’t want to “fix” anyone and you don’t need repairs either. Your first marriage might be a fixer-upper, but your second should already be remodeled and ready to live in. 

By the time you try marriage again, you are older. You do not have the bright-eyed optimism of your younger years. Your jaded eyes allow you to see the person for who they really are. If you must marry, just accept that person. Gaping cabinet doors and all. 

Eyes wide open, right? Or… half shut? Just don’t do their laundry!

Harriet Riley is a New Orleans–based freelance nonfiction writer focusing on personal essays and journalism. She has her MA in print journalism from UT Austin and taught creative writing for 11 years with Writers in the Schools Houston. She has published articles in 64 ParishesMississippi FolklifeMinerva Rising, and the Wanderlust anthology. You can reach her on Instagram @hatrireads or on X @hatriri.

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