Middle-Age
Relationships

Should multiple marriages matter in a mate?


When we are dating and meet someone new, should we be concerned if he or she has been married multiple times?

Marjorie emailed, "I met 'Garth' two weeks ago at a musical theater performance. I am 63, he is 66. Neither of us has ever been widowed, although one of my exes is deceased.

"We have only been out twice, but we talk every two or three days. I have been married three times and certainly think I am a fairly good choice, but he is being somewhat reluctant to reveal the number of times he has been married, although I am at this point aware of at least three.

"I haven't pressed this issue. He apparently has an excellent relationship with his children and grandchildren. It is obvious that the most recent marriage was short-lived and somewhat bitter. How many previous marriages before it becomes a red flag?"

My response to Marjorie: Egads, woman, give it some time! You've only been out with him twice, and talked to him what, maybe five times?

If you press the issue, you may chase him away before you even find out how many times he's been married. If he's reeling from a recent bitter marriage experience, the last thing he wants is to defend himself or talk about it. Instead, why not enjoy the moment and forget about his marriage tally?

Why are you concerned about how many times he's been married? Are you so intent on getting married again that that's all you're worried about?

And besides, Marjorie, you're not exactly a golden angel either, with three divorces under your belt.

So what if he's had four? That's only one more than three. If he's had five or six, well now that's a bit of a red flag, but only if you're dying to get married again.

It is not uncommon these days for people our age to have had more than one marriage. Does that make us tainted? Does that mean we're bad people? No.

Were our decisions to marry mistakes? No, they just didn't work out. Sometimes it's hard to remember what we were thinking when we decided to get married in our earlier days. Most likely, at those times, we thought getting married was the right thing to do. So we did it.

How about people who've been widowed? They had no choice in losing a spouse. Some have even lost two spouses. Should it matter how many marriages they've had? (Well, if they've had four, and all have died under suspicious circumstances, then it might be a red flag).

I've had three marriages, and my partner of 11 years has also had three. Having the same number of marriages was one of the things we found we had in common when we were sharing information on the first date, so it was a good thing that we both had multiple marriages.

And despite three times, we've got the best relationship I could ever hope for. We live together but are not married; neither of us feels that it's necessary. (Neither of us would want the number four emblazoned in scarlet upon our chests either, but that's not the reason we haven't married.)

After my third divorce, and then an unsuccessful live-in relationship, I decided to scrutinize my mate-selecting methodology and created a list of the qualities I wanted in a relationship. I wanted to make a more intelligent decision than in the past. I had always put the superficial qualities of beauty, looks and physical attraction in the top spot. Sort of lower-brain thinking. Well, obviously, that didn't work.

At the top of my new list: someone who was nice, considerate, loving and who allowed me to be me. And my gosh, in a very short time, along came "nice" who just happened to have lots of other special qualities. We've been together 11 years.

On the list back then, chemistry tumbled to the seventh spot, although I'd rank it higher now, but not above the items noted in the previous paragraph.

Having a list was so beneficial to me, I devoted an entire chapter on characteristics to look for in a mate in my book, "Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What to Do." (Web page for Tom's book)

Also in the same chapter, I included a qualities-wanted comparison list, where one compares the qualities of ex husbands to the qualities of a new love. That can be a revealing exercise in trying to avoid previous mate-selecting habits.

I should state that a list is not gospel. It' just a guideline. We should be flexible in case old Garth doesn't measure up in the order we have on our list. A list is more helpful in identifying the person we shouldn't select, rather than the person we should.

One of the benefits of presenting a question to this group is getting an array of opinions from sensible and intelligent 50, 60, 70 and 80-year-olds who have walked the walk and are rich with life experiences. You're among them. What's your opinion? Does the number of times a person has been married matter?

© 2009, Tom Blake

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Tom Blake is an expert on dating after 50. He has appeared twice on the "Today Show" and has written more than 500 columns on dating and relationships. His "Single Again" column appears in The Orange County Register in southern California, is read worldwide and is often featured on msn.com. He is a professional speaker. He spoke at the national AARP convention in San Diego in 2002, and in Chicago. His book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, is a humorous account of his first year of dating after his third divorce. His second book is Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do. His latest book is titled How 50 Couples Found Love after 50. To ask a question or receive Tom's free weekly column on middle-age dating and relationships by e-mail, click on www.findingloveafter50.com or E-Mail.



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