After seeing so many of my close friends and acquaintances get divorced and start new relationships, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a common theme for what I affectionately like to call ‘second-time-arounders’. They all have to deal with the biggest challenge that their new relationship inevitably holds for them.

It is not having memories of their ex or memorabilia of their new partners’ ex screaming at them from every corner of their home like you might think.

With a second marriage or a new love, there needs to be an understanding that you are getting a “package deal”.

Your new partner might have children from their previous relationship still living at home. It is not uncommon for children from a broken home to feel like a new partner is ‘intruding’ or taking away precious time from their single parent. They might have seen other new partners come and go, so why engage with you this time. They might just think “let’s see how long she/he stays.”

They might test your reserve by misbehaving and disrespecting you on purpose to provoke you. How do you react to not look totally silly and at the same time not to interfere with the rules and boundaries your new partner has in place for them?

Your new relationship is a package deal, even if there are no kids around. It could be a pet you don’t particularly like, extended family members who disapprove, hobbies that don’t interest you or a career that interferes with much-needed bonding time.

You spent a lot of time creating a history with your first partner, and now your new spouse is desperately trying to fit in – not trying to disturb any precious memories. The same can be said for you trying to fit into your partners’ life – you aren’t trying to change their past, but you are trying to be a part of their future. You want to fit into their home, lifestyle and circumstances. And in spite of new butterflies in your stomach and great emotions that can leave you feeling certain that it will all ‘just work out’, there are some very practical issues that need to be considered.

Why can it be so much harder the second time around?

Two big factors to take into account when considering your second relationship are age and complacency. We humans like to arrange our life in a certain way and then try to keep it that way. So over years you’ve created a home, a lifestyle and a set of behaviours with and in your first marriage.

Now after the divorce you start out fresh. Well not quite, you have been comfortable for a couple of years in your first marriage. You would like to keep it that way. In other words you are less flexible to adjust to something new and to someone new.

Your new relationship is a package deal, because you not only need to fall in love with your new partner, you also need to like their home, their lifestyle, their kids, their pets and their memories and quirks.

How is this relevant for you…?

If you are in a new relationship where one of you (or both) have been married before, you need to be aware of these forces pulling at you from all sides. You need to evaluate way more factors in your and their lives than when you got married first time around.

What could you do to strengthen the relationship?

Relax and take it slowly. Realise that the whole setup is complex and that this is part of a package deal. Establish clear communication with your new love about the expectations and pit-falls. Especially when kids are around – it doesn’t matter whether full-time or just every second weekend – you need to have clear instructions what you can and can’t say or do.

You want to be respected by their kids and depending on their age you want to be able to enforce boundaries if necessary. You and your new spouse need to have a mutual agreement on what is acceptable and what is not. You also want to establish a trusting, happy and healthy relationship with these children, helping them to feel secure and safe within the new family unit. Clear discussion and the set-up of healthy boundaries and relationship roles will help with this immensely.

Next steps…

Talk to your new partner and let them know about any concerns or difficulties you have with the current situation and that you want to invest in your relationship to make it work. For your own benefit, give your new relationship time to evolve, and most importantly, give everyone else involved in this package deal enough time to adjust to the new situation.

I encourage you to check out my book where I share a great variety of tips for a loving, intimate and respectful relationship.