Divorce isn’t a subject you would expect a romance writer to write about… but actually we do. In my novels there have been a few cases where the hero or heroine is divorced. Jake in FINAL SIN, Laynie in COMMON BOND, TANGLED HEARTS, Dave in KARMA VISITED, and Annie in ANNIE’S KARMA; I also had a divorcee in my short story THE VACATION. Basically the rate of divorced characters in my novels is close to the national (expected) rate of divorce — “The marriage breakup rate in America for first marriage is 41% to 50%”.
Although statisticians have noted that the divorce rate has gone downward in more recent years (due to couples getting married at older ages, higher education and financial independence, and more couples living together without marriage, etc.), what breaks a marriage up? Obviously some folks just aren’t “right” for each other and may have gotten hitched because “everybody else was doing it”, sometimes unexpected pressures/tragedies put serious strains on the relationship, interference from outside sources (in-laws? friends?), and sometimes people just grow-apart as they grow-up. Two people can never really be in total agreement about everything, not if they retain their individuality, and it would be kind of boring if they never had different opinions, but if you can’t move past those differences it doesn’t bode well. Unfortunately statisticians also noted that there is an even higher risk of divorce the second time around, possibly that is because “once burnt” means someone’s defensiveness is up.
So can we find love with a divorcee? I believe in the possibility of Happy-Ever-After’s, but I also believe it’s worth understanding what went wrong in their first (or subsequent) marriage. Having seen divorces happen to people I know, my personal observations tend to make me believe that outside interference is a huge risk factor. A meddlesome mother-in-law who can’t let go of her son, a father who pressures his child into a family business that makes him/her miserable, siblings or friends who insert themselves into personal matters and instigate arguments… While I am a firm believer in marital counseling, it can help couples see beyond their alleged differences, it doesn’t always save a marriage.
Aside from finding out what went wrong in the first marriage, and many times you can rely on simple verbal honesty, I would say beware someone who is hiding information or purposely keeping you away from other past friends or family (who might be able to tell you a different story). Also listen to the ex-spouse but don’t necessarily take her/his word as truth. Definite red-flags to note, if anyone suggests that your intended may have been abusive, carefully watch how he/she treats you (not all abuse is physical); if there are children involved in the past relationship, is responsibility being taken (not just financially), this is especially important if you hope to have children with this individual; and of course, if your intended cheated (with you or someone else), you might have a problem.
I think the most important red flag to watch for is did he/she actually let go of the ex-spouse? I have seen it happen where one person said they were divorced when in reality the divorce wasn’t finalized because one of them never signed or it was hung up in a lawyer’s office because there was a disagreement on the settlement of property, alimony or even child care. Make sure that your chosen one is free to begin a new relationship (even if you’re both willing to put the formal ceremony off for a while). Even if a civil divorce can be proven, be aware that there are some religious divorce requirements as well and for any number of reasons one party may be avoiding doing what is right after being married in a religious manner — and why would anyone want to marry a man (or woman) who is still hanging on to their “ex” spouse? And especially if someone is avoiding getting the religious divorce in order to make their ex miserable, would you really want to marry someone who is that spiteful?
Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (for example) require certain procedures in order to release each party from the marriage commitment and enable each to marry someone else if they choose. In a Jewish divorce a husband must submit a written form, known as a “Get”, to his wife as proof of their divorce, without it neither one of them should be able to marry again, but if he is withholding the Get for spite, chances are he is also lying to his new wife (only the man can provide the Get). In an Islamic (Muslim) divorce, the civil divorce (if there was a civil marriage) holds no bearing on the ability to remarry as a Muslim; a lawyer familiar with Islamic precepts must work with the couple’s Iman to create an equitable parting of the ways and possessions. A Catholic divorce will not allow either partner to remarry in the Church, the marriage must be “annulled” which basically denies that the couple was ever married in the sacraments of the church. So make sure that your intended partner is truly free to marry you and is honest from the beginning.
Even with all of this talk about divorce, this romance writer is still a romantic-at-heart. I believe in second chances and true love. I also believe that any commitment, partnership, marriage, or whatever you are calling your relationship, needs to be founded on truth and trust. My parents were married for almost 32-years when my dad suddenly passed away and I truly believe they would still be married and very much in love if they were both still around; the day my mom died there was a cloud in the sky that looked like a staircase to heaven and I’m sure that my dad was waiting at the top as my mom went to him. No marriage is perfect, there will always be disagreements and sometimes tears, but when you put each other first, when you like yourself as well, and when you are openly honest and communicating, then each year is special and life can be pretty wonderful.