Still swooning from the news of Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry, and stoked for a 2018 wedding? It’s a milestone that those who’ve loved and lost and loved again may be particularly relishing, as this will be Meghan Markle’s second marriage. The accomplished actress and humanitarian was married to actor and producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013. She was 30 years old when they wed, but was reportedly dating him since 2004.
While second marriages have been shown to have a higher divorce rate, many remarried women and relationship experts find that things can be much better the second time around. Here are their words of wisdom for Markle, and any one getting ready to walk down the aisle.
1. How Long You’ve Been Together Is Irrelevant
Markle and her first hubby were an item for several years before they tied the knot. She’s only been dating Harry for about a year and a half. One could try and argue that they still don’t know one another well enough and that such a big decision should take more time to be made, but their argument would quickly fall flat.
“I knew my first husband for five years before getting married,” says Esther Gonzalez, an educator based in North Carolina. “We married at 27. It sounds mature, but I was too young. We met junior year of college and after being together for so long it was the ‘next step.’”
After a few years of marriage, Gonzalez and her first love split, and she met Adam. She was 32 and he was 31. They wed after nine months of knowing one another. Nearly seven years later, they have two children together and couldn’t be happier.
2. Take Time To Reflect On What Went Wrong Last Time
Perhaps the last thing Markle (or anyone) may want to do in the wake of a blissful engagement is think about her past divorce, but Kemi Sogunle, a relationship expert and the author of “Beyond The Pain: A Return To Love,” encourages reflecting on what went wrong.
“The first marriage gave you reasons why you should not settle for less,” says Sogunle. “You [should] evaluate your requirements, the non-negotiables and reflect on the lessons learned. Take time to grieve, heal, forgive and move forward in newness.”
3. This Isn’t Your First Marriage, But It’s Still a First Love
This may be Markle’s second marriage, but it’s her first with Prince Harry, and his first marriage to anyone. Now is a time to wipe the slate clean, start over completely, and, as psychologist Dr. Nekeshia Hammond says, “experience a new you.”
“This is a new relationship. You can take on a new perspective about yourself, set new parameters and be an all around better person,” Hammond says.
Divorce tends to teach people quite a bit about themselves and what they truly need of a partner, as well as just what they’re able to give.
4. Your Expectations Are Probably More Realistic
Toni Coleman a psychotherapist and relationship coach finds that those who remarry tend to be much more realistic about their expectations the second time around.
“The biggest problem I encounter with [first-married couples] is that they have high expectations and no experience,” says Coleman. “The second time, they're much more realistic. They know that something won't change just because they’ve gotten married, and they have a more mature, balanced idea of what they want. Also, they’re more likely to have spotted any red flags beforehand.”
5. Don’t Take A Moment For Granted
Coleman notes that remarried couples may be more inclined to put effort into preserving their second marriage in part because they have a firsthand idea of how much work it takes. Elisabeth Stitt, a parenting coach, can relate.
“My second marriage has been so much better than my first because I have not taken it for granted,” Stitt. “I have worked on it by developing specific habits that keep me focused on it. For example, even if I am exhausted and ready for bed, I take the time to sit on the couch and press up next to my husband every night. Maybe all we do is watch TV, but it makes me feel connected to him after a day of running around.”
6. You Know What You Need — And What You Can Give
Though it’s a painful way to learn, divorce tends to teach people quite a bit about themselves and what they truly need of a partner, as well as just what they’re able to give.
“The second time is better because you have a better idea of what you need from a partner, where you struggle with communication (and can do better), and what you absolutely cannot give in on,” says Kayt Sukel, a writer based in Houston, Texas who remarried about four and half years ago at the age of 39. “The first time around, it seems to be all about the fairytale and not enough about the work involved with making a relationship last. The second time around, you are ready to banish the fairytale, and think long and hard about what it really takes to make a sustainable and happy marriage.”
7. The Wedding Isn’t The Achievement
Oh, but who could even think of banishing the fairytale when the story of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sounds so much like one? And the fabulous wedding that is just a few months away. It’s all so exciting! Well, we may be desperately enamored, but Markle is likely well aware that a glorious ceremony has little to do with a happily ever after. She may not have had such perspective when she first wed.
“With a first marriage, women tend to see the wedding as the goal,” says Coleman. “The second time though, they recognize that the wedding is only the beginning, not the accomplishment. It's what comes after that matters. But yes, it’s hard not to see it all as a kind of hope. She literally found her prince — the second time.”