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The Remarriage Blueprint
Through riveting interviews with many remarried couples, Scarf explores the challenges remarried couples face when it comes to everyday issues like step-parenting, household routines, ex-spouses, couple time, and money.


Courtesy Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
"The Remarriage Blueprint" is stuffed with interviews of couples sharing their remarriage advice.


We had problems, but I was always thinking that if we did this thing or that thing, then things were going to be better. But yes, she left. She had an affair, and that felt right to her.”
The following is an excerpt from "The Remarriage Blueprint" by Maggie Scarf.

The Duvaliers, who had seven children between them when they remarried—four were Sara’s and three were Cliff’s—were in the fourth year of their new marriage when I interviewed them. It was a second marriage following divorce for both of them. During our first interview, I asked Sara to complete the following sentence:

"A myth that people seem to perpetuate about remarriage is . . . what?" I waited, gazing at her questioningly. Sara, in her midforties, friendly and vivacious, shook her short blond hair. She didn’t hesitate long before responding, "A myth about remarriage? It’s that they are doomed to fail. I hear that so often."

I nodded and said that a lot actually do. She was a quiet for a moment, then said thoughtfully, "I think I can speak for both of us when I say we believe there are two kinds of people. There are those who marry with the idea of staying with that one partner, and there are those who are always looking around for a different, better option. Neither one of us is that second kind of person, which may explain why we stayed in those not-good relationships as long as we did." She blushed slightly, then said, "I can’t imagine myself being strong enough to have come out and said, ‘I’m leaving you because you are so mean and such a bully and such a—a jerk.’"

"So you were lucky you got left," I said, for I had already learned that Tom, her ex-husband, had walked out on her and their four children when their youngest was just 10.

"I am so lucky I was left." The words came out in one rushing, grateful breath. I took that to mean that she’d never have had the courage to do the leaving, no matter how bad things had become.

Cliff touched his wife’s shoulder lightly, "Both of us are. In retrospect, my situation is pretty much the same thing."

"Did Lorraine leave you as well?" There had already been some discussion of Cliff’s difficult ex-wife, but I’d never asked him that specific question. He didn’t answer directly. "We had problems, but I was always thinking that if we did this thing or that thing, then things were going to be better. But yes, she left. She had an affair, and that felt right to her. The man was a doctor—he was married too, but that was no problem.

They rearranged their lives and waltzed off, and I—I’m sitting there shocked and hurt, emotionally drained."

Cliff’s strong, deep voice, cracked momentarily. "But you come out of something like that and you go ‘Whooosh,’ it’s over, and I’m in one piece, and it’s not that bad."

I smiled. "So then, answer the question that Sara just answered. ‘A myth that people seem to perpetuate about remarriage is . . . ?’"

"Is that they are doomed to failure. They’re not." The Duvaliers turned to one another and exchanged a long, affectionate look. "Obviously you two found yourself in a different, much better place," I said.

Sara nodded and said that was why they were both so excited about taking part in my study. She believed that many people had a negative view of remarriage, and she and her husband wanted to tell their story as a positive and supportive one. I looked at Cliff, a tall, well-built man of fifty-three with a head of light-brown hair. He was nodding his agreement, snatching glances at Sara all the meanwhile.

I paused, thinking about the remarriage books and papers I had been reading, many of them replete with descriptions of the inevitable shocks, disappointments, disillusionments, and breakdowns that litter the road to the yearned-for remarital success.

Then I smiled, told them that they were not the only couples with positive stories to tell.

"I have seen folks who, like you two, came from long, dreadful marriages and remarried happily later on in their lives," I said, then added, "Of course, I’ve seen plenty of the opposite as well."

Cliff leaned forward in his seat, said earnestly that people like that hadn’t really done the preparatory work in advance. "They haven’t said ‘All right, this is how we are going to handle our combined family.’ Instead, from the get-go, they split them down the middle.

One parent is disciplining her kids and one person is disciplining his kids—and that’s where the great divide is, as far as I’m concerned."

I was surprised, for as far as discipline is concerned, most remarriage experts do advise this particular strategy—that is, leaving discipline to the biological parent. The stepparent is usually cautioned against stepping into what can easily become family quicksand.

Instead, he or she is advised to act as a sympathetic consultant and monitor of the child’s behavior while leaving it to the blood-related parent to take the reins when the rules of behavior need to be reinforced. The purpose is to avoid falling into the role of "step-ogre" or confronting a stonewalling child who says, "You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my mom [or dad]!"

"How do you two handle discipline?" I inquired.

This time it was Sara who replied. "The way we do it is that we have house rules," she said promptly. "So everything happens in the ways we say it has to be. When Cliff first moved into our home after our marriage, I wanted to be the one to discipline my kids. I was afraid my wild boys would be too much." She shrugged. "But it’s ridiculous. You can’t have somebody living with you who has no say—it’s actually an insult to that person. So we talked it over, and we never did do it that way. We do everything together." She gave me a long, appraising look, as if expecting me to disapprove of or disbelieve in this tactic. "Truly," she said.

Excerpted from "The Remarriage Blueprint" by Maggie Scarf. Copyright © 2013 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.  Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.



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