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Will My Ex's New Marriage Last?

QUESTION: My husband of seven years left me for a woman in his office, who is also married. Both my husband and his lover filed for divorce one month after their affair began. They are said to be getting married as soon as their divorces are final. My husband has two teenage children by his first marriage who live with him. By the way, he also cheated on his first wife before marrying me. What are the chances of their marriage surviving and for how long?

ANSWER: No doubt you are reeling from the rapid changes in your life. You may be seeking comfort in the prediction that this new relationship will fail.

Sadly, the stormy forecast awaits not only your husband's new relationship, but the fate of the whole new family constellation, including the children who have been innocently thrown into this chaotic situation.

Your husband's new relationship is forged upon a tremendous amount of loss: This is his children's third uprooting. The breakup of two previous families, with yet another new situation to "instantly" adapt to, is likely to cause some level of maladjustment in his children's development.

It is likely that your soon-to-be ex-spouse is running away from unresolved childhood loss that he tries to recreate with each new family. An intense love affair promises to heal all wounds, but can never live up to this task. If this is the case, the relationship must remain intense enough to block out depression and the ever-increasing amount of loss caused by the trail of broken relationships. Usually, by two to five years, if not sooner, the relationship fails under the pressure to heal all.

Relationships that are created around the function of distracting from unresolved loss often get "stuck" in crisis. These relationships can literally become crisis-dependent, meaning that partners continue the pattern of creating and resolving crisis in their relationship in order to stimulate their partners out of an underlying depression. At first this crisis is external to the relationship and the couple bonds to one another against the "outside" enemy. But in time, the polarizing force is aimed at one another, often threatening to implode the relationship.

But do not hold your breath! Some couples manage to sustain this pattern of dysfunction for years, with alternating distance and closeness. This latter development can result in what family researchers have labeled "the gruesome twosome."

This dynamic is particularly damaging to children. Parents remain together in such unstable conditions that children's development is sacrificed for the maintenance of the dysfunctional relationship.

Although it is natural for you to wonder about your husband's claim to "happiness" in your period of pain, be aware that obsessing about his new relationship may provide a diversion from your own grieving. Reclaiming yourself from the marriage will involve self-reflection. Consider your own needs and requirements for a healthy relationship and seek to understand what contributed to your choice of an emotionally unstable partner. Finding answers for yourself will be more useful in establishing your own future happiness than forecasting failure in your husband's upcoming marriage.

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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