The “Shame of It All”

The Shame of it All

Copyright © July 2012 Marriage Magazine by Gil and Brenda Stuart

Remarriage can be experienced with an attitude of success and/or shame, sometimes at the same time.  As we interact with couples and dig down, we discover that shame is usually the common denominator. What are other words that define shame?  How about disgrace, embarrassment, dishonor, humiliation, mortification and feeling tarnished.  We can be happily remarried but carry this shame that permeates from our last marriage/relationship. Whether we left the earlier relationship or were the left-ee, there is a sense of loss because we aren’t living in God’s ultimate plan…to be married to the same person your whole life.

When we address live audiences during our workshops/seminars or via radio and television, the feedback is the same.  “Oh – we’re remarried but don’t wish to be identified or treated any differently… until you asked!” (The tone is almost like we intruded into a couple’s private life – because we did ask and it is messy; let’s be honest, every story is messy and painful.)

We’ve found marriage is marriage, a unification, good or bad.  But a remarriage has challenges and obstacles that take on extra snags not found in first-time, intact marriages.  Our encouragement is to stay married to your first spouse, if at all possible. Fight through to resolve and restore your unity. We’ve been remarried nine years in actual years and 63 years according to “remarried math years.”  (We’ll explain that concept at the end of this article to keep you intrigued so watch for a punch line somewhere.)

Being married for nine years or 63 in remarriage years brings a sense of success, but encounters of shame have arisen frequently.  It’s not that we are ashamed of one another – that is truly not the case!  Shame comes from one’s failure, guilt or being wronged innocently by no fault of your own.  

Most remarried couples we’ve met are excited to be in their relationships because of a new start; or because they’ve successfully navigated their stepfamily life for years under the radar.  However, if asked for details of their children such as their ages or last names not matching, who they look like, where each child was born, (details that a parent should know but may not because the child is not your biological kid) a confession is made that brings possible shame: “Oh this is our second or multiple marriages.”  That is where the “rub” begins.

A remarried couple who is succeeding in their stepfamily relationships will hopefully encourage other stepfamilies with whom they come in contact.  Sadly though, when in the presence of first-time marriages, a shame or “less than” emotion can creep upon them.  

No, these people are not less than or tainted any more than anyone else regardless of the social setting. But once the “great confession” is made of being remarried, condemnation or judgment is passed on them. Stop and ask yourself, am I being faithful now in the widest scope of my marital faithfulness?  Am I 100% committed? Have I forgiven my former spouse?  Or better yet, have I forgiven myself?  If you’re not living forgiven, why not?  If a loving God and Savior Christ Jesus has forgiven us through the act of the cross, then your lack of acts of forgiveness is putting yourself above God.

Shame can be replaced by surrender to the redemptive process of healthy confession and changing one’s heart attitudes by sincere forgiveness.  The actions of the past cannot be changed, but your current relationships can be transformed by letting go of the past and not allowing it to define the here and now.

Successful living comes from full disclosure; i.e., flat out being honest with yourself first, then to those closest to you!  Trust can grow when nothing is hidden.  Easy stuff if you are perfect with no blemishes. Did we say that any of this was easy?  Shame has nowhere to grow or take root if we take action and advantage of the revitalization that is freely offered to us.  Applying the truths of the gospel will affect you positively in your marriage too…now that is good news.  The cross deals a fatal blow to roots of bitterness and unforgiving; redemption is the freedom of your soul living out who God created you to be, only if you apply the truths to your behaviors.

All right, here is how we’ve been married 63 years in no less than nine years of hard work and bliss!  We call it “remarried math.” It’s where you take the number of years you’ve been married, times the number of all the children you have between the two of you. In our case, we have seven kids (four of mine and three of hers) times nine years of marriage equals 63 years!  Not bad huh? We feel that this approach levels the reality field of stepfamily life and remarriage, plus it makes us out to look younger too!

Remember, how you look at things via a filter of grace will help you succeed because of the gospel.  Our by-line for Restored and Remarried is “If you ain’t got the marriage you ain’t got nothing.”  A healthy marriage is the best gift we can give our kids, our family and our communities.  Sharing your faith with your spouse provides a huge statistical advantage in the long haul to bring shame to success! We have been delivered and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  We need to own that and live that out for the sake of our families’ legacy!