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Remarriage is a marriage that takes place after a previous marital union has ended, as through divorce or widowhood. Some individuals are more likely to remarry than others; the likelihood can differ based on previous relationship status (e.g. divorced vs. widowed), level of interest in establishing a new romantic relationship, gender, culture, and age among other factors. Those who choose not to remarry may prefer alternative arrangements like cohabitation or living apart together. Remarriage also provides mental and physical health benefits. However, although remarried individuals tend to have better health than individuals who do not repartner, they still generally have worse health than individuals who have remained continuously married. Remarriage is addressed differently in various religions and denominations of those religions. Someone who repeatedly remarries is referred to as a serial wedder.[1]

Remarriage following divorce or separation[edit]

As of 1995, depending on individual and contextual factors, up to 50% of couples in the USA ended their first marriage in divorce or permanent separation (i.e. the couple is not officially divorced but they no longer live together or share assets).[2] Couples typically end their marriage because they are unhappy during the partnership; however, while these couples give up hope for their partner, this does not mean they give up on the institution of marriage. The majority of people who have divorced (close to 80%) go on to marry again.[3] On average, they remarry just under 4 years after divorcing; younger adults tend to remarry more quickly than older adults.[4] For women, just over half remarry in less than 5 years, and by 10 years after a divorce 75% have remarried.[2]

People may be eager to remarry because they do not see themselves as responsible for the previous marriage ending. Generally, they are more likely to believe their partner's behaviors caused the divorce, and minimize the influence of their own actions.[5] Therefore, they remain optimistic that a new partnership will lead to better results.[6]

According to data analyzed by USA Today in 2013, remarriage rates in the United States have dropped by 40 percent over the last 20 years.[7]

Numerous religions and sects forbid, or formerly forbade, remarriage after divorce. Some still do, although in many countries the percentage of the populace that adhere to them has been shrinking for more than half a century. Outdated terms for second marriage that date to the earlier era of more widespread censure include deuterogamy and digamy, but the terms second marriage or remarriage are more readily understood.

Factors influencing likelihood of remarriage[edit]

Many factors influence the likelihood of remarrying after a divorce. Based on the 2006 census, men remarry more often than women.[8] Remarriage rates also differ by ethnicity; remarriage is most common among white women, while black women have the lowest probability of marrying again. Age is another determining factor; women who are older than 25 at the time of divorce are less likely to remarry than women who are younger at the time of marital dissolution. Having children is associated with higher rates of remarriage for men and women.[9] Remarriage also differs by community setting. Women from urban areas or areas with a greater proportion of women who never married are less likely to marry again. Some environmental factors do not affect all ethnicities: only non-white women from communities with high unemployment and poverty have reduced likelihood of remarriage.[2]

Some women enter cohabiting relationships after a divorce instead of remarrying. This pattern of cohabiting after a divorce is more likely for white than black women, for women without religious affiliation, with few or no children, and who live in more economically stable communities.[2]

Outcomes of remarriage[edit]

On the whole, remarriages are associated with greater socioeconomic security and life satisfaction compared to remaining divorced or separated.[10] People who remarry tend to have better adjustment to their divorce, reporting more positive evaluations of their lives compared to divorced individuals who remain single.[11] While divorced couples have a higher risk of developing a wide range of physical and mental health problems,[12] remarrying may attenuate, but not eliminate, some of these health risks.[13] Second Marriages: Triumph of decision over hope? It is often assumed that second marriages are riskier than first marriages - “The triumph of hope over experience” as popularised by Samuel Johnson in 1791. A new analysis of data commissioned from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) challenges this assumption. In fact, second marriages overall do consistently better than first marriages. Where one or both spouses are marrying for the second time, couples marrying today face an estimated 31% risk of divorce during their lifetime, compared to an estimated 45% risk of divorce amongst couples where both spouses are marrying for the first time. However, second marriages do not always fare any better than the first.[14] Again the rates of divorce and separation vary based on demographic and social factors. Second marriage disruptions are more likely for Black women and for women in communities that are less economically well off.[2] Conversely, rates of divorce decline as age at the time of second marriage increases.[14] Also, women who enter their second marriage with no children are generally more likely to sustain their marriages.[2]

Vulnerabilities to second marriages[edit]

There are several reasons why second marriages can be more vulnerable to disruption. Partners bring the same personal qualities to their subsequent marriage as they had during the first, but some of these qualities may have contributed to the first marriage’s problems. People who have divorced and remarried multiple times tend to be relatively impulsive and nonconformist.[15][16] In second marriages, partners also often have to deal with additional complications that do not exist in first marriages, like combining families. Remarriages involving stepchildren have a greater rate of dissolution than those without.[17]

Remarriage following widowhood[edit]

The Emperor's Second Marriage, by Jean-Baptiste Debret, depicts the wedding ceremony of Emperor Pedro I of Brazil to Amélie of Leuchtenberg in 1829, three years after the death of his first wife Maria Leopoldina of Austria.

As of the 2006 census, 32% of the U.S. population over age 65 was widowed.[8] Most people successfully adjust after losing a partner; research on bereavement patterns finds the most frequent outcome is resilience.[18] Even so, remarriage rates among older widowers are fairly low, and even lower among older widows. However, looking at rates of remarriage vastly underestimates interest in new romantic relationships.[19]

Differences in desire to repartner[edit]

Men and women not only have different remarriage rates, but they also differ in their desire to repartner (to establish a new romantic relationship). A year and a half after the death of a spouse, 15% of widows and 37% of widowers ages 65 and older were interested in dating.[19] Differences in desire to repartner may stem from the different benefits men and women receive in and outside of a marriage.

The most frequent reasons older adults give for remaining without a partner after losing a spouse are gender-specific. While the common myth is "women grieve, men replace," research does not support this pattern. Rather, widows are more likely to report that they are reluctant to give up newfound freedom and independence.[20] Many widows perceive a sense of liberation no longer having to take care of another person, and value this more than additional companionship.[21] Widowers, on the other hand, tend to report that they have not repartnered because they are concerned about being undesirable partners due to older age and ill health.[20]

Some studies have found that women who are not interested in a new relationship have explicitly decided to remain unpartnered. In contrast, men were more likely to report that they would not rule out the possibility but had not encountered a suitable relationship yet.[20] Interviews indicate that widowers are more prepared than widows to take a chance on a new relationship.[21]

Among widows, social support appears to promote interest in new intimate partnerships. Widows with confidants are more interested in repartnering than those without close friends.[22] However, for men this pattern may be reversed. While overall widowers are more interested in remarriage than widows, only the men with low or average levels of support from friends are any more likely than women to report desire to remarry in the future. When widowers have high levels of social support from friends, they have equivalent levels of interest as widows. This suggests that men may be more motivated to repartner if they do not have as much social support as they would like. Women on the other hand tend to have more diverse sources of social support within their social networks.[19]

Although the gender differences in desire to repartner are most well documented, younger age and greater unhappiness also predict increased interest in remarriage.[23]

Likelihood to repartner[edit]

Men are more likely to repartner after losing their spouse; more than 60% of men but less than 20% of women are involved in a new romance or remarried within about two years of being widowed.[24] Interest in repartnering is only one factor in determining the likelihood that a widow or widower will establish a new romantic relationship. Davidson (2002) describes a framework which proposes three primary intervening conditions affecting likelihood of repartnering following widowhood: availability of partners, the feasibility of a relationship, and desirability of companionship.[21]

There are frequent gender differences in availability, desirability, and feasibility of new relationships. Availability of partners is a greater constraint for older widows; there are far fewer partners available for older women than older men, given that women tend to live longer and men tend to prefer younger partners. As detailed in the previous section, older widowers also typically have greater desire to repartner than widows.[21]

Studies have identified many other factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of successfully repartnering following widowhood. Most of these factors fit within Davidson’s framework. For widows, younger age is associated with greater probability of repartnering; younger women typically have more available potential partners. For widowers, new romance is predicted by greater income and education.[24] In Davidson's model, feasibility of a relationship is affected by age, health, and financial resources; being younger, healthier, and having financial resources makes one a more attractive partner.[21]

Outcomes of remarriage[edit]

Widowed older adults show high increases in loneliness, but expanding their social network or repartnering can attenuate this loneliness.[25] Dating and remarriage following widowhood appear to be both fairly common and highly adaptive responses.[24][26] Surviving spouses who remarry within about 1–5 years of being widowed have more positive outcomes (e.g. greater wellbeing, greater life satisfaction, and less depression) than widows and widowers who have not remarried.[24][27] Further research has shown this reduced depression in repartnered compared to single widows and widowers is due to the remarried individuals’ greater socioeconomic resources.[19] For example, compared to widows who do not remarry, remarried widows tend to report higher household incomes and are less likely to report anxiety about financial matters.[23]

Remarriage and religion[edit]


In Christianity, widows and widowers are free to remarry with a Christian person, as taught in 1 Corinthians 7:39, which states "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."[28]

Regarding divorce and remarriage in Christianity, the Gospel of Mark records Jesus' teaching "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."[29] 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 states that adulterers "shall not inherit the kingdom of God".[29] The Shepherd of Hermas, an early Christian work on the subject, teaches that while fornication is the only reason that divorce can ever be permitted, remarriage with another person is forbidden to allow repentance and reconciliation of the husband and wife (those who refuse to forgive and receive their spouse are guilty of a grave sin).[30]

Most Christian Churches strongly discourage divorce though the way divorce and remarriage is addressed varies by denomination; for example, the Reformed Church in America permits divorce and remarriage,[31] while connexions such as the Evangelical Methodist Church Conference forbid divorce except in the case of fornication and do not allow for remarriage of divorced persons in any circumstance.[32]


In Islam, the remarriage of widows and widowers is permitted, with Muhammad—the founder of Islam—marrying nine widows.[33]

Alternatives to remarriage in later life[edit]

Remarriage is not always the goal or ideal arrangement for divorced and widowed adults. Especially among older adults, there is a growing acceptance and interest in alternative romantic commitments like cohabitation or Living Apart Together (LAT). While for younger adults cohabitation is typically a precursor to marriage, older adults have additional reasons why they may not want to remarry and cohabiting may be the ideal partnership.[9] For some, remarriage inspires feelings of disloyalty, and adult children can discourage remarriage based on concerns about inheritance.[34] Many older women are interested in companionship but may want to avoid long-term obligations and are hesitant to give up their new independence.[19][35] However, an arrangement called Living Apart Together (LAT) offers an appealing alternative; it is a form of intimate ongoing companionship that allows each partner to maintain autonomy and independent households.[35][36]

General physical and mental health benefits of remarriage[edit]

Health is influenced both by current marital status and marital transition history. Marriage confers mental and physical health advantages, but remarried individuals who have been widowed or divorced continue to be disadvantaged compared to continuously married individuals.[13]

Mental health benefits[edit]

Marriage has been shown to impart significant mental health benefits[12] and remarriage seems to be protective as well. Overall, people who remarry have lower levels of depressive symptoms compared to others who have lost a partner (through widowhood, divorce, or separation) and remain single. Remarriage seems to be especially beneficial for men, who have lower levels of depressive symptoms than remarried women.[37]

However, the health benefits of remarriage do not appear to be as strong as those for continuous marriage. Several studies have found that the mental and physical health benefits of remarriage do not fully balance out the negative effects of a previous marital disruption. Compared to the strong advantage of being continuously married, the mental health benefits are progressively weaker the more previous marriages a person has had.[38] Although men seem to benefit as much from remarriage as being continuously married, remarried women have weaker mental health benefits.[39][40]

The mental health differences between remarried women and unpartnered women appear to be due to differences in economic resources and social support. Findings also indicate that the mental health benefit of marriage for women is primarily driven by the fact that married women tend to be physically healthier than cohabiting and unpartnered women. There may be a selection effect whereby healthy women are more likely to remarry, and subsequently, based on their greater physical health, experience less depression. On the other hand, even when controlling for economic resources, social support, and health, married men experience fewer depressive symptoms compared to cohabiting or unpartnered men. This is likely because depression symptoms in married men are so low.[37]

Physical health benefits[edit]

The physical health benefits of marriage are well documented,[12] but marital disruptions have been shown to negatively affect health.[13][41] Remarriage can attenuate but not completely eliminate the negative health effects of a marital disruption. Among currently married persons, those who have previously been divorced or widowed have worse health than those who have been continuously married. Research has not found any difference in physical health between persons with only one compared to multiple marital disruptions.[13] The lingering negative health effects of marital disruption include increased risk for chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes and heart disease) and mobility limitations (e.g. difficulty walking a block or climbing stairs). However, it is also important to consider that it is difficult to determine causality; it is possible that a person’s health determines their likelihood of marrying and experiencing a disruption. In fact, it is possible that there are effects in both directions.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dick, Bailey G. “Is It Not Possible to Be a Radical and a Christian?” Dorothy Day Navigates the Patriarchal Worlds of Journalism and Catholicism. Diss. Ohio University, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bramlett, M. D., & Mosher, W. D. (2002). Cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the United States. Vital and Health Statistics. Series 23, Data from the National Survey of Family Growth, (22), 1-93. PMID 12183886
  3. ^ Cherlin, A. J. (1992). Marriage, divorce, remarriage (rev. and enl. ed.). Social trends in the United States. Cambridge, MA, US: Harvard University Press. As cited in Bradbury, T. N., & Karney, B. R. (2010). Intimate Relationships. W. W. Norton & Company.
  4. ^ Wilson, B. F., & Clarke, S. C. (1992). Remarriages: A demographic profile. Journal of Family Issues, 13(2), 123 -141. doi:10.1177/019251392013002001 PMID 12343618
  5. ^ Amato, P. R., & Previti, D. (2003). People’s Reasons for Divorcing. Journal of Family Issues, 24(5), 602 -626. doi:10.1177/0192513X03254507
  6. ^ Bradbury, T. N., & Karney, B. R. (2010). Intimate Relationships. W. W. Norton & Company.
  7. ^ Kenny, Molly B. (19 October 2013). "U.S. Remarriage Rate Has Dropped 40 Percent in 20 Years". Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  8. ^ a b U.S. Census Bureau. (2006). American Community Survey: 2006 (No. S1201): Marital Status. As cited in Bradbury, T. N., & Karney, B. R. (2010). Intimate Relationships. W. W. Norton & Company.
  9. ^ a b Brown, S. L., Lee, G. R., & Bulanda, J. R. (2006). Cohabitation among older adults: A national portrait. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 61(2), S71. PMID 16497963
  10. ^ Forste, R., & Heaton, T. B. (2004). The Divorce Generation. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 41, 95-114. doi:10.1300/J087v41n01_06
  11. ^ Wang, H.-H., Wu, S.-Z., & Liu, Y.-Y. (2003). Association Between Social Support and Health Outcomes: A Meta-analysis. The Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences, 19(7), 345-350. doi:10.1016/s1607-551x(09)70436-x PMID 12926520
  12. ^ a b c Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., & Newton, T. L. (2001). Marriage and health: his and hers. Psychological Bulletin, 127(4), 472-503. PMID 11439708
  13. ^ a b c d e Hughes, M. E., & Waite, L. J. (2009). Marital Biography and Health at Mid-Life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50(3), 344 -358. doi:10.1177/002214650905000307 PMID 19711810
  14. ^ a b Clarke, S. C., & Wilson, B. F. (1994). The relative stability of remarriages: A cohort approach using vital statistics. Family Relations, 43, 305-310.
  15. ^ Brody, G. H., Neubaum, E., & Forehand, R. (1988). Serial marriage: A heuristic analysis of an emerging family form. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 211-222.
  16. ^ Amato, P. R., & Booth, A. (1991). The consequences of divorce for attitudes towards divorce and gender roles. Journal of Family Issues, 12, 306-322.
  17. ^ Booth, A., & Edwards, J. N. (1992). Starting Over. Journal of Family Issues, 13(2), 179 -194. doi:10.1177/019251392013002004 PMID 12343619
  18. ^ Bonanno, G. A., Wortman, C. B., Lehman, D. R., Tweed, R. G., Haring, M., Sonnega, J., Carr, D., et al. (2002). Resilience to loss and chronic grief: a prospective study from preloss to 18-months postloss. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(5), 1150–1164. PMID 12416919
  19. ^ a b c d e Carr, D. (2004). The desire to date and remarry among older widows and widowers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(4), 1051–1068.
  20. ^ a b c Davidson, K. (2001). Late life widowhood, selfishness and new partnership choices: a gendered perspective. Ageing & Society, 21. doi:10.1017/S0144686X01008169
  21. ^ a b c d e Davidson, K. (2002). Gender differences in new partnership choices and constraints for older widows and widowers. Ageing International, 27(4), 43–60.
  22. ^ Talbott, M. M. (1998). Older widows’ attitudes towards men and remarriage. Journal of Aging Studies, 12(4), 429-449. doi:10.1016/S0890-4065(98)90028-7
  23. ^ a b Moorman, S. M., Booth, A., & Fingerman, K. L. (2006). Women’s Romantic Relationships After Widowhood. Journal of Family Issues, 27(9), 1281–1304. doi:10.1177/0192513X06289096
  24. ^ a b c d Schneider, D., Sledge, P., Shuchter, S., & Zisook, S. (1996). Dating and Remarriage over the First Two Years of Widowhood. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 8, 51-57. doi:10.3109/10401239609148802 PMID 8807029
  25. ^ Dykstra, P. A., van Tilburg, T. G., & Gierveld, J. de J. (2005). Changes in Older Adult Loneliness. Research on Aging, 27(6), 725 -747. doi:10.1177/0164027505279712
  26. ^ Cooney, T. M., & Dunne, K. (2001). Intimate Relationships in Later Life: Current Realities, Future Prospects. Journal of Family Issues, 22, 838-858. doi:10.1177/019251301022007003
  27. ^ Burks, V. K., Lund, D. A., Gregg, C. H., & Bluhm, H. P. (1988). Bereavement and remarriage for older adults. Death Studies, 12, 51-60. doi:10.1080/07481188808252219
  28. ^ "Widow". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1912. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  29. ^ a b Mark L. Strauss (15 December 2009). Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church. Zondervan. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-310-86375-5. Simply put, Jesus would be saying that everyone who remarries after any divorce commits adultery (Mark 10:11-12); Luke 16:18). If this is the case, then marriage must be indissoluble. If marriages are indissoluble, then remarried couples are living in adultery; i.e., every time they have marital relations, they are committing adultery. Since no one who habitually sins makes it into heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10; my addition to Craig's points), either remarried couples must refrain from marital relations (separation from bed and board), as the church father Jerome required, or pastors should seek to break up second marriages.
  30. ^ Taylor, Dean (24 November 2008). "05. Divorce and also Remarriage in the Early Church". Radical Reformation. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  31. ^ "Statements of General Synod". Reformed Church in America. 1975. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  32. ^ Evangelical Methodist Church Discipline. Evangelical Methodist Church Conference. 15 July 2017. pp. 22–21. The marriage contract is so sacred that we advise against seeking divorce on any grounds whatseover. Should any member seek divorce on any unscriptural grounds (Matt. 5:32 "But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."), and that well proven, he shall be summoned to appear at a meeting in the local church, with the general board working in co-operation with the local church board. If proven guilty of such offense, he shall be dismissed at once, and no longer considered a member of Evangelical Methodist Church. We advise against the remarriage of all divorced persons, as the scriptures declare in Romans 7:3a "...So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress." If any person becoming converted, and having such marital complications as mentioned above in the days of their sin and ignorance, it is our belief that God will and does forgive them; however, we shall not receive such persons into church membership, but with to extend to them the right hand of fellowship, promising the prayers of God's people. Should any pastor, knowingly or unknowingly, receive such persons that have been divorced and remarried into membership, such membership shall not be valid. Ministers are advised to have nothing to do with the re-marriage of persons divorced on any grounds. In the event any person is divorced by an unbelieving companion and shall remain in an unmarried state, retaining his or her Christian integrity, he or she shall not be dismissed or barred from church membership.
  33. ^ Owen, Margaret (September 1996). A World of Widows. Zed Books. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-85649-420-5.
  34. ^ Bulcroft, K., & O’Connor, M. (1986). The importance of dating relationships on quality of life for older persons. Family relations, 397–401.
  35. ^ a b Karlsson, S. G., & Borell, K. (2002). Intimacy and autonomy, gender and ageing: Living apart together. Ageing International, 27, 11-26. doi:10.1007/s12126-002-1012-2
  36. ^ De Jong Gierveld, J., & Peeters, A. (2003). The Interweaving of Repartnered Older Adults’ Lives with Their Children and Siblings. Ageing & Society, 23(02), 187-205. doi:10.1017/S0144686X02001095
  37. ^ a b [unreliable medical source?]Brown, S. L., Bulanda, J. R., & Lee, G. R. (2005). The significance of nonmarital cohabitation: Marital status and mental health benefits among middle-aged and older adults. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60(1), S21–9 PMID 15643043
  38. ^ [unreliable medical source?]Barrett, Anne E. 2000. Marital Trajectories and Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 41:451–64. PMID 11198568
  39. ^ Carol S., Aneshensel; Jo C., Phelan; Alex, Bierman (16 July 2012), Handbook of the Sociology of Mental Health, Springer, p. 410, ISBN 978-94-007-4276-5
  40. ^ [unreliable medical source?] Williams, Kristi. 2003. Has the Future of Marriage Arrived? A Contemporary Examination of Gender, Marriage, and Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 44:470–87. PMID 15038144
  41. ^ Dupre, M. E., & Meadows, S. O. (2007). Disaggregating the Effects of Marital Trajectories on Health. Journal of Family Issues, 28(5), 623 -652. doi:10.1177/0192513X06296296

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