The “seven-year itch” is a cliché that nonetheless applied to my first marriage. At 29, I married my college sweetheart and it lasted just that long. I was in love with the picture of us — security, safety and tradition. I was also terrified of failing, of what others would think, and of how it would affect everyone around me. This caused me to stay in an unhealthy relationship much longer than was needed.
Happily, I am now well into my fourth year of wedded bliss with my current husband, Karon Riley. For those once bitten and twice shy, but considering jumping the broom for the second time, here are my top five reasons for embracing the “do-over.”
1. Self-Growth and Godliness
With experience and maturity comes wisdom and appreciation. Today, ironically due in part to the experiences in my first marriage, I am much more comfortable in my own skin. I know what I want and don’t want, and I am not as much of a “people pleaser.” I am also more aware of my own faults and shortcomings. Most importantly, this time around God allowed me the courage to choose a more compatible mate. The foundation of this self-growth is a stronger faith and a stronger appreciation for all that God has allowed me to do both personally and professionally. I put him first... and then he takes care of the rest.
2. More Respectful Communication
One thing I admired about Lovita Alize Jenkins, my character on The Steve Harvey Show, was that she had no filter — she said whatever she felt. Thank goodness I have gotten to a place now where I am much more comfortable expressing myself freely, and in healthy ways — no screaming, crying or fighting. Since I no longer alter or censor myself to try and fit what anyone, including my spouse, likes or believes, that angst is gone. We both have strong, independent and authentic identities, but because we trust each other, these are not threats to our union. Regular, open and respectful communication keeps us connected — not just about the day-to-day stuff but about our hopes and dreams. It is this intimate communication that really matters.
3. Better Sex
In one of my current films, Marriage Chronicles, I play Carmel Jackson, a married, sexually repressed woman fighting for her independence. Luckily, it’s a just a role. In real life, sex and intimacy in my second marriage are better than ever. And our physical connection continues to grow deeper and richer every year. Good sex is a must to keep the love alive and the fire lit. We share our most intimate desires and expectations, and we take equal responsibility for the romance through notes, e-mails, phone calls, hugs, holding hands and scheduled date nights.
4. Knowing That Marriage Is Part Business
Financial incompatibility is one of the leading causes of divorce because most first-time spouses don’t understand that marriage is not just about the love between two people — it is a business, with contracts and financial ties that have nothing to do with how you feel about someone. Did you know there are 1,400 legal rights that are conferred upon married couples in the U.S.? Most of these legal and economic benefits cannot be privately arranged or contracted. There is also basic financial planning, as well as business, social and family commitments that have to be incorporated into the relationship. A marriage is part business, with assets and liabilities, and it requires financial literacy. Approach it as such.
5. Good for the Children and the Community
For generations, Black love in America was stolen, invalidated and torn asunder. Now we are blessed to freely choose who we love and to create strong families and communities. As the mother of two active boys, I know my children are happier and healthier because I am in a loving marriage. Statistics bear out that children of a healthy marriage are more likely to attend college, are emotionally healthier, are less likely to have behavioral problems or be involved in delinquent behaviors. These things, along with a strong sense of self, are not just what I want for my children, but for all children. A strong family unit also contributes to my community at-large in similar ways, with lower crime, better schools, and a decreased reliance social safety nets.
Do you love yourself? Have you created a life for yourself using your own talents/gifts? Does the mate you have chosen support and celebrate who you are right now? Are you grounded spiritually, emotionally, financially? If so, don’t be afraid to take the plunge, again. Love can be better the second time around.
Terri J. Vaughn is an award-winning actress and is currently starring in the independent films Marriage Chronicles and Live. Love. Soul. She is currently filming BET’s new television pilot Young Man on Campus. She is also the co-creator and producer of Nina Holiday Entertainment.