Love and marriage may go together like a horse and carriage, according to Frank Sinatra, who undoubtedly had some expertise on the subject after visiting the altar four times.
But when a wheel falls off the carriage and the horse breaks a leg, the end result can be, as the serial bride Tammy Wynette pointed out, a D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
And for most estranged couples, once those divorce papers land on the kitchen table, there’s probably nothing they would like more than to wash that man or woman right out of their hair. If there are no children from the union, or no lingering financial issues, they can walk away and chalk the whole thing up to a lesson learned. If there were children, most couples try to maintain a gritted-teeth detente.
But then there’s a small, unusual subset of couples – those get married and get divorced, but decide that the separation didn’t work out and they head down the aisle together once again.
To borrow a line from another Sinatra tune, they show that love is lovelier the second time around.
It’s estimated that somewhere between 4 to 6 percent of couples who get divorced will eventually remarry one another. And they have some famous examples to look toward: the notoriously tempestuous union of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor ended in divorce in 1974, only for the couple to remarry in 1975 and divorce again the following year; the actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it marriage in the 1970s, and followed it with a five-year reprise from 1989 to 1994; and Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner brought the curtain down on a four-year marriage in 1962, but then decided to try again 10 years later when they bumped into one another on a cruise liner.
There are some notable not-so-renowned examples as well. This summer, Roland Davis and Lena Henderson, who reside in the Buffalo, N.Y. area, remarried 48 years after they got a divorce. Their first marriage lasted 20 years and produced four children. “I always thought it might happen,” Davis told the Buffalo News. “It was always in the back of my mind.”
Nancy Kalish, an emeritus professor of psychology at the Sacremento campus of California State University who has researched couples reigniting dormant relationships, explained that the reasons first marriages split are usually pretty prosaic: “They were too young or didn’t have communication skills,” she said.
Mary Grace Locy, of Amity, freely admits that at 18 she was too young the first time she married her husband, Jon, then 21, on Dec. 8, 1989. They had three children over the next decade, but the marriage was buffetted by communication breakdowns and financial ups and downs, and the couple ended up divorcing in 2000.
It turned out, however, that it was less a split than a pause. Jon Locy completed a college degree when they were apart, and also harbored a hope that he and Mary Grace would reunite.
“Two years of being apart from one another and I never stopped loving my wife,” he said. After enduring his own parents’ divorce when he was young, Jon Locy was determined to keep things cordial with Mary Grace when they were no longer man and wife, and maintain good relations with his children.
“There was never any animosity,” he pointed out. “It was one of those things I always had in the back of my mind, that I wanted to be an exemplary father.”
After they divorced, the Locys’ daughter, Sara, wrote them notes imploring them to get back together. They took the messages to heart and married again on Oct. 20, 2001.
“We fought a lot the first time around,” Mary Grace Locy said. This time, however, “We still have our disagreements, but we just let it roll off our backs. Communication is the key, for sure. There are some things you just have to let go. Some of that comes with age … Probably the last five to seven years have been the best.”
She added: “Be sure you want to get a divorce. There are so many things that are solveable.”
Like the Locys, Gregory and Judy Tender also tied the knot very young. He was 18 and she was 17 when the Burgettstown couple married the first time in 1976, managing to keep it afloat until 1987. “We had a lot of oats to sow,” Judy Tender explained.
But, even after the divorce, “We had always kept seeing each other, and we just decided to give it a try.”
Four years after the divorce, they moved back in together. On June 10, 1995, almost 19 years to the day after the first time they got married, the Tenders got spliced again.
Couples who are contemplating divorce shouldn’t “give up so quick,” Judy Tender said. “We were quick to give up.”
Her husband explained that “we just get along a little bit better. It was just one of those things that happen. We just decided to split up for a while.”
However, he said, “You can’t just say it’s over and done.”