Topic: Advice for the Unwary Woman by Maggie Burns

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So you love him/ you’re lonely/ you miss having a man around/ you want the security of a husband?

There are a number of reasons for a woman to remarry – many times in haste, after a husband dies; equally as many times when a recently-widowed or divorced man convinces you he can’t live without you...

What he probably means is that he can’t live without a woman in his house to comfort him/ wash for him/ cook for him/ remember birthdays/ partner him when he needs to attend important events – the uses are many for a woman in a man’s life.

Stop! Think! 

Think about the unknown imponderables that can arise with second marriages. 

How many children do you and he have?  How old are they?  How will they feel about having a new ‘mother?’ 

Believe me, a man’s children can make your life miserable if they’re against their father remarrying.   Take a deep breath and pause, consider, hesitate and continue to think for as long as it takes to answer all these questions to your own satisfaction.

You may have been on your own for several years and it could be exciting to be reminded once again that you’re a desirable woman to take to bed.  My advice is – say yes to the sex and enjoy it – forget any feelings of guilt! – but don’t put your head in the oven until you know how hot it’s going to be.

Right, now having got to know him a bit better, get to know his children who may already be adults.  Find out if they’re married and independent beings.  Don’t touch him if he has daughters (even one) who are unmarried/ unattached and worship their daddy.  They won’t like you, believe me.  They might even have had ideas of becoming daddy’s partner for the rest of his life.

In this case, the only thing in your favour is you’re beddable and they’re not! Find out.

Are you keeping up with me or are you besotted with this man after so many years on your own?  Is he bedding down in your house – the house you spent your hard-earned salary on?  Or are you spending weekends in his house while his family’s away?

How do you cope with his habits? - habits acquired over half a lifetime of living with someone else. Maybe that someone didn’t mind that he throws his clothes around the bedroom and bathroom and smokes in the lounge?  So you must make it clear that you don’t like smokers in your house – and what if his whole family smokes? Have you ever considered that?  Take it from me, it’s a distinct possibility and you’re on the outer edge in this instance - unreasonable – not someone they will be happy to welcome into their family.

Where will you live – in his house or yours?  Maybe you’ve considered that one and decided to sell both houses and buy one together. Fine.  That’s the way to go.  What about furniture?  Remember you’ll have at least two of everything.  Perhaps you’re thinking of giving some to your own family in order to accommodate his?  Not a good idea – and if he’s not willing to part with his treasured furniture, call the whole thing off.

Believe me you’ll regret it if you go ahead and end up living in a house surrounded by all the furniture from his first marriage.  His family will be delighted as your house will feel like home to them – but what about your family? They will have lost anything that resembles their home, no matter whether your furniture is older than his or not as valuable.  Insist he sell his, too, even if the extra cost makes him shudder!

Have I made you think?  Does it still sound like a good idea, this turmoil in your life?  Why not stay as you are and enjoy spending time with each other?  You live in your house and he can live in his – at least until you get to know all the people involved in this possible marriage.

You’ve thought of that – but he doesn’t think it a good idea – too expensive to maintain two houses when you could so easily get married and share everything.  Oh, well. I can see he’s wearing you down. He keeps telling you how much he loves you – has always loved you!  Reminds you how you practically grew up together and how you loved one another when you were young.

This should remind you that he could have married you then.  He might tell you that he wasn’t ready to settle – and possibly there was no question of you waiting till he was?  So here you are now. Does this make you feel a bit like a second-hand Rose? – ready to be loved now it suits him.

Perhaps you consider that Fate sent him looking for you in the big city – and finding you, left you no alternative but to welcome him. After all, you wouldn’t want to risk losing him again to some other woman who might be more willing to compromise, would you?

For the last time I beseech you!

Don’t rush into this remarriage – give him at least twelve months to prove that it’s you he really wants, and not just some pleasant woman to keep him company.  Don’t even consider the possibility that he might marry someone else.  If he does you’ll know that you did the right thing by making him wait.

Get to know his family – and give them the opportunity to get to know yours.  Be confident that this is necessary for it to be a happy union for all parties.

If only one person is unhappy it can ruin the rest of your lives together, so work on reassuring them that you’re both thinking of the individual welfare of every member of both families.

Remember this is a two-way deal.  Each family is as important as the other, especially when it comes to possessions.

While you’re assessing the situation don’t rush off and sell your house in preparation for him selling his – he may decide not to do so!

He tells you he’s ready to retire and is looking forward to the two of you spending time in the garden, playing bowls, socialising, etc, etc.  Please pause before you take him at his word and do the same.  It’s not so easy to get another job if it doesn’t work out.


Sounds like the perfect solution to me – but what do I know about it?  I’ve been there, done that.

What did I do? 

Ah, if I told you that, and you decided not to copy me – what a lot you’d miss!


‘Advice for the Unwary Woman’ was written for the Memoir & Local History Competition 2011, run annually by the New Zealand Society of Authors (Bay of Plenty Region) with support from Tauranga Writers.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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