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Second Marriages, Third Mortgages and Numerous Step-Children
by Marjorie Dorfman

Marrying for the second time is like a murderer returning to the scene of a crime.
. . . The Dorfman Archives

Are you about to cross the threshold of matrimony for the second or even third time? Do you feel like you learned what went wrong before or are you just for glutton for punishment? Study your odds for success (and ends) in the following article. Remember to look before you leap and that he who hesitates is lost. If you are still confused, at least sit back and enjoy the article.

I am probably the last soul on earth qualified to discuss second marriages as I only did it once. Although I have always despised being a statistic, my divorce places me among and amuck the fifty to sixty per cent of all first marriages that end in divorce. Still, don’t ignore my perspective, especially since I have lived vicariously over the years through first, second and sometimes even the third divorces of many friends and relatives. I just happened to stop after one. (I’ve never been very good at numbers, and when I might have remarried they came out with that pill which reduced the symptoms of "marriage fever.") This is America. All perspectives, stooped and conquered, offer help and resolution.

All that being said, second marriages promise hope, renewal and personal happiness. Whether remarriage occurs before the seven-year itch or after a fifteen-year hitch, people burn bridges, grow up, fall down, get up and start all over again. The attitude is fine, but statistics indicate that seventy-five per cent of people who get divorced the first time eventually remarry, and sixty to seventy per cent of all remarriages end in divorce. When there are no children involved, the process is usually smoother because it can mean a clean break and not a recurring fracture with complications. For both men and women, the new mate must come first in a second marriage just as the mortgage payment must precede that dream walking trip in search of Yeti across the Himalayan mountainside.

One of the most important questions facing a remarriage is whether or not the new mate and their former spouse are emotionally divorced. This runs much deeper than legal papers and signatures along dotted lines. In fact, it can run a destructive course way below the level of what meets the eye. It usually takes longer than the legalities; often involving deep-seated resentments and unresolved issues on both sides. It is the place of the ex-mate to establish boundaries between the new life and the old, even if they must be pounded and pounded again into not so dear and not so little ears.

Along with boundaries comes something Aretha Franklin used to refer to quite clearly: a little respect. This means you as the second spouse as well as all those residing in the enemy camp. If you must play, then do it by the rules. A marriage always takes two, whether it succeeds or fails. Respect and accept your new spouse’s children, even if you mutter their names in murderous effigy whenever you are alone. They are the innocent products and constant reminders of a marriage that didn’t work and whose failure was not their fault. Not taking things personally can help matters, although sometimes that is easier said than done. The children may want their parents back together again and if they do, they are entitled to their feelings. Blood is thicker than water, and remember that if it wasn’t your face used as the target of the darts thrown in the family room, it would be the face of some other unsuspecting girl or boy-friend, wife or husband.

Your new love may or may not be here to stay as the old song goes, but the ex-spouse and whatever history they shared with your new mate always will be. (It’s like headaches and diarrhea. They reoccur even though there’s a cure.) This may be difficult to accept, but necessary to insure a healthy relationship for all concerned. Communication is also vital, but once again, boundaries must be set. The second spouse must let the new mate know about what is comfortable and what isn’t. People aren’t mind readers and even if something should seem obvious, for those involved in the tangled web of former spouses, sometimes only the spiders can be seen. Tell him or her. Be reasonable, but don’t be a dishrag. If you do, you will find yourself with more and more dishes to wash.

The holidays are the bane of almost all second marriages because they heighten the tension among parents, stepchildren and former spouses in the divorce game of "Guess Who’s Not Coming To Dinner!" Since sixty-five per cent of all remarriages involve children from former unions, things can get very dicey. (I am not referring to carrots or onions either). Be creative and find new ways to celebrate if one’s spouse or children must be away for the holidays. The dates don’t count as much as the celebration and meaning behind it. I used to meet an old friend every New Years Eve for a drink for almost twenty years. Whenever I would raise my glass in a toast to a new year, he would always say: "It’s only Tuesday night. Every day is the start of a new year." Don’t get hung up on dates. You can have just as much fun the night before and after the holiday and it will probably be cheaper too.

Stepchildren and former spouses are only two of the problems confronting a second marriage and the attempt to start all over again. Very often, it means a new home, sometimes in a new location, and a total upheaval of the life that once was. This can be a good thing or bad, depending on what the situation was before and what expectations have been fulfilled.

Usually, buying and selling a house is a very big deal, and one that doesn’t go away soon (like an invasion of mosquitoes or a visit from annoying relatives). Most people spend a quarter of their lives paying off the loan they took to purchase a house and that is only half of the problem. If you haven’t already guessed, the other half is having the bank approve the huge loan to buy the house. If you have done it before and have been responsible, it will be somewhat easier. Do not think, however, this will help you evade the third degree you will still get from the bank as they inspect and pick apart every aspect of your credit history. They are a nervous lot and expect you to pay back the enormous amount of money you are borrowing from them. Where do they get their nerve? I’m sure I don’t know. (I’m a homeowner, but I have changed my identity three times over the years.)

The biggie with second and third mortgages is something called the loan to value ratio. The LTV ratio is obscurely defined as:
LTV= Total Loan Balances (first mortgage + second mortgage+third mortgage) / Fair Market Value of the Property.

If the borrower is applying for a first mortgage and there will be no other loans on the property, then the beginning balance of the new loan requested should be listed in the numerator. (That refers to the part of the equation before the slash for those of you as gifted with mathematical concepts as I am.) If, however, the borrower is applying for a second mortgage, then the lender should insert the sum of the first and second mortgages in the numerator. Similarly, if a third mortgage is involved, the lender should insert the sum of the first, second and third into the numerator.

When the borrower is applying for a second or third mortgage, the loan-to-value-ratio is often known as the combined loan-to-value ratio (CLTV ratio). The denominator of the equation (stuff after the slash) involves the fair market value of the property that is determined by an appraisal. Mortgage brokers often base their loans on the appraised value of the property rather than the purchase price. Lenders always base their maximum loans on the lower of purchase price or appraisal because an appraisal is really no more than an estimate of fair market value, no matter how competent or conscientious the appraiser may be. If a property sells for "x amount", then it is probably only worth x, even if this doesn’t seem as obvious as ABC.

Life, love and second marriages are all a part of the grand casino that comprise life and all its opportunities. In a way, everything we do is a gamble because we can’t count on results even if we can bet on them. There may be a pot of gold or confederate money at the base of that rainbow, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from searching for it. Life is short and how many chances do we get to grab that gold ring anyway? Well, maybe one more. Take it on yourself. I’m going over to the roulette wheel and put half my money on black. What do you think? Half on red, you say? Well. Fine. Good luck! At least one of us will win!

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Copyright 2003