Considering Remarriage Later in Life?
June 2024

“Considering Remarriage Later in Life?,” Liahona, June 2024.

Aging Faithfully

Considering Remarriage Later in Life?

Remarrying can create both challenges and joys.

two flowers

When her husband passed away after 25 years of marriage, my friend Susan thought she was too old ever to consider getting married again. “I was content to be a widow for the rest of my life,” she said.

But—surprisingly—two years later, she remarried. Her husband, George, was also a widower. Today they live a happy life together, sharing common interests such as historical research and service in the Church and community.

Joys and Challenges

That may sound like a happily-ever-after story. But Susan and George are quick to agree that remarrying at any age can create both joys and challenges. This may be particularly true for those who were sealed in the temple for their first marriage. My own life is a case in point.

I loved my wife Raelene and treasure our temple marriage. When she passed away unexpectedly after 42 years of marriage, I was distraught. I wallowed in self-pity for almost a year. Eventually I found a new job in a new city. I felt ready to start over. I wondered about dating. But would that mean I was being disloyal?

I counseled with a friend who had remarried. “It’s a personal decision,” he said. “You know your deceased wife. What would she think? You know your family and how they may react. It’s like any other decision—it should be approached with humility and prayer.”

Another friend who had remarried said, “It’s not about moving on. It’s about moving forward with faith regardless of marrying again or remaining single.”

So I searched the scriptures, often reading the story of Ruth, a widow, and her mother-in-law, Naomi, who felt “the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20) because of the death of her husband and two sons. Boaz eventually married Ruth after being moved by “all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband” (Ruth 2:11). This scriptural “love story” between Ruth and Boaz reminded me that God is always near, even in our darkest moments, and can guide us in our life decisions.

I did start dating again, and I eventually met my wife Stephanie. When we married, we decided that expecting everything to be the same as our first marriages or making comparisons to former spouses or circumstances was a recipe for disaster. We needed to create our own “bonus family” by including all of our children in important decisions and all of our grandchildren in new traditions.

Single or Remarriage: A Personal Choice

The scriptures have many examples of righteous persons who remained single following the passing of a spouse. The widow of Zarephath is celebrated for her faithfulness and generosity (see 1 Kings 17:8–16). The widow who cast two mites into the treasury was commended by the Savior for casting in “all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 12:44). The psalmist notes that the Lord “relieveth the fatherless and widow” (Psalm 146:9). These examples remind us that the Lord is very much aware of those who have lost a spouse. Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “Our standing before the Lord and in His Church is not a matter of our marital status but of our becoming faithful and valiant disciples of Jesus Christ.”

President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, was only seven years old when his father passed away from tuberculosis. His mother remained single the rest of her life while accomplishing much in Church and community service, including serving as mayor of the city of Provo.

“I was blessed with an extraordinary mother,” President Oaks recalled. “She surely was one of the many noble women who have lived in the latter days.”

Persist in the Gospel

While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder Randy D. Funk noted “some causes of unhappiness: … sadness and loneliness from the death of a loved one, and fear from the uncertainty of what happens when we die.” As an antidote, he suggested that “the inward peace of being securely within the fold of God” can bridge such loneliness and uncertainty.

Elder Gong noted that faith and covenant-keeping and rich blessings are very much available for those who choose not to remarry after the loss of a spouse. He tells about one of his family’s progenitors who “was left with five young children when her husband and oldest son both died suddenly just days apart. A widow for 47 years, Gram raised her family with sustaining love from local leaders and members. During those many years, Gram promised the Lord if He would help her, she would never complain. The Lord helped her. She never complained.”

arrangement of several flowers

Blending Families

The blending of families is a consideration in many marriages, and it can be particularly challenging when children are involved, no matter their age. One of the greatest challenges, in fact, may be helping children to accept new relationships.

Children are often the forgotten mourners when a parent passes away. They may feel lost in the shuffle—or at least feel a desire to counsel together about decisions that affect the family. They may have memories they no longer feel they can share. “Remember the time when we …” could feel incomplete and perhaps even unwanted. They may find it challenging to adjust to their living parent’s new relationship, including finding it difficult to give their love and loyalty to a stepparent.

In the best of circumstances, a new spouse may feel like an outsider. “Even when family members go out of their way to welcome you, you can still feel like you’re on the outside a lot of the time,” says a woman who remarried. Her advice? “Remember you’re not replacing anyone; you’re just adding to the family. Give it lots of time and love.”

Sometimes it’s not so much the planned or deliberate activities but rather the simple and spontaneous experiences that promote this new relationship. These three things seem to help:

  • Showing up for sports, music, and other personal interests that matter to each child.

  • Practicing deep listening without giving too much advice.

  • Sharing personal experiences and vulnerabilities.

Children and Grandchildren

Instead of retreating from extended family interaction and sticking to the sidelines, “bonus” parents and grandparents can search for common interests with individual family members and discover new ideas and approaches together. In our bonus family, we share text messages on topics ranging from parenting to politics, business ventures to exercise tips, cooking to historical fiction. We began meeting separately online with each of the two extended families during the pandemic to study Come, Follow Me together and have continued it ever since then.

Balancing Act

Balancing leisure time preferences, household chores, and especially family finances in a new marriage later in life can be challenging and complex. It requires empathy, tenderness, and “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4) to navigate new and sometimes conflicting demands.

Each couple will find their own answers in navigating chores, leisure time, and finances. If preferences are openly discussed together, most differences can be resolved over time. As a helpful guideline for such discussions, consider this advice about goal setting given by President M. Russell Ballard (1928–2023), Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Set short-term goals that you can reach. Set goals that are well balanced—not too many nor too few, and not too high nor too low. Write down your attainable goals and work on them according to their importance. Pray for divine guidance in your goal setting.”

A second marriage, just like a first marriage, can be satisfying and fulfilling or stressful and difficult. Much depends on the ability of the couple to address common issues together. Many who marry again in later life find that life can be richer with someone to talk to, laugh with, and even share tears with when needed. Like any act of faith, remarriage requires exercising such Christlike attributes as patience, forbearance, forgiveness, kindness, and love.

The author lives in Utah, USA.