Overcoming Challenges in Remarriage: The Story of Bill and Kortnee

My Marriage is Perfect?

We live in a society where half or more of our population is divorced, including Christians. There are many reasons why a divorce happens and a messy relationship can become a complex issue. For people on the brinks of divorce, ending a relationship may seem like the easy way out and only solution. Some believe their next marriage will be far easier because they will be sure to marry Mr. or Mrs. Right. They will marry someone who shares their beliefs, is like-minded, understands their personality – the list may be endless and is different for every person. Is a second or third marriage really all you expect it to be? The rate of divorce during remarriage is higher than divorce during a first marriage at 74%! If two people are experienced at marriage and know what not to do, then why are there still struggles?

"The Truth": 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Meet Bill and Kortnee

I had the opportunity to meet with Bill and Kortnee Bagley and their sarcastic sense of humor as they shared what life is like as a remarried couple. Bill is 8 years older than Kortnee, has two girls and was married for 14 years before accepting the divorce he didn’t want. Kortnee was married for 17 years has a pre-teen son and three teenage daughters – each older than Bill’s girls. A few years ago, Bill volunteered his time during his church’s Vacation Bible School. One of the directors said the drama group could use help, so Bill signed up. Kortnee also volunteered and ended up in the drama group as well even though it was the least desirable position to her. Neither of them really wanted to get involved in a relationship since their wounds from failed marriages were fresh. They prayed hard and began seeing each other – taking tiny baby steps. Kortnee and Bill were nervous, excited and terrified of this newfound bond. On one of their first dates they went for a long walk and were completely honest about their pasts, difficulties in their first marriages and fears. “I figured that if Bill stuck around after that, then maybe this was God’s will,” laughs Kortnee. They dated for 9 months and had a low-key wedding two months later that included their kids, close family and friends.

Blending Two Worlds

Although a man and woman may try to “leave and cleave”, they are still responsible for taking care of their children. “Each child has a different personality and deals with stresses, problems and excitement differently,” says Bill. This can come with challenges and questions, such as what do the children call their stepparents? “We never told the kids what to call us. Bill’s girls started calling me “mom” soon after we were married, but my son just recently started calling Bill “dad”. We don’t push it and although it’s very meaningful, it’s not what we focus on,” says Kortnee. The Bagleys live in the house that Bill owned during his first marriage, so his daughters have always considered it their home. “It has taken some adjusting and we are working on making it feel more like a home for all of us, but it will be nice to start fresh in a new home some day,” says Kortnee. The two had fallen into putting the needs of their kids first when they were first married and learned through the Blending Families Conference with Grant Porteus that although their hearts were in the right place, their priorities were mixed up. They were putting their kids first when they should have focused on God first, then each other and then the kids. When they were single, Bill and Kortnee were used to defending their kids, so this naturally happened in their marriage and it set them against one another at times. When they focused on God’s will, listened to each other and then discussed a situation with their kids they learned how to work as a team.

Ex-Spouses are Still Part of the Equation

Like many divorced couples, Bill and Kortnee have to juggle schedules with taking their kids to visit their biological mom and dad, respectively. This requires long trips every other weekend and if the schedule changes it demands trying to work with ex-spouses that do not see eye to eye on most issues. When a husband and wife gets a divorce, they go their separate ways and are no longer accountable to their ex-spouse. They make their own vacation plans and unexpected events happen. This stress can mount and create tension, especially if the ex-spouse is clouded with selfishness. Unfortunately, this often boils over and the kids are hurt the most.

Baggage Doesn’t Get Lost

Bill and Kortnee experienced failed first marriages for different reasons and they carried the baggage into their new marriage, like most couples do. Baggage comes in many forms, from childhood abuse, constantly feeling devalued and disrespected, and feeling like a failure. “Baggage affects everything,” says Kortnee, “so I joined the Journey Group at church to learn to overcome and let go of my past hurts.” Bill joined the group too and together they went through 12 weeks of intense counseling in a group setting. After going through this experience, they could better understand why Bill was over protective of his girls, Kortnee had lost her sense of value and why Satan’s lies were able to penetrate deep and cause chaos. As they learn more skills to deal with the less than pleasant aspects of life, they are focusing first on God and then on serving one another.

Marriage is Hard Work

Bill and Kortnee didn’t get remarried assuming that all would be chocolate covered cherries and warm vacations. They wanted to get this marriage right so they went to counseling sessions through their first year (and continue to do so) and were honest and open with one another. Their desire to make this work was so strong, but desire is only effective when you have the right tools to help. The counseling helped them, but eventually they switched to a different counselor who focused more on merging blended families. Even with a strong church community rallying behind them, consistent counseling and eyes wide open, they have experienced more stress in the first two years of marriage than many couples deal with in 10 years – according to their pastor. As they stay committed and keep their priorities in the correct order, they are starting to see and feel a lighter load and more happiness.

Experiencing Healing

I asked Bill and Kortnee if they were healed from their divorces before they were married and their response surprised me. Kortnee said, “I don’t think you can be fully healed from a divorce until you are remarried.” Bill agreed as he explained that knowing what true love is makes all the difference. Every person is different and God brings healing in unexpected ways, but He always knows what you need.

Stress Can Build

When a bad day turns into a bad week, bad month and bad year resentment can build and you may begin to feel a rush of negative emotions packaged with panic. Bill and Kortnee’s first two years of marriage were difficult and lead to her leaving for six weeks, but through a strong support system, commitment to break down the walls and knowing their marriage is part of God’s plan, they are now jumping life’s everyday hurdles holding hands. The outcome isn’t always the most graceful and they fall down, but help each other bandage the wounds. They train together everyday as they work building their business, Shadetree Hardwood Floors. “Kortnee has come along way and is now a profitable employee,” smiles Bill as he thinks about the beginning. They cherish the small blessings, like joy, laughter and the blessons (blessings and lessons). One-minute connections, little victories and realizations are building their defense against Satan’s forces that try to tear their marriage apart.

"The Truth": James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”