Being My Husband's Second Wife
When I first wrote this article, I felt somewhat alone. The request asked that someone write an article about the ups and downs of remarriage, and I decided to share my personal experiences with being my husband's second wife.
It's an isolated feeling, and for a long time I have thought that I was alone in my feelings of discouragement and resentment. But the article got page views and I noticed that it was showing up in Google searches. The truth is that I felt encouraged.
What follows is my personal experience and how I feel about being the second wife (or in my case, the third). I know now that I am not alone in the way that I feel, and remarried men might want to consider my words in dealing with the ups and downs they face with their second wife.
Leaving the Past in the Past
Often, however much effort we might make towards the goal of leaving our past in our past, we are haunted by it. We are troubled by an affair our ex had with her boss, or we are fearful of the raised voice that accompanied a meltdown.
Or worse, we remember with a mixture of disgust and fondness particularly enjoyable sexual encounters with the ex. Maybe it is the honeymoon that is recalled so fondly, or perhaps we still have a close relationship with our former in-laws.
What if your husband is still friends with his first wife? What then?
There are many emotions that are significant to married life. Men, in particular, associate sex with affection and receive an incredible emotional satisfaction from the sexual pleasure their women receive during their intimate times. Also recalled may be the anger from a particular fight, or the betrayal when she announced that she wanted a divorce. In many cases, every stab to his heart that he experienced during his marriage is buried deeply and has yet to be dealt with in an effective and appropriate manner.
These bits and pieces come to the surface every now and again in many second marriages. Some past issues need to be dealt with gently and firmly, while others need to be handled by a trained counselor. Your husband's relationship with his first wife can affect his relationship with you in a very profound way.
One of the things that has been hardest for me as a second wife is the fact that my husband had children before he met me. There are three children from his first marriage. He had been through the pregnancy and birth process three times before he met me. And when I became pregnant, I was met with a nod and a shrug. My pregnancy wasn't special: he had seen it all before. In fact, when he introduced me to friends of his, he would talk excitedly about his oldest two children (of whom he had physical custody for six years) without introducing me or announcing my pregnancy. I felt like a fifth wheel, with his oldest children taking priority in his life. I took a back burner. My children took a back burner.
Many second wives feel this way. We are hurt when our husbands seem to take less interest in our pregnancies (they've seen it before and are pretty sure that we aren't as fragile as we would like them to believe). We miss the tears in their eyes when our first child is born. We miss the expected excitement. We are sometimes angered when our mothers in law don't come by in the hospital to see the new baby. They've seen it before. Sometimes they even think he shouldn't have had more children.
A second wife often has to play second-fiddle to the children from the first marriage. She can be hurt and alone and confused by why this is happening. Bitterness can build in her if she is neglected, or if she is given too much of a role in caring for her step-children. She might become angry if her parenting skills are compared to those of his first wife, and she often feels as though she was his second pick.
A second wife can become incredibly resentful of her step-children, and it is taboo for her to discuss this topic, with her husband, or with her friends. Many women feel so guilty about the subject that they only allow it to eat at them rather than properly addressing the issue through counseling and proper communication with their husbands. And often, men don't understand what is eating at their wives.
Second Doesn't Mean Second Best
A second wife might ask of herself (and her husband!) what it was about the first that he loved. She might even feel as though he has been unfaithful to her, in spite of the fact that the "other woman" was his wife! Even if he doesn't, she might compare herself to his ex. She might even worry that if he lost interest in his first wife that he will also lose interest in her.
This is especially complicated if there is a support order. If her husband is unable to support her and her children, the second wife may become very resentful of the first wife, her husband, and the children they have together. She will sometimes doubt herself, and she may find that she regrets having become involved with her husband in the first place.
It's My Story
I don't like being a "second" and am, in fact, a "third." My husband is my second, and I know that we both live with the regrets of the past. Some of those regrets have been caused by one another, other regrets are caused by legislation that has not been well thought-through. We both hurt greatly from time to time and each of us questions ourselves.
Being a "second" is part of the reason that I have considered very deeply the implications of pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Two souls came together before, and when the divorces occurred, what remained was no longer complete. I got what was left over when his first two wives were done with him. I experience sadness and sometimes even shame. Some days I fear that I am becoming the "bitter woman" that I dreamed I would never be.
I am a "second" and it isn't easy. For those of you who are remarried, male or female, give your spouse everything that you have, and strive to never, ever make them feel like a "second."