True Life: I’m a Second Wife

A few months ago, I read a blog post on one of our sister sites about marriage to someone who’s been married before. In it, the author lamented her status as a second wife because she worried whether “being the second will always be [my] qualifier.” It struck a chord and broke my heart, in a way, because I remember feeling that way, years ago.

When I first met my husband, he was (unhappily) married to someone else. Within a year, his marriage to his now ex-wife crumbled, and we found ourselves dating not long after. We pledged our vows to each other 18 months later, and we’re still together now, more than 10 years after we said “I do.”

In the beginning, the insecurity of being the “second wife” plagued me. Would his family accept me? Was I as attractive as his ex? Did they, too, laugh until their sides hurt and share their innermost thoughts and feelings like we did (and do)? Did he compare his ex and me when we were intimate? Did he ever just miss her?

Trust issues on my part abounded. Would he bail on me not if but when our marriage faced challenges? I’d never been married before, but I maintained a realistic idea of marriage: I knew that, happy as we were when we committed to each other, we would inevitably face challenges, and that there would probably be times when, as Richard Gere says in Runaway Bride, “one or both of us will want out of this thing.” Would he leave me when times grew tough and real-life problems mounded up? Could I count on him to stay and love me through thick and thin, even though he’d once made that promise to someone else—and broken it?

We all want to think of ourselves as our spouse’s “one and only.” But what if you know going in that you’re not? That he once loved—and pledged his life to—someone else?

The good news is that this isn’t The Joy Luck Club. There is no shame in being someone’s second wife. In fact, after spending 10 years as Wife #2, I’ve come to believe there are actually a few benefits:

1). Your husband knows what he’s getting into before he marries you.

Someone who’s been married before understands the expectations and gravity of marriage. He already knows that there will be ups and downs and hard times to weather, and he’s less likely to have an unrealistic view of how the everyday dynamics will work. He anticipates having to rise to the occasion around in-laws, knows that it’s a good idea to make an effort on your anniversary, and understands that there’s a lot less “you” and “me” in a marriage and a lot more “we.” He’s already been “broken in,” if you will—and requires a lot less training. Honestly, I’m very grateful to my husband’s ex-wife, even though I don’t know her personally, because she did most of the heavy lifting in training my husband to be a good spouse. She had to put up with his transition from singlehood to married life and endure a much rowdier, selfish version of him than I’ve ever known. She paved the way for me, and as a result, I ended up with a much tamer, calmer, mature version of the same man.

2). He knows exactly what he wants—and that’s you.

By the time my husband and I started dating, we’d been friends for long enough that courtship seemed rather pointless. We’d already talked about our respective futures, our independent goals, our religious beliefs, whether we wanted children, etc.—almost as though we were unknowingly checking off items on a compatibility checklist.

When your spouse has picked the wrong person, he has a much better idea of what he wants—and doesn’t want—in a future partner. It’s a careful, calculated selection on his part, and he won’t be willing to simply settle. He picked you because you are what he wants, even if he had to go through another marriage to realize it.

3). He knows what it’s like to go through a divorce—and he’s willing to bet that he won’t have to go through it with you.

Divorces are messy, complicated, and painful, even if both parties want out of the marriage. It’s not easy to split up belongings, bid farewell to family members with whom you’ve spent holidays and time, deal with the division of mutual friends, and say goodbye to someone whom you once considered to be your “better half.” Add kids into the mix, and it becomes even more complicated.

Most people who have been divorced will tell you that they have zero desire to go through another one. A wise woman once told me: “You have no idea what it takes to undo a marriage until you’ve undone it…and then you’ll never want to undo it again.” When you’re married to someone who’s been married before, you can bank on the fact that your spouse knows exactly what it’s like to go through a divorce—and he’s gambling that he won’t ever have to go through it with you.[hr]

To all the couples who were lucky enough to find love on the first try, I wish you nothing but the best. But to you, dear author in Indianapolis, as well as the countless others who are married to someone who didn’t find true love until his/her second marriage, don’t lament your status as second wife. Second does NOT mean second best.

Alamo City Moms
Alamo City Moms is written by a collaborative and diverse group of mothers. We strive to provide moms with relevant, timely and fun information about all things mom here in the greater San Antonio area.