As a little girl, I never dreamed of being a wife. It wasn’t that I was against marriage, I just never had those fantasies of white dresses and bridesmaids. It wasn’t something I actively avoided, but not something I was striving for either. If it happened, it happened.
At 40 years old, I got married. My husband and I had dated when I was in my 20’s and he was in his 30’s – 10 years between us. When we met he was a divorced father of two, but it didn’t matter to me because at 25, I just wanted to date and have fun. I wasn’t looking for a husband.
Fast forward 15 years and now I am his wife – his second wife. I never gave it much thought until my friends asked me how it felt being “number 2.” It wasn’t like I was the one who broke up their marriage or was some 21 year old trophy bimbo he married as a result of suffering a mid-life crisis. We were older, there was no baggage and I didn’t feel like I was his second choice. I wasn’t second best. I’m just his second wife.
But that isn’t to say there aren’t some pitfalls to being a second wife. For some women, they DO feel like second fiddle to the first wife – especially if she’s still very much involved in his life. It’s kind of hard to get close to his family if the ex still goes shopping with his mother or shows up at the family reunion. After all, if they share children, she’s still family and she may feel welcome or entitled to still participate in family functions despite the fact that he has a new wife and possibly more children with someone else. If his family still favors the ex over his new wife, then the second wife may feel like even more of an outsider. And if he’s still close to his ex in-laws, then forget it. The second wife will have all of these extra people in her life that she never bargained for and it can be a lonely or isolating feeling.
Then there are the kids. Being a step-parent can be a very difficult job – even more so if the kids don’t like you or resent you for “taking” their father away. Divorce is hard on most children, especially if they’re minors, so they may see you as the reason for their parents’ breakup…even if that isn’t the case. Trying to co-parent stepchildren with your husband AND his ex-wife may be tricky, so you might feel like taking a step back altogether. In doing so, you may feel like they still have a bond that you wish wasn’t there…but one that you’ll just have to deal with.
And lets not forget about the finances. If he’s paying alimony and/or child support to his first wife, that might not leave much for you and your household. His ex may seem like she’s living the life while you two have to scale down your lifestyle while he finances hers. If you are financially independent, this may not concern a second wife. But if you can’t go on fancy vacations or are considering having a child of your own and can’t afford to because of children he already has, you may want to consider if being his second wife is for you. And in many cases, the first wife may be entitled to a portion of his pension, life insurance or other assets, so make sure you and your partner have a serious talk about your financial situation and get your affairs in order before walking down the aisle.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some pros to being the second wife as well. While I can’t speak for every man, my husband said that by the time he made the decision to marry again, it was for the right reasons. He married young the first time and felt he was doing the right thing since his ex was pregnant at the time. Getting married at 50 the second time for him meant having more wisdom and learning from his mistakes. He said he learned what NOT to do from his first marriage. He’s a little more careful, more considerate, he’s mellowed and said he felt more settled. His expectations are more realistic and companionship means something different to him now. And ultimately, he was getting married because he was in love and WANTED to get married instead of feeling like he HAD to get married.
Hopefully he will be my only marriage, and if I’m willing to learn, there are some things he can teach me to help ensure our marriage is a successful one. While not being a first wife may leave a bitter taste in some women’s mouths, love for my husband and I tastes better the second time around.