Confessions of the Second Wife


I realize there a multitude of reasons people get divorced, so I don’t mean for my feelings to be representative of every second wife’s. Nor to nullify the pain and confusion that a divorce entails. It’s just that’s his story, not mine. This is my story.

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while someone or something will reference my husband’s first marriage. I think that somehow, because I chose to enter into a marriage with a person who’s been married before, that maybe I’m supposed to handle flippant comments, remarks, and jokes that refer to me being the second wife with more ease.

But I don’t.

I know it’s a history and memories I’m not privileged to. And I know I chose him, and this–the history, the baggage.

I try to own it, but there’s just that twinge-y feeling that no matter who I am in this relationship, being the second will always be my qualifier.

Before meeting my husband, I had never really thought about whether never having been married before was on my list of “must-haves” for a partner. Even as my friends would comment on how quickly things were moving and whether the ink had even dried on his divorce decree, I remember thinking I could let all my reservations hold me back, or I could just enjoy what was happening with someone I really liked (and very quickly loved). Even though it was fast, it was exciting and fun, and I didn’t want to waste the feeling.

And then everything seemed to move at warp-speed.

I got pregnant.

We got married.

And every doubt I had pushed out of my mind for the short 7 months we had been dating crept in.

I get hung up the most on trying to figure out what marriage is. I know it’s a vow, but to do what? Is it a vow to just never get divorced? The thought that haunts me is that if I choose to honor or believe in the sanctity of marriage- whatever it is, I think it means I have to honor and believe in the sanctity of  theirs. I don’t know how to reconcile the validity of this marriage with the sanctity of the first one.

There’s this part of me that feels like he and I aren’t married at all: that we’re just committed to each other. And we did it- the dress and the music and the toasts. And my family and friends were gracious enough to not treat it like a “second wedding”, because for me, it wasn’t. Pregnant though I was, my closest friends got together the night before and we had a mini party. My co-workers threw me a beautiful wedding shower (and shortly thereafter, a baby shower–Southern hospitality knows no bounds), and we had over 175 people come to our wedding with only 6 weeks notice.

But regardless of the ceremony and the paper and the rings and the house and the kids, there’s this thing. This feeling that the things that make me valuable always seem to feel in the shadow of “the comparison.”

I need to come to peace with being the second wife. I will always be this, and one day my kids will know it, too. They’ll know their dad was married before me, and I don’t know how that will impact what they think of marriage, or me, or their dad. I wonder how I’ll explain it: that every relationship is a risk? That it takes a choice? That if they think they could be happier, it’s okay to leave? How do I teach them to work for a marriage when this is the second one? I don’t know.

So here I am, shadowboxing to defend the realness of our union. What once felt like a whirlwind romance is now a daily grind of routine and dependence. I don’t know what marriage is supposed to feel like, or if it feels any differently for first wives. I think we’re just two people who chose for ourselves, and like it or not, we have to re-choose each other every day or else the whole thing falls apart. I’ve Googled how to be a second wife, trying to find if anyone else feels this way… but I have never come across anything. I’m guessing with time it will get easier.

We’re approaching three years, and the twinges are still there. So hopefully soon.


  1. I get this post. I felt the same way for a long time, actually until we had been married longer than they had, until I realized we were working for our marriage every day and I earned the title “wife” with no qualifiers. You’ll get there. One day, you’ll read a post like this and get half way through it before you realize you’re a second, too. And it feels good!

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