Second Wife, Second Best?

April 7, 2009

second-wife-second-best1For those of us remarried, this is a fair question.  Especially if we were not the one that wanted the divorce that got us here.

My wife and I had to come to grips with this reality.  I got walked-out-on in my first marriage.  I had a tough time accepting and letting go especially since new hurts and injustices continued to arise that would take me back emotionally to the initial pain. 

I was hurt and bewildered for years.  How could I in this state express honestly to a new woman in my life that she was “The One”?  That she was now the love of my life?  Great questions eh?  They had to be asked and they had to be answered in order for me to truly move on and form a new, loving, happy, and intimate relationship.

A few keys for me were:

1. Acceptance:  I had to learn this word on a dimension that I never knew existed.  I had to identify where I was living in self-pity and accept that unfair and bad things happen to people all the time and have throughout history.  And that fairness and justice may never arrive in this circumstance.  Yet acceptance at a deep level could allow me to move on in spite of these inequities.

My new wife also needed to learn acceptance that I had been devastated on many dimensions in my divorce and that the healing process would take time.  My imperfections in dealing with things would show up from time to time and as long as I was not wallowing in them, she accepted that there was some residual injuries that only time could deal with.

2. Owning our stuff:  Even thought I got left for another man, I had a big part in why the marriage got to this point.  I had to be rigorously honest about what I had to deal with and change so I didn’t bring these things to the next relationship.  I had to be careful to not let my ex’s hurtful behaviour overshadow the reality of my shortcomings.  In this way, I could bring a better “me” to the new relationship and thereby make it a totally new thing so there was no basis to compare this relationship to the last…. and thereby move away from the “Second wife, second best” dynamic.

My new wife had to own her stuff too.  She had to be real about what ended her first marriage in the same way I did.  She also had to be real about how she felt about the hangover of my ex.  She had to deal with any insecurities about this fact and be sure of who she was to me.  She had to be equally convinced within herself that she was not second best.

3. Get Help:  Come on… there is no longer any excuse to not have help in a marriage relationship in North America.  Counselors, books, Internet, church, support groups, marriage mentors…. how many of these existed 20+ years ago?  We got both Drs. Phil and Laura and others on TV/Radio.  If they are not your flavour, you can find some other resource that is.  It is there and much of it is free.  We just have to show up with willingness and an open mind.

The result is that I am nuts about my new wife.  It has been a few years since we first met and were married after nearly 3 years of dating.  My affection grows for her by the week.  We are working better and better as a couple and blended family.  But none of this…. and I have to state plainly NONE OF THIS happens by accident or just sitting around doing the same dumb crap we did yesterday.  Or thinking the same self-pitying, self-limiting ways we did before.  It takes effort and commitment to do what we have not done before.  We have troubles but we work on them in ways neither of us did in our first marriages.

Today is a brand new day to think differently, to live differently.  And if we continue in this long enough, we become a brand new person.  So for me, life moves in only one direction…. forward.  With my new wife who is the best for me.






  1. Hi,

    This is really interesting Chaz – my partner is previously married, and it something that I’ve had to come to terms with – his ‘hangover’ of his ex. Who hasn’t made our lives easy.

    Thanks for sharing this


  2. Ps – love the new look site 🙂

  3. Thanks Lores. Good to hear from you.

  4. When I saw the title to this post, all I could say was, “Wow!”. Not only do I see the difficulties couples on their second marraige face, I am reminded of the fact that I made my wife –my first and only wife– feel like “second best” because of my aldultery. Think about it, I’ve taken a set of difficulties that’s generally reserved for couples on their secand marriage and inflicted those difficulties on my own marriage. Now, through all the resources you’ve mentioned, I have to find a way to convince my wife that SHE isn’t second best. So far, it hasn’t been easy.

  5. Chaz,

    This was a great post! I love the new look too! Accepting our circumstances and our pasts really does pave the way for a brighter, more selfless future and opens up our current relationships to more real, caring and honest love. We can give of ourselves more and we realize through that process that we are able to bounce back and heal at times when we think we are the only ones in the world experiencing these types of challenges. It really is liberating!

    I appreciate reading your words. They are inspiring to me and I take them to heart for my own marriage.


  6. Yo TV… at the very least, we know there are resources available to do SOMETHING. And that people do indeed make it through betrayal and many, many other monumental challenges in a relationship… and go on to be happy and trusting.

    No, it is not easy. And I do not believe that one person can do it on their own.

    I had asked my wife, when she wanted to give up, if she would agree to hand the keys of our relationship to a capable third party such as a counselor or someone to see if we can’t turn every stone. Many have turned things around by such an endeavor. She refused. There was nothing further I could do so she just left.

    This sucked, but it happened.

    If both are determined to make it work and work through their stuff… I do not see that the marriage would not stand a chance. If one remains stuck whether it be genuine pain, self-pity, or a combination of the two (usually the case), then that is as far as they will go.

    Good on you for continuing to take responsiblity for your end of things. You cannot lose by doing this. You are a better man for it.



  7. Hey Diane… thanks for the reply.

    I guess I kinda reached the point where residual feelings about my ex and the divorce have sufficiently closed out that I feel the momentum of my new marriage starting to build. It is such a great feeling.

    Me having come to grips with the fact that my wife is NOT second best is a key ingredient. As is her believing this too.

    She is FIRST because today is a new day and frankly, I believe I am a new me. So she couldn’t possibly be second best. The past only serves as a training ground to make us who we are today. Unless we choose to wallow or do not know how to get out from under.

    I am simply glad that this point arrived for my wife and I and that “those feelings” are growing naturally and authentically.

    It took getting past the stuff of the past. But get past, we do. We just have to give it the right time and effort.

    Glad this was helpful to you.



  8. You made some really interesting points. I always think of it as being somewhat awkward to be remarried when there are kids involved because wouldn’t the “second wife” always feel like she is being compared to the first one?

  9. Mark Houston…. there is indeed the risk of new wives feeling compared. It is only natural. Likewise for men in second marriages. This is exactly why the issue needs to be addressed for so many of us.

    I am just happy to say it can be. One of the best things ever to happen was for my new wife to meet with ex-wife re: kid issues… my new wife was able to see first-hand how difficult ex is to deal with.

    Ciao. Chaz

  10. I guess there is a reason why “acceptance” is the last stage; it really is the hardest. Like you said, it’s hard to accept that unfair things happen to good people, but it does happen all the time — and occasionally, really good things happen to jerks. My UU minister used to say, “It is what it is.” There is no good or bad, there is only our interpretation of the event.

  11. Band…

    I could not really grasp acceptance until I believed on a fairly deep level that bad things can indeed happen to good people and we are often powerless to do anything about it. And also as you say, good things happen to jerks too…. and we are similarly powerless to change these things. It really tood a change in thinking and believing.

    My thoughts follow different patterns today than they did when I was stuck in remorse, resentment, and self-pity in years gone by. It took a real re-training of thinking.

    Truly letting go of any expectation of justice and especially letting go of self-pity in these circumstances to me was really the key to be able to truly live acceptance and the inward peace that goes along with it.

    I feel it is ok to feel momentary pain or sadness when we see good people suffer, but replay it for any length of time such that we re-feel it and re-resent it will keep us stuck and nudge out acceptance.

    Acceptance leaves the past in the past. And allows us to move forward without being handcuffed to the past. I know about this first hand. I was handcuffed to the pain of betrayal. I resented for so long, even when I sobered up. Even after I had met my new wife.

    But the process of learning a functioning level of acceptance is so freeing. It has freed me to love her wholly. I am no longer divided between her and the past.

    We will never forget, but we can detatch. I feel I am largely there. This makes me a new me. And free to make my wife first in my life.

    Coming out of the divided days is like a long walk through a scorching desert and into a beautiful oasis. It is amazing. It is such a gift of God. I feel it is what recovery is meant to be.



  12. I loved this post. I found it via a tag search for blended family and the title caught my eye. Thanks!

  13. Thanks Shannon!

    These are some hard-won enlightenments.

    But let me tell you, their arrival is as refreshing as a cool drink of spring water on a hot day.

    I post to help solidify my thoughts and experiences in my own mind. That way, the journey to seek and learn is worth all the more.



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