Earlier this year I was at a party with my family, chatting happily with friends and strangers and having a grand old time. Being that I knew very few people, I was completely prepared to answer a variety of questions. Stuff like:
“How long have you and Jed been married?”
“How old are your twins?”
“How are your kids liking preschool?”
“Who are you, again? Are you The Second Wife?”
SCREECH! Shut the front door! Did I just hear what I THOUGHT I heard?
After 12 years of working in a bank branch, I had become accustomed to sitting face-to-face with clients of all types, including the occasional rude, blustery sort. I would pride myself in my ability to offer up a smooth response to virtually any question.
Until this moment.
Being branded The Second Wife often carries with it a certain stereotype. No, my hubs is no J. Howard Marshall and I am certainly no Anna Nicole Smith. He is older, but acceptably so (in my opinion) and my stepson is a respectable 20 years my junior.
May I just say, I love being The Second Wife. Sure, there are a few aspects could be considered unappealing.
- (The obvious) I’m not his first. He fell in love with another woman first. He walked down the aisle with another woman first. He welcomed a new child into the world with another woman first.
- (A huge one) There are often children in the picture, frequently referred to as “baggage.” The baggage may hate your guts and/or actively attempt to sabotage your relationship.
- He endured the common but heartbreaking experience of a failed marriage once before. Could history repeat itself?
- There are other people who can be tied to your husband for life, particularly when children are involved, such as a former wife and former in-laws.
So single gals out there who have fallen hopelessly in love with a divorced guy, may I give you my take on this ever-so-important topic?
Take the previous numbers 1-4 and forget them.
You can rewrite this Same Old Story YOUR way. Here’s how it worked for me:
1. Not the first – So you’re not the first gal to have said “I do” to this guy. So what. Have you ever been in a significant relationship before the one you’re in? If you have, then in a way, he’s not your first either! When you walk down that aisle, he is going to beam at you and you will feel beautiful and loved. And that’s all that matters.
2. The “Baggage” – I detest this dreadful term. A child is never baggage. Sure, a little person could see you as the representation of the finality of his family as he knows it. He may not be able to rationalize beyond that, so mom and dad need to make sure that the kid gets the help he needs.
In my case, my husband and I dated for 8 months before he introduced me to his then-6-year-old boy. I didn’t suddenly begin materializing every time Jed and Matt had plans. We took our time and eased me into the picture very slowly. Never did we want Matt to feel like I was muscling my way in and putting him in the third-wheel position.
3. Another failed marriage. I chose to see the sunny side of this possibility: hubby’s already broken in. He endured the painful end of an era in his world and came out on the other side with a friendship with his son’s mom. Jed also had to balance having a full-time job with halftime single fatherhood, and part-time, unpaid cooking and cleaning jobs.
In summary (and quite selfishly), dude knows how to operate an oven, a vacuum AND a washer. BONUS!
4. The other-people-thing. Tradition would seem to dictate that the Second Wife must feel malice towards the Original Wife and her family. Well, I have a question for you gals:
What has she done to YOU?
I am not such a Pollyanna that I believe that no first wives will try to create problems. ESPECIALLY when it comes to their little cubs. I also won’t pretend to have any experience dealing with an aggressive ex-wife, but I can refer you to this helpful article for some tips:
As for my take, if you are considering starting something up with a single dad or are in the fledgling stage, treat this woman with the respect she deserves. She has the distinction of being the mother to a child she shares with your beau. EXPECT a positive relationship with her and do NOT EVER overstep your emerging role in this child’s life.
I am fortunate to not just tolerate but actually LIKE my stepson’s mom and her family. We have hosted joint parties for my stepson and she, her husband and her parents have an active role in my twins’ lives.
So I challenge you to pooh-pooh the norm and embrace the possibilities! In my world, there are more people to love my children and more people to offer support when things get tough. Life is richer with my “new and improved,” expanded, unorthodox family.
So, Potential Second-Wife-to-Be, take a brave step into this arena. Carry with you no preconceived notions. Be always kind, respectful and above all, right from the beginning, be empathetic of the feelings of ALL people involved. You may be surprised how beautifully you could fit into your new, unorthodox family.
Second Wives out there, tell me what you did to ease into the family? What would you have done differently?