Being Second: Hope Trumps Experience


This post is to all of those who are second.

To clarify, second is not first.

It means someone came before you, but just because you are second, doesn’t mean you are less.

Let me back up and explain myself. I am a second wife. My husband is a second husband.

Each of us is a second; one from death, one from divorce.

Oscar Wilde famously said,

“Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”

I know this was in gest, but I think there sometimes is a shadow over seconds.

Do I feel like less of a wife because there is one who came before me? Absolutely not. Is my marriage not as strong, as special, as important (insert whatever adjective you feel like) as my first? Absolutely not. Maybe we seconds actually work harder because we know what it is like to love and lose.

Maybe we truly are the luckiest spouses on Earth because we have felt the sting of loss and have loved again. But then I have also read that divorce rates are even higher among second marriages. This scares the pants off of me, much to my husband’s delight, but I digress. I know I am not alone, that many people out there are second, and it is a challenging place to be. Feeling guilty for loving and being so happy you might burst. You don’t replace a person.

My second husband did not replace my first. On that same token, praise God, I did not fill the shoes of his first wife. I have my very own special place in his heart that no one else can fill, just as he has his very own special place deep inside my heart. God always has a plan, of course. Instead of crumbling from the pain of loss, He found a way to gently heal that pain and eventually let us love again.


My favorite picture from my second marriage, captured by Nancy Hellsten, at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains.

My first marriage was so good; I naturally wanted to marry again. If anything, a second marriage is a reflection of the love for and loyalty to the first. I will not allow the memory of my first husband to ever be forgotten, and I will not lie to my children when they question our history. They need to know all we have been through, the mistakes we made and learned from, and that we are not perfect, but flawed and only doing our very best to love each other and them the way they deserve. They can learn from our mistakes without having to make them for themselves.

All of you that are seconds like us: I applaud your strength and courage. It is no easy thing to make yourself vulnerable again. It is no easy thing to blend families, love someone else’s children like your own, to co-parent with your spouse and the other parent. Life is hard and messy and lovely and wonderful. I also wish all the seconds hope, joy, true unconditional love, and a marriage that stands the test of time. Sometimes being second is better than being first. I am so blessed to have had not one, but two amazing men love me in my lifetime. How many women get even half that?

Are you a second (or third ++)? How is being second better than being first for you?

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