real life

The 'Second Wives' club has some very unhappy members.

After 18 years together and 13 years of marriage I still feel like a ‘second wife’, an interloper, someone who is of less value due to the fact my husband has been married before. It was worse when we first moved in together and looking back I’m not sure how I managed to endure it.

Probably because we were so in love. We still are. Love, unfortunately, doesn’t make it any easier.

While I expected to be treated with suspicion during those first few years, particularly by my husband’s family members and friends he shared with his first wife, I thought it would get easier. It did, particularly once we were married with children of our own. I finally felt like I belong, like a legitimate part of the family.

Still, the discomfort remained. Every time someone openly compared me to my husband’s first wife or mentioned her, I wondered if it would have been easier if I’d just waited for someone who didn’t have the baggage of a previous marriage.

The Binge: Why you should watch Finding Prince Charming.

For the record, my stepsons never felt like baggage. In fact they are a large part of the reason why I was able to cope. Spending time with them made it all worth it. Looking at my relationship with my husband and my stepsons today makes it all worth it.

I’m just wondering when this feeling of being a second wife will end? At first I thought it would end once we moved in together. It didn’t. Then I thought maybe once we got married. Nope. Surely after we have a baby it will be better and it was, a little, but not really.

Then I thought time would do the trick. After a decade or so it would feel like our relationship was front and centre and meant to be. It still doesn’t. Recent happenings in the family have brought back all of those old feelings and I’m not sure how to stifle them.

It also doesn’t help when someone close to me announces they are getting divorced. I can’t help but feel sad at what they’ll have to go through with their ex, their children and any new partners that come along. It’s not fair but it’s particularly hard for new women on the scene, that old female rivalry.

Regardless of how and when they met, that second wife is going to feel less than. It’s jut the way it is. Hopefully the love you have is strong enough to survive it. Mine has been. I’m just sad that after all these years I’m still being reminded, with hostility, that someone else was there first.

It doesn't help that second wives in film and TV are continually portrayed as evil, mean or too young. Image: Cinderella, Walt Disney Motion Pictures

Recent family events, the couples I know getting divorced and now questions from my children keep stirring up those old feelings. We attended my stepson's wedding recently and while driving home my children started asking me questions about their dad's first wife and first marriage. They talked about how they hate it when people refer to my stepsons as their "half-brothers". Why the half? Why can't they just say they are brothers? That's how my children think of them.

This week while sharing a story with a friend about the wedding and how it had been much better than I had anticipated thanks to lovely family members, but still slightly uncomfortable, someone I know who is in the process of getting divorce seemed to listen carefully.

Since then, they've been keeping their distance from me and are noticeably less friendly. They've gone from kissing me on the cheek in greeting to barely making eye contact with me.

Could it be that I'm being paranoid? I don't think so. I've learned to trust my instincts and my instincts are saying that their new situation is painful and my tales of woe - 18 years into the journey they have just begun - makes them upset or uncomfortable.

My worst nightmare is that they will think less of me, even without meaning to.

Mamamia Out Loud on wedding regrets. 

All I did was fall in love and start a family. We didn't have an affair. We met at work and started dating, four years after his marriage broke down and, in fact, he'd just ended a relationship with someone else when I met him. But for me it's like those years didn't exist and that time didn't pass.

Sometimes I'm treated like I stumbed upon a happy and intact family and used my wiles and evil ways to break them up. I'm treated like the 'other woman', when all I am is a wife and mother and person, of equal value to everyone else in this situation.

Almost two decades have passed and I feel sad that I'll always feel like a second wife, even if that feeling is coming from me and from paranoia, instead of from the treatment I think I am receiving. I can't help but wonder when I'll start feeling like a wife, instead of a second wife.

I love my husband and my family. I regret nothing. If I had to do it all over again, I would, just to have the exact family I have now.

I just wish I didn't feel like the runner up.