First Wife, Second Wife, And A Garden
I’m writing this just as I came in from the vegetable garden I planted a few weeks ago. I’m super excited to see some cute little baby plants that are starting to sprout.
I also love that anytime I get in the garden, it’s like the garden acts as this really amazing metaphor for life. You know me, I’m the metaphor queen. And as I’m out there admiring the cute little pea shoots that are popping up, and gushing over the sweet little potato leaves that have emerged from the soil, I started thinking about this house that we live in, not to sound ungrateful because I certainly am but, I don’t love this house… never have.
Long story short, I only live here as the result of some of the circumstances surrounding Seamus’ (my husband’s) first separation. That part isn’t my story to tell, but I will tell you that from my perspective as a second wife, and in my point of view, never in a million years would I have bought this house if I got a say in where we lived.
But. Again, I am super grateful for the roof over my head. And there are some really magnificent and wonderful characteristics about this place. One of them being the garden in the back yard. So as I’m out there admiring my sweet little veggie babies and plucking weeds out, I got to thinking — why did the people who owned this house before my husband, pick it? It’s got a weird layout, a bunch of wasted space, weird ass design. Like. Zero percent my taste.
Of all the houses there are on the market every day, what were the selling points for them? Because they chose this house.
And then I started thinking, huh, this is sort of like how I think some of us stepmoms feel about our spouse’s ex partners.
Of all the fish in the sea, of all the people on the market, why partner up with that one?
Arguably, some of our partner’s exes probably feel the same way about us. I think it’s just human nature to want to compare. To discern, what were the selling features? Every one of our spouse’s stories are different and every one of them had different reasons for being with their kids’ other parent, and that’s not right or wrong or good or bad, but, our spouses did choose their kids’ other parent at one point.
And again, I’m not here to make that wrong. This isn’t an ex-bashing platform. You already know that’s not my jam. But I do know a lot of stepmoms, and maybe even you are included in this, who spend a lot of time comparing themselves to their spouse’s ex.
What Did My Spouse SEE In Them?!
It’s only natural to wonder what your partner saw in their ex-lover. And with the way we are socially conditioned to believe about partnerships, it’s pretty common to feel super protective of your romantic relationship, and it’s pretty common to feel a little bit worried about whether or not they still have feelings for each other. It’s pretty common with the way we’ve been conditioned to believe relationships are supposed to be that some of us would aspire to be better than, or superior to, our spouse’s ex. I think the underlying driver here is that, there’s a part of us that believes that if we are better than or different than our spouse’s ex, that will create some sort of security for us.
Well, I don’t know about you, but any time I spend any length of energy going down the comparison rabbit hole, I have literally never once come out of a Facebook stalking sesh saying, WOW, I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER ABOUT MY RELATIONSHIP NOW!
I have literally never once in my life come out of a vent sesh with my bestie about how much better I am than my husband’s ex, actually feeling any better.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about today, during this series where we take a look at common stepmom beliefs that might be preventing you from living your happily blended life.
And this belief, brought to you by my vegetable garden is this really painful, awful mistake that a lot of really unhappy stepmoms are making over and over…
A Stepmom’s Painful Mistake
One of the biggest most painful mistakes that unhappy stepmoms are making, is trying to prove that they are different than, or better than, their spouse’s ex partner. And if this is hitting a nerve for you, (big breath), I understand. But please hear me out.
And also know, like, I get this on a soul level, by the way. I can’t tell you how many times I acted in certain ways in order to prove to my husband that I was different than, better than, in a totally different league than, his ex partner. I lived in this hell on earth where my decision-making compass was almost entirely calibrated based on my interpretations of how my husband’s ex would act.
I’d dig for information about her, poke around, just dying for my husband to spew venom about how much he hated her, but he literally never would. He’s never said a bad word about her which now I respect but at the time made me absolutely fucking livid. Like what do you mean you don’t want to sit around and talk shit about her?
But ok, riddle me this:
If my goal was to create a secure relationship with my husband, where I felt like I was one of the most important people in his life, how in the name of everything holy was I supposed to make that happen if I was dumping all my insecurities about his past relationship on him?
And if this resonates with you, if you are a second wife who is trapped in this web of comparison between yourself and your partner’s ex, with the intention of creating a safer more stable relationship with your spouse based on the things you’ve heard about them from other people, then you’ve got another thing coming my friend…
Because, here’s the truth.
Trying to create safety and security and intimacy in your relationship as a second wife, by judging and comparing yourself to your partner’s ex, is like trying to get to the moon in a sailboat. It ain’t gonna bloody happen.
Find me ONE stepmom who enjoys an atmosphere of trust and intimacy with her partner who says her secret to a thriving relationship is to keep a close eye on her spouse’s ex.
To let her partner’s ex decide how she should show up in her day-to-day-life.
“Oh hey Sally you and Alex are such an amazing couple what’s your secret?” And Sally says, “Oh well that’s easy! I Facebook stalk Alex’s ex and also make sure to pry Alex to spill the tea and also make sure to get a dirt session in with my in-laws so that I have ample information to be better than the ex was.”
Good Intentions, Painful Outcome
The cold hard truth is that, for every action and reaction you take that is specifically intended to make yourself look like a better person than your spouse’s ex, because of something you have judged them for being wrong about, you are actually eroding the intimacy you have with your spouse in the long-run.
Because you aren’t being authentic to yourself or your spouse.
If I found out that the only reason Seamus did certain things for me or our relationship was because he was trying to one-up an ex of mine, I wouldn’t be flattered. I’d feel tricked and betrayed. If the only way he could figure out how to show me love was by picking apart and judging the actions of one of my past lovers, it wouldn’t be cute.
Now if you’re thinking to yourself, yeah but Brittany, isn’t that a really loving partner move to make? To understand how my spouse was hurt in the past and make sure I don’t do the same things? And to that I’d say, it could be. It could be a really loving way to act, but it could just as easily be a betrayal of yourself.
For example, if your spouse’s ex slept with your spouse’s best friend, and your spouse carried that hurt within themselves, and subsequently you were held to this expectation that you would never make friends with your spouse’s friends — is that love? Or is that control?
Is that love, or is that bending yourself into a version of yourself that makes your spouse comfortable?
Is that love, or is that you taking responsibility for your spouse’s pain and actually getting in the way of their healing?
I don’t have the answers. I just have the questions.
I just know that sometimes we have a really skewed idea of what we need to do in order to be loved and lovable. And maybe some of that might show up in the way stepmoms compare themselves to the ex in order to be better or different.
Navigating & Understanding Jealousy
Jealousy is a natural human emotion. Humans are blessed with the feeling of jealousy for good reason. It might feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. And the solution to jealousy isn’t to try and bamboozle the people around you into loving an inauthentic or exaggerated version of you.
The solution to jealousy isn’t to try and avoid it, or avoid any situations it might present itself. Any time you have an uncomfortable emotion come up for you, you’re being fed information by your very very smart body that has evolved over millions of years with a guidance system that is so advanced, it’s far beyond any of our comprehension.
I understand that probably most if not all stepmoms have grappled with the question: If my spouse has already been there done that with someone else, does that make our milestones together less special?
I understand that probably most if not all women who have settled into the second wife role have felt a similar way as I felt down in the garden: contemplating what was so special about this house. Why it was chosen? Why would anyone in their right mind pick this house?
And now I leave you with a reflection and a choice to make —
The Choice Is Yours
Do you want to build the trust and safety and security into your relationship based on judgments, insecurities, fear, and comparison — putting yourself at risk of creating a relationship that is so out of alignment with who you really are that the exact thing you were trying to avoid in the first place ends up happening — or do you want to build the trust and safety and security into your relationship because you and your partner have learned how to communicate vulnerably and to hold space for each other’s fears? So that you don’t feel it necessary to look to your partner’s last relationship for reassurance that your current relationship is a good one?
Nothing in this life that is meant for you will pass you by. Period. No amount of tea, no amount of shade, no amount of Facebook stalking, no amount of scrutinizing another person’s moves, will change that.
It is not your responsibility to interpret the mistakes and missteps that your partner’s ex made in their relationship. Always remember that your spouse holds 50% of the responsibility for their relationship not working out. And no matter what you believe you’ll find in your quest to learn everything about your spouse’s ex, I can promise you that there is not one second wife out there who has strengthened her relationship with judgment or comparison.
If you want to know how to be the best second wife to your spouse that you possibly can, then ask your PARTNER. The relationship you have is between you and your spouse. We all bring forward lessons, growth, pain, trauma, and a restored hope for something different for our new relationships. But that can certainly be achieved through communication, coaching or therapy, empathy, validation, and understanding.
No Facebook stalking required.