Being the Second Spouse (Or Boyfriend/Girlfriend)

the second spouse

When I got divorced, I wondered a lot about what it would be like for the guys that I would date.  How would they respond to the fact that I had been married before?  Would they be ok with it?  Would they be uncomfortable or insecure?  Would they be comfortable in my home, the home that I had lived for many years with my former spouse?  Would they want to live here?  Would they want me to sell my silverware, throw out things that I loved, or replace my furniture?

Danny thought the same thing when he realized his marriage was ending.

We both owned condos in Boston and New York.  And 2008/2009 wasn’t exactly a good time to sell. 

Well, I dated several really great guys.  And I think a lot of them were a little uncomfortable with my life here in Brooklyn – since it previously involved another husband.

One guy had suggested that if we got married, he would probably want to sell my place immediately and move to Manhattan – to just have a fresh start somewhere together.  Another guy was really quite uncomfortable even spending time in my apartment or with my Brooklyn friends, as if the ghost of my previous husband was lurking here & there.  ๐Ÿ™‚

Well, I really loved my friends in Brooklyn.  And I really loved my ward (congregation) here in Brooklyn.  And so while I could see that someone might be uncomfortable here, part of me also thought it was silly for someone to have to ease those concerns by walking away from a great neighborhood, selling a home during a down market, selling perfectly good furniture and belongings, only to have to buy it all again.

the second spouse

And then I met Danny.  This guy – oh man – he came to my apartment and just fell in love with the place.  He loved everything here and just felt at home here right away (it also looked very much like his condo in Boston, which was a fun surprise.)  I took him to meet friends and he just fell in love with them – never once held back – but just reached out to them with friendship.  I took him around my neighborhood to all my favorite places.  I took him to church and he just was thrilled to be there, thrilled to meet all these people that I had grown to love so much over the years.  Never once did he think, “Crap.  Her ex-husband used to live here.  I don’t belong here.”

And, it turns out that I felt the same way when visiting Danny in Boston (we traded off weekends while we dated.)  I immediately just had love for all his Boston friends.  They had been so good to him during his time of need and so I just felt so grateful for them.  I loved being in Danny’s home.  It was just a place where he resided and that meant that it was full of the good energy that he exuded.  It didn’t bother me that he once shared that furniture with his wife.  It didn’t bother me that he once sat at the kitchen table and shared a meal with her.  I would have moved to Boston in a heartbeat if that was going to be best for us.  But early on, Danny thought it would be great to move to New York.  One day while at Pier Park, near his home in East Boston, he just said, “You know I’m moving to New York when we get married, right?”  And that was that.  Of course I squealed and jumped and smiled and said, “Really? ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ :).”  I just couldn’t believe that he was always so open and transparent about his intentions for us and his intention to be my husband.  (Yes, I’m getting distracted here as that’s really a part of our ‘Love Story‘.  ๐Ÿ™‚  Do you guys miss it?  I’ll admit, I do.  Haha.  We have more letters coming very soon.  Stay tuned. ๐Ÿ™‚

Alright, here are a few tips I can pass along for anyone who may be the “second spouse” or may be dating someone who has been married before…because while I think it’s very common and normal for people to be uncomfortable with their partner’s former marriages, I think there’s a better way to live.  ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve felt what that empowerment feels like and I can tell you that it’s totally worth shooting for.  It will lead to more peace with yourself and your relationship, more love for your partner’s life, and hopefully it will even save some good looking dishes, a comfy couch, some handy Christmas decorations, a lifetime music collection, good bottles of cologne or perfume, great recipes and meals from past home cooking, and visits to your favorite restaurants and places. 

1.  Try to feel grateful for the past experiences your partner has had.  Hopefully he/she has been able to learn a lot from the experience and has become a better person because of it.  And if you do admire your partner’s qualities (which I hope you do! :), realize that those qualities are usually due to all their combined experiences, good and bad.

2.  Realize that feelings of jealousy, fear, or insecurity only harm your current relationship.  They literally clog the flow of love, openness, goodness and trust between the two of you.  If you recognize some of those insecurities in yourself, it’s totally worth it to address it and figure out why.  (Do you fear your partner compares you to his former spouse?  Do you feel inadequate?  Do you worry that your partner still has romantic feelings for his/her former spouse?  Do you feel insecure about your partner’s feelings towards you?  Do you not trust your partner?)  Use this situation as an opportunity to address any underlying insecurities or fears or to face important conversations with your partner or with a counselor.  I think it’s so important to address this stuff if you want to have a healthy and stable relationship.

3.  It’s totally ok to replace items for your new home together, but…think about why you want to replace the items.  Is it because you have a different aesthetic?  Or is it out of jealousy or insecurity on your part?  It’s kinda crazy how little things like this can pin us in a corner and we can’t deny that something deep down doesn’t feel right.  But – I say be glad for those uncomfortable feelings….as they remind us to dig a little deeper to see if we can resolve things. 

What do you guys think?  Do you have a different perspective on this?  Or do you have any other tips to add for someone in this situation?  

(Photos by Blonde Episodes and Classy in the City.  How cute are those hats?)

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  1. Sharlee@believinginsomething July 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Oh, this is a topic that I love reading other posts on. My husband is the one with the former spouse…I was the one who had never been kissed. Me having never really been in a relationship and my husband having seen both sides of a relationship was very difficult for me. It wasn't at first, honestly. But later on it became harder for me to deal with. I was all of those things you mentioned: jealous and insecure for starters. I spent a lot of time worrying about being compared to someone else by friends, family, and by my husband, though he did nothing to make me feel that way. I did two things. I first prayed to make peace with the situation. I also started focusing on the things that made my marriage unique. I refer to it as "our fingerprint." We are who we are as a couple because of who we are individually and like you said, those experiences MADE my husband the man I fell in love with. I can honestly say I've become completely comfortable with and incredibly happy being the second spouse. It works for me and us perfectly!

    • mara July 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm - Reply

      Sharlee- I loved reading this. Thanks for writing in!

  2. Anonymous July 20, 2012 at 6:16 am - Reply

    My experience has been like Sharlee's. I have now been married 6 years. TIME has been good for me. I struggled with insecurities….and EVERYTHING that was mentioned. Sometimes my only comfort was my knowledge that I was supposed to be married to my husband. I have two beautiful step-daughters and so I get to see their mother regularly. That's been hard, but time, like I said, has helped me get used to things and take out some of the emotion.
    I love reading your blog…I consider it cathartic and inspiring and fun-yet very gospel-oriented.

  3. Love Poems July 20, 2012 at 10:15 am - Reply

    This has always been my fear, having to deal with my boyfriends past. My boyfriend was once married and had two kids and now we have a daughter together and living together. I have not meet the other kids yet and they live in another country. I have this feat of whether they will accept me and my baby as their half sister. I always pray and hope that when time comes that we will meet they will accept us as much as I would gladly accept them as my step daughter. The past can only make us stronger and I believe that things do happen for a reason.

  4. bechtold clan July 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    I have a different thought…having been in a 10 year relationship where we bought our first house together, had a child, dog, etc etc. When we divorced…it was ME that couldnt take all the memories. I left the house and everything in it. Wedding silverware I picked out, cookbooks, all the furniture, because I literally wanted a fresh start and not have my past surround me and my future….;) My 2nd hubby and I took joy in that ritual of starting new(albiet very expensive to buy everything again…) and I did end up taking small peices or sentimental things for my son, but all in all about 90% was new. I moved 20 minutes away because even though I would have loved to stay where I was…there were too many memories everywhere I went…and I really wanted to have new experiences. I can see it from the other side too though…there were friends,places and things that I loved and it was hard to part with them

  5. Anonymous July 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    I'm the one with the past. In my last relationship, I grew up so much and really became my own person. My boyfriend shared much of that growing with me through experiences and hobbies that we did together. Now that I'm with a new partner, I'm still that same person and want to do all those same activities, but I feel some guilt sharing them with my new boyfriend. Those experiences and activities were so integral to my last relationship and are also so much a part of who I am. It's not possible to give them up. I want us to have new experiences (and we do), but I feel like I have lost a little bit of myself or I have a part of myself that I can't share as I would like.

    • mara July 25, 2012 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      Anon – I say to celebrate who you are ! That's so important. I say see how your new boyfriend might feel about you embracing those hobbies/experiences/or activities that helped you become who you are. It could be a healing thing to reintroduce those parts of yourself that you haven't been able to enjoy – and it seems letting go of that guilt will only make your current relationship sweeter.

    • Anonymous gal September 15, 2012 at 4:37 am - Reply

      I know exactly how you feel. I am currently going through a divorce after having my husband in my life for 17 years, married for 6. That's more than half my life! When I first decided we were done I just kept thinking- what about all the fun things we do together, talk about and dream of or talk about doing with our future kids? All that is gone and what if I can never do that again, things I loved.

      I'm scared that I won't be able to do the things I loved out of fear of the memories from the past, and that if I did have future dreams still happen they would just be a constant reminder of the dreams I had with a husband I loved, dreams that were squashed. I too feel like I've lost a chunk of myself and of my life that I will never be able to enjoy again. It's like a death of yourself.

  6. Love Poems July 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    having your second boyfriend/girlfriend is in deed a crucial thing, but put one thing in mind, don't compare your last to your present.

  7. prozrachnzont July 23, 2012 at 9:16 am - Reply

    That's a usual thing, all the people have a few (or many) partners in their lives and that's ok. He or she is not your property.

  8. Lynsie October 2, 2012 at 12:54 am - Reply

    Was just introduced to your blog. You do good things. Keep it up!
    When my ex-husband and I divorced, I'm the one who moved away. My ex and I have overcome the hurt part of the divorce to the point that we remain good friends. So when my now husband and I were passing through where we used to live and my ex invited us to stay with him, my husband said, "I don't mind if you don't. I'm not the one that had the relationship with him so if you're cool, I'm cool." We've stayed the night at his/our old house two times now. Seems odd on the surface, maybe, but if-like you said-there is no jealousy or insecurity, there's no reason for awkwardness.

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  10. Lauren January 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    Thanks for these super positive tips! My fiancรฉ and I are getting married in June and I am kind of the luckiest girl in the world. He was married at 22 and his first wife died three years ago. She was an awesome woman, and they were awesome together. But I am so eternally grateful that I get to spend the rest of my life with him. He has learned from his past experiences, and we are learning to navigate our love story which is a bit different because of his past, but we wouldn't change it for anything. Thank you for writing so transparently, these are practical tips that I will definitely use when I have a tough time! Lauren

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