For second wives, the honeymoon can be over quickly. New wives of divorced or widowed men face a unique set of problems as they compete with the memory of wife number one, inherit the burdens of stepchildren or share the financial frustrations of supporting two households. While the number of second (and third) wives is at an all time high, many of these women feel isolated in their situations and don’t know where to turn for advice and support.
In Second Wives: The Pitfalls and Rewards of Marrying Widowers and Divorced Men, Susan Shapiro Barash has written an invaluable book that guides women through the often treacherous minefield of a second marriage. A second wife herself, Barash share her own experiences, those of over a hundred other second wives, and the expertise of psychologists and counselors, to explore the emotional and practical problems that second marriages can face.
Like first wives, second wives bring high expectations to their marriages, but soon encounter their own relationship problems, financial realities and child-rearing frustrations. Unlike first wives, second wives inherit the baggage of the earlier marriage and often must compete with the demands of wife number one. Money can become a major bargaining chip, as the husband juggles the responsibilities of the first and second homes, Angry stepchildren or opinionated in-laws – ex and current – can stir things up even more. If the second marriage produces children, a new set of variables is introduced, adding further complications to the marriage.
Second Wives tackles many of the fears of women in second marriages. For example, second wives must recognize the possibility that their husband’s pattern of behavior may prove to be repetitive, especially If their relationship began as an extramarital affair. By understanding the husband’s relationship with the first wife, the second wife can avert the negative and make her marriage stronger. If the first wife is still in the picture, and especially if there are children from the earlier marriage, the second wife must learn to deal with the inevitable feeling of competition.
If it is a woman’s first marriage, she must learn to accept he husband’s past, but she must also set boundaries. Her husband must learn to place her needs above those of his first wife. Barash pay special attention to the “Rebecca Syndrome”, a situation in which women married to widowers feel haunted by the memory of the first wife. If can be a difficult balancing act to respect her husband’s memories and help him deal wit his grief while building a new relationship for the future, but this is a necessary step for a successful marriage. Other issues, such as intrusive in-laws and juggling two careers, can also have great impact on second marriages and Barash gives sound advice for handling them.