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Second Wife Syndrome: Comparison is the Killer of Joy

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Have you vacationed there with her? Was that your picnic basket you used as a family? Is that somewhere you had date night with her? I used to think (and ask!) about his ex-wife all the time. I didn’t want to replicate any memories he had with her because then I had the ability to pale in comparison. I didn’t want to feel second best and thus, didn’t want to ever do something for the second time. I suffered from Second Wife Syndrome.

I distinctly remember when I came home one day shortly after we moved in together and found out my then-boyfriend/now-husband had sold another item we had posted in a Facebook garage sale group.

When I asked which item it was, he told me it was the bed he had shared with his ex-wife. I never knew that item was in our garage; he didn’t even ask if I wanted to keep it, just posted it and sold it (I love that man).

In that moment, I felt such relief. It was gone, out of my house.

Moving Past the Crippling Effects of Second Wife Syndrome

When I say that I used to think about his ex-wife all the time, it’s not an exaggeration. I was overcome with insecurities I didn’t know I was capable of. I’d flip through his old photos on Facebook, and I couldn’t even tell you why. I knew it would just hurt. But I did it anyway.

I found this self-sabotaging need to continue comparing and feeling inadequate. (In retrospect, I think I was protecting myself in case he decided he wasn’t over that hurt or he didn’t think I was better by comparison.)

I still remember the exact feeling after one of those comparison episodes. The pit in the stomach, the nausea and uneasiness that settled in.

The Reality of Comparison

Comparison is the killer of joy.

When you allow yourself to continue those comparisons, you’re robbing yourself of the potential to be happy.

You’re not giving yourself an opportunity to be happy with your partner and are instead shutting it down before it’s been given a fighting chance.

YOU are your partner’s choice now. Not the ex. You. Comparing yourself to them will only hurt you. There’s no benefit to the exercise. The only satisfaction you get is by proving that tiny nasty voice in the back of your mind right.


You love your partner, or else you wouldn’t be here reading this article seeking advice on how to move past the crippling fear of comparison, right?

5 Steps to Take to Overcome Second Wife Syndrome

There are real, actionable steps you can take to move away from the comparison mindset and into a healthier second spouse mindset.

1: Social Media Cleanse

Can you delete all social media apps from your phone for 30 days? If your job isn’t specifically tied to it, I highly recommend giving yourself a cleanse. You have to detox the avenue for the unhealthy comparisons.

If you can’t delete the apps, at the very least, stop looking at his old photos or posts and block her social media accounts so you can’t view her profile.

Is that drastic? Probably. Is it necessary? Yup!

Take a step away from the social media that’s allowing you to do those comparisons.

2: Heart to Heart

The reality is that one of two things is occurring here: either your partner is giving you reason to feel insecure or you are creating this mess yourself.

I encourage you to sit down and have a real heart to heart conversation with your partner about the insecurities you’re feeling. Your partner loves you and doesn’t want you to experience this turmoil.

Have them tell you why you’re their first choice. Or show you. You know your primary love language better than I do!


3: Write it Out

Begin journaling. Diary-style journaling can help you work through some of those difficult-to-communicate feelings.

You don’t have to verbalize feelings and insecurities that you’re afraid or ashamed of. It’s just you and your thoughts.

Journaling was the single greatest contributor to my recovery from these disturbing comparison episodes I now recognize as Second Wife Syndrome. I was able to get to the root of my insecurities and truly address them. 

I walked away from my journaling time with renewed confidence and peace.

4: Practice Gratitude

I highly recommend a gratitude journal where each day you can write down 3 specific things you’re grateful for that occurred in the last 24 hours.

This will propel you forward and have you living in a positive now instead of focusing backward on a negative past.

5: Affirm Yourself

You are a rockstar. Do you know that? You have stepped into your partner’s life and cared for them and their child(ren). You. Are. A. Rockstar.

You have come in and made sense of a life you didn’t create.

Look in the mirror and recite affirmations to yourself until you begin to really recognize your own value. There’s nothing second-rate or second-best about you. You are the real deal.

P.S. If you related to this article, I really recommend this one: Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Marriage! Lies Second Wives Tell Themselves

6 thoughts on “Second Wife Syndrome: Comparison is the Killer of Joy”

  1. I will never forget the day my hubby had a memory of something from his first marriage but was positive it was me. I wasn’t sure how to take it at first but decided to take it as a compliment and not make an issue of it. This seems to happen more and more as time goes by. He is positive that all the happy things happened with me. 🙂

  2. This self sabotaging torture is the reason I even stumbled into stepmom communities like this! I had a SPIRAL one night, years into my relationship and went on every persons social media who could have picture of the ex and my SO together. I made myself sick. It was an out of body experience. But since finding different outlets and honestly doing everything you have said here, I’ve never gone back. Not even when I found their wedding picture at the back of an old frame. It gets easier! Just have to put the work in. This post is perfect for anyone struggling now. It’s the exact steps you need to take !

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Dana! It’s encouraging to know other people experience the same feelings and struggles we do and that they can come out on the other side happier and more confident!

  3. I am currently planning my wedding and I feel like I have second wife syndrome with this really badly and I don’t always know how to overcome it. My FH says he doesn’t remember anything about his first wedding but my fear is everyone else who comes will remember things especially if I do something he did at his first wedding. Do you have any advice for this?

    • Hi, Robin! Trust me when I say I had the same fears and NO ONE was thinking about their wedding on our big day! It was all about us, and that other day couldn’t have been further from anyone’s minds (mine included!).

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