The First Wife Syndrome

There are so many second wives and bonus moms out there.  You take care of other women’s children for the husband that you married.  The responsibilities of being a second wife are much harder than that of the first wife, because you so much more baggage to deal with than the first wife.

What happens when the first wife is difficult and makes your life a living hell?  How do you handle it?  I recently wrote about the Second Wife Syndrome, and thought it only fair to look at the other side of the coin.  The First Wife Syndrome is similar to the Second Wife Syndrome, but the tables are turned.

The first wife tries to make it virtually impossible for the second wife to have a relationship with the children and also tries to insert herself into her now ex-husbands marriage.  The first wife is outraged that the man she didn’t want or that left her is now happy and married peacefully.  For those of you second wives that have to deal with the First Wife Syndrome, I have a letter that you can use as well.

Dear First Wife,
I realize you are angry and bitter and I am sorry for that, but you let him go/ran him off.  You couldn’t have thought that he was going to alone forever, did you?  He is a great catch and if you had opened your eyes and been a supportive and decent person to him, you might still be married.  I want to thank you for not opening your eyes, because now he is mine.  I also need to thank you, because of the hell you put him through he grew and learned and is a different better person now.
He is loving and kind and we have a wonderful life.  Oh, and your children you share are also wonderful.  We have such a good time together, despite the things you say about me to them.  Yes, they do tell me.  Why wouldn’t they?  We are very close.
You think you can hurt us by demanding more and more child support.  It makes us stronger as a couple, but why don’t you get off your ass and get a job?  After all, my job is helping to support you, isn’t it time for you to put on the big girl panties and support yourself?  I don’t think we should be putting clothes on your back or food in your mouth.
And, talking bad about us to the children.   Well, that is just plain stupid.  Eventually you will run them off, because you have some really smart kids and they will see through your façade of caring and leave you.  Remember, what goes around comes around, and your time is coming near.
No matter how many times you call, text or email you won’t drive a wedge between my husband and me because we are strong.  We love each other.  You should be happy that he is happy.  But, you are too mired in your own bitterness to notice.
I actually don’t hate you, but I feel sorry for you.  I feel sorry that you can’t move on, even though you moved on when you moved out.  I feel sorry for you that you can’t look at how lucky you are to have children that are loved when they are with their father.  I feel sorry for you that you refuse to accept the happiness that you gave to your ex when you gave him up.  I just feel sorry for you.
Do me a favor?  Quit asking the children what we feed them and how often.  I am a mother too and I know how to take care of kids and trust me when I tell you they are treated as well as my own.  Quit making our lives miserable because you can’t stand to see happiness and joy.
Let’s just call it a day and stop pretending.  I tried to get to know you, but you made it impossible and since you have been so nasty, I no longer have that desire anymore.
I hope you find someone who will make you happy, but unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen.
By the way, we are picking up the kids at our usual time.  You don’t have to pack a bag for them, we have everything they need at our house.

The Better Wife

For all Better Wives, feel free to use this letter.

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Lee Brochstein About Lee Brochstein

Lee Brochstein is a certified professional divorce coach, blogger, a well-known author and a nationally known expert from her appearances on television and radio talk shows. She enjoys alliteration, Mad Men, Big Bang, mixed breeds, vanilla lattes, red wine and her kids when they aren’t killing each other. Follow her on twitter and Facebook.

  • Jack Adams

    I think you misspelled the ending there.
    Did you mean
    The Bitter Wife

    It’s all a crap shoot. I too have been divorced twice and the first one is still a royal pain in the you know what. 18 years later even. Rediculous.

    Best of luck

  • he saved the best for last!

    Holy crap it’s like you read my mind and know exactly what is going on in my life. My dh’s ex is all those things!

    • Samantha

      Sounds like your dear husband DID save the best for last! I know mine did. Hang in there.

  • Jen

    I cannot believe you would offer this letter as a way of dealing with conflict! 
    Trained professional, really?????

  • Busaglucks2007

    I know so many women who have to deal with ex-wives with this type of bitterness, jealousy, and anger. It also seems like Jen is one of the bitter ex-wives, since she can’t see the other side of the coin. Sad. Thank you for this letter. It wouldn’t do any good to send something like this, but it feels good to know someone understands the abject jealousy and bitterness some of these women dish out.

    I also know women dealing with jealous second wives, but the second marriage isn’t strong in these cases and the jealousy has roots in many things in addition to the ex wife playing her mind games. 

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  • Whatnextnow

    This is nasty stuff

  • Nicola Jolly72

    Well. I am almost speechless.

    I am a trained professional, a psychologist with a masters. I am an ex-first wife with two children and an amicable relationship with my ex husband. I am remarried to my soul mate and have one step child, and unfortunately a horrible, bitter first ex-wife to contend with. She is everything that I am not, and the antics she has put us through for three years are unbelievable.

    However, I simply cannot believe that you think this type of letter is in any way conducive to helping matters. What on earth type of divorce coach are you when you promote inflammatory communication like this?

    • LeeBlock

      Thank you for your comment. A damn good one actually who can see all sides of the coin. Let’s be real. It’s not all love and light and that letter is what so many want to say but never will
      Be able to. This is a forum to show every side and opinion. I represent the other sides as well. As free will goes, you are entitled to leave your opinion and leave my site to never return. But, thank you for stopping by. It is a shame that before exploring all articles you close your mind off though. Says volumes about you though.

      • Briana Taylor

        Yes, I’ve read more of your “sides.” It sounds like you’re a professional fight-picker, not divorce coach. Ugh.

      • Pam

        I have to tell you that I have been on both sides of the coin, and you most certainly hit the nail on the head with what it’s really like to be the “first” and “second” wife!

    • Duane Gluck

      Thank you so much Lee for the wonderful article! I am divorced but have married again but this time to my best friend and soulmate. Your article has shown me that I am not the only one dealing with a vindictive ex-wife. The letter is amazing and I am so glad there is someone who sticks their guns amidst such blind and negative comments.

    • Briana Taylor

      As a second wife, I agree. This is ridiculous and hardly constructive.

    • Lisa Myers Branham

      I couldn’t agree more Nicola. No matter how we may feel about ex wives, new wives, etc, behavior like this is highly inflammatory, causes more problems for either side and is in my opinion the equivalent of allowing your child to be a bully on the play ground! I am the first ex wife and have tried my best to stay at peace with the new wife and she relentlessly prefers bashing me to, in front of, and on the internet where my children can see. This has done nothing except turn them against HER. No relationship will ever be perfect. We are human and have to do the best that we can. This letter is highly disappointing and reads like we should all be labelled as bad on either side. Each of us is different. Thank you for your response Nicola. Hope everyone has a blessed day.

  • Me

    Although I would never send this as it would only fuel the flame of drama (which seems to burn quite well without any fuel at all), this letter is pretty accurate, except the ex wife would never ask her kids what they ate at our house, because she doesn’t care about their diet. Also, I wouldn’t thank her for putting him through hell, because I knew him in high school, and he was already an awesome person. She simply abused him. Period.
    I honestly would never even get mad at her, except for the fact that she hurts her own children and uses them as pawns.
    I do agree that she will never find someone who can make her happy, because my husband is an angel, and if he couldn’t make her happy, then I don’t know who can. She is just a miserable person.
    I am also a first wife, and my ex husband’s current wife would never write a letter like this to me. She respects my parenting and even asks me advice! She also doesn’t care that I used to be with her husband, and I don’t care that she is now married to him. He wasn’t right for me, but they are right fior each other, and I think that is awesome!

  • Onlywifey

    I posted on this earlier. Not sure why my post never made it….but here goes again….

    My assumption is that this letter is meant to be a sort of cathartic exercise for the wife. From the body of the letter, it is obvious that the biological mother is bitter, vengeful, and actually practising some form of Parental Alienation Syndrome against the father and stepmother. Here are some signs, all of which the biomother in our situation was guilty:
    Giving children choices when they have no choice about visits. Allowing
    the child to decide for themselves to visit when the court order says there is
    no choice sets up the child for conflict. The child will usually blame the
    non-residential parent for not being able to decide to choose whether or not to
    visit. The parent is now victimized regardless of what happens; not being able
    to see his children or if he sees them, the children are angry.
    Telling the child “everything” about the marital relationship or
    reasons for the divorce is alienating. The parent usually argues that they are
    “just wanting to be honest” with their children. This practice is
    destructive and painful for the child. The alienating parent’s motive is for
    the child to think less of the other parent.
    Resisting or refusing to cooperate by not allowing the other parent access to
    school or medical records and schedules of extracurricular activities.
    A parent blaming the other parent for financial problems, breaking up the
    family, changes in lifestyle, or having a girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.
    Refusing to be flexible with the visitation schedule in order to respond to the
    child’s needs. The alienating parent may also schedule the children in so many
    activities that the other parent is never given the time to visit. Of course,
    when the targeted parent protests, they are described as not caring and
    Children will become angry with a parent. This is normal, particularly if the
    parent disciplines or has to say “no”. If for any reason the anger is
    not allowed to heal, you can suspect parental alienation. Trust your own
    experience as a parent. Children will forgive and want to be forgiven if given
    a chance. Be very suspicious when the child calmly says they cannot remember
    any happy times with you or say anything they like about you

    Fanning the flames of a PASing parent will only make it worse and allow the bitter parent to point a finger of blame at the stepmother. The only action one can take, is documentation and legal remedy. Canadian as well as US courts are now more ready to remove custody from an alienating parent, whether it be father or mother.

    I urge women to read up on PAS if they feel it is happening to their husbands and themselves. Ultimately, the children end up the big losers through the bitterness between the adults. So we as women have to put on our big girl panties and take the high road…

  • kristina

    Oh my God! totally read my mind i thought i was the only one who felt this way! Thank you i feel much better!

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    I don’t see the 1st wife syndrome letter OR the 2nd wife syndrome letter as being anything productive. All they are doing is pitting them against each other even more. My ex-husband remarried a very nice person. At first, I wasn’t so sure. We had a bit of a roller coaster period because she immediately assumed she had a say in the upbringing and care of our child. Once she had one of her own, things changed drastically. It didn’t take long after that for us to actually take the time to get to know each other. At first I was treated with stares and glares from her and her family but that all changed too. I never told her what she was in for. I allowed her to figure that out on her own. They are still married after nearly 17 years, and good for them…but no words need to be spoken, I can tell by the way she and her family treat me now…they understand where I was and no longer wished to be. Had we not taken the time to get to know each other rather than send letters back and forth with typical woman -vs- woman snide remarks, I would have never been able to see just how good she is to my son. I count my blessings rather than keep drama going. It could be worse…he could have a nasty, mouthy, and hateful step-mom…but he doesn’t. He has an awesome step-mom. Maybe more people should take a deep breath, bit the bullet, and do what’s right for the CHILD(REN) and not themselves.


    Keep in mind there are always three sides to every 1st wife/2nd wife story. There is the 1st, the 2nd, and his. It’s sad, but many times it is just like watching a woman blame ONLY the “other woman” when a man cheats. He seems to be put on the sidelines to watch the whole shit house go down while the women duke it out. Many times, the women fail to see that the version he has told isn’t always as it was either…then the two women end up fighting. Who wins? Nobody. Who is hurt? The child(ren). We are all adults…we all need to grow up and remember why we are all there to begin with. Maybe I should become a “certified professional divorce coach”. I can guarantee this advice will make everyones lives much more simple than the foolish letters provided.

  • ally

    I Think this letter is just fab, reading it could be me this person seem to have gone through what im going through now, and i think may be buying stamps today

  • Elle Williams

    What a bitchy letter. Great way to relieve stress, but as a two-time step-mom and now ex-wife, my frustration lies not with his wife, who is actually a nice person, but the inconsistent, pathological lying father that cancels visits, breaks promises, reneges on contracts and whines about how broke he is despite six figures and two downward modifications on my part.

    Am I frustrated? When the nurse calls from the pediatrician’s office and tell me the kids are being dropped for non-payment of a co-pay allowed to go for 90 days. Twice. Unemployment and ignoring the necessary modifications in court to avoid ending up in court. Calling and asking for a visitation schedule for 8 weeks and attempting to work out problems over the phone with the “Better Wife” telling him what to say in the background. I get co-parenting, but at the end of the day, these are my kids. Sorry. I get both sides. But something are simply left to parents.

  • jamiecatalanotto

    I think this is an amazing letter. All the things I want to say but don’t dare bc I don’t want my stepdaughter to see me like that. I’m sure you don’t actually mean for anyone to use it. Just to validate our feelings as “the other parent/spouse”. I couldn’t have said it any better and I’m relieved that I’m not the only one having thses feelings. My husbands ex is a narcissistic demon of an ex. To say that I’d like to punch her in the throat is a understatement. But for the greater good I smile & play along with her games. Not to appease her. But to protect my child. One day karma will lay its hand on her & God have mercy on her soul.
    To all of you who got so uptight over this letter, I’d like to apologize. I agree with it. Apparently you’ve never had someone lie cheat and steal against you in a manner to evoke these feelings. They may not be right but their mine. And some one else’s too. You are blessed not to know this type of pain. But gor tgose of us who do, pleade don’t judge.

  • KimMB11

    Love, love, love this. I don’t think it it would even be necessary to send it – most ex’s that behave this way know deep down why they are acting out. Still made me feel a thousand times better to read it because I am going through some very similar things with my husband’s first wife. There is nothing wrong with being upset about about someone’s vindictive behavior – its human nature!

  • CallmeKrazy

    I don’t think the letter is meant to be sent. It is closure for ones self. I am an ex wife, and a second wife and a step mom. Dealing with a very bitter, angry, jealous woman ( my husbands first wife and my step children’s mother). I would never send her any letter. Ever. She hates me so much that if we sent her a Christmas card, it would send her flying off the handle. When I met my husband she was already remarried to the man she was having an affair with (that was over 7 years ago) My husband has 2 amazing children with his ex wife. I have 1 child from my first marriage. Despite the lies the ex has told their children, they actually have become old enough (12 and 15) that they do not believe her. They base their beliefs on what they see, not on what they are told. My husband has never said a bad word about his ex wife in front of the kids, and never will. That’s how it should be. We will never do that. No matter what she says about me, or my 9 year old daughter. We can only provide them a stable supportive loving home when they are with us and do what the best we can.
    It has been VERY hard to deal with my husbands ex wife. And I do think if you don’t have a strong relationship that a vindictive ex wife can really damage what you thought was a “great” marriage. I had to deal with insecurities I didn’t even know I had. But I am stronger, and I have learned.
    Now my ex husband and his new wife ( my daughters step mom) she is like a gift from God! I am thankful for her everyday. After experiencing what my husbands ex has put my husband and I through. I would never put anyone one through that. The only reason I can think why ex wives make life extremely hard for their ex’s is because they either ; 1. They realize they made a mistake if they are the ones who left the marriage. And they want their family back.
    2. Are female sociopaths. Who feel because they share children with a man; the man is forever in debt to them, and have a sense of entitlement to the mans life, and the need to control the man forever. And has no remorse or guilt for the pain she causes anyone. Will use the children as long as she can for financial gain. Will never leave the ex husband alone. Will continue to drain him emotionally, financially, mentally, physically until he has nothing left.
    3. She is just BAT SHIT CRAZY.
    I understand where this subject can be a sensitive one for anyone who is an ex wife or a second wife, or a step mom or a bio mom or a first wife. I am all of those. But I do not have any syndrome. It sucks if you have to deal with someone that makes life so difficult, you can’t enjoy your marriage or children. The way I have found to deal with it, is by accepting it. I can’t control it. I tried. Didn’t work. Can’t control crazy.

    • TK12

      I’m a 2nd wife, and married when my husband’s kids were 6 & 9. My relationship with the kids has always been positive, but not close as I’d like, especially with my step daughter. I believe my step daughter has always kept me a little at arm’s length, out of loyalty to her mother, who clearly hates both my husband, and then me, and has from day 1. I’ve never done anything to her, yet she’s been very aggressive, especially when the kids were young and we were custody sharing. I truly believe she would have hated anyone he married, even though she is the one who had affairs and got caught during their marriage. None of the affairs or later relationships have ever worked out for her, and I suspect she blames my husband for her solo life, I’m really not sure. I think she thought she’d remarry someone ‘better,’ and that didn’t happen, so bitterness grew, I’m not sure. My issue is that it bothers me that my step daughter is close with her mother, and not with me. It hurts me. And it hurts me that her mother doesn’t appreciate all I’ve done for her kids, helped them, cared for them, basically made their lives better. Because my step daughter is now an adult at 23, I’ve been holding out hope that we’ll become closer. I try not to push & just always am positive, complimentary, and thoughtful toward her whenever I can be. I encourage my husband to check in with her regularly, just so she knows he’s thinking of her. I even wish there could be civility between me and her mother, despite the unreasonable, horrible behavior toward me over the past 14 years, but I’m afraid to even try for fear of getting slammed. I hope my step daughter has realized that I’ve always tried so hard. Everyone says I’ve been such a great step mother–always acting as an ally/friend to both kids. The older they/I get, the more it bums me out. The thought of step daughter having a wedding someday freaks me out, because I’m afraid of being left out. Are my feelings normal?