What's it like being number 2?
No one asks that question. I guess it's taboo to make someone aware that they aren't top pick. I guess it isn't kind to point to someone that they just didn't make the cut. Or were too late. Or were just not reason enough to wait. No one asks that question, and therefore no one ever gets to answer it.
Well, here it is.
Being number 2 is not so much as being the 2nd winner, as it is being the 1st loser. Being number 2 is a series of heartbreaks. Take it from me.
Loving someone who has already loved - really loved - someone before you feels like being the second wife. It's a lot like being in a relationship with someone just recently divorced. You get a version of the great person they are, deep down in their bones, only you get it second-hand. You get it with the minor scratches that no one really notices until inspected up close. You get it with the bumps and cracks that were painstakingly covered with smiles and laughter. You get it with the lingering feeling of not really owning it, not possessing it. You get it with the knowledge that this wasn't - isn't - really yours. Not really. This was not made for you, it is not a perfect fit. And slowly, the realization that you will never ever be their first choice, that some time in the past they have decided to forfeit even the possibility of meeting someone like you, and they made it willingly and, deep breath here, happily dawns on you. You were not worth the wait. You weren't their first choice, even if they hadn't even known about you then. The person you were dreaming of... well, that person didn't dream about you back. And that's your first heartbreak.
Nothing hurts like the first heartbreak.
Slowly, you learn to accept that. Slowly, you learn to come to terms with the fact that you just weren't at the right place at the right time. Or you think you have. Or you fool your partner into thinking you have while it festers inside you like cancer. And making your partner feel secure is really the best choice you have right now. It's the only choice you have. So you pick yourself up from the heartbreak and you dust your weary heart off. Until, one day, you are confronted with more than just the little theoretical knowledge that you are second best. You begin to find old pieces of dear number 1 in your life, your house, your partner. You begin to notice that your greatest humiliation -- that you aren't first choice -- isn't just being witnessed by you. It's being witnessed by your partner too. He knows. And you thought that of the little pride you had left, it would at least end in only YOU knowing you're a phony. But you couldn't have even that.
I guess it's unfair to demand to be someone's first real love. Feelings are feelings and forcing them out of the way never ends well, take it from the books. I've just always felt like it was a sort of unspoken agreement between all feeling beings of the world that love -- that tiny tiny thing that keeps us from literally just losing it (whatever it is) -- is a sacred act given only once. You can love someone, sure. We all have pasts, right? But isn't it sort of a rule that after having your heart trampled on, you write that entire relationship off as "I thought it was love, but it wasn't. It was just something like it."? If not, then it really should be. In my past, I thought I had been in love, but after each broken heart, I realized that love is not painful. NOT EVER. And so I don't consider myself as having ever been in love. And meeting someone, being committed to someone, who so adamantly and wholly admits to loving someone - someone who is most definitely and decidedly NOT you - is like taking a bullet. Again and again and again.
And after all of that, you begin to doubt yourself. You stop seeing yourself in that light that can come from being the only true person to know all of your feelings and goodness.
Being someone's second love is a very tough act. I will always applaud people who can get into relationships with divorcees, because take it from me, being number 2 is a mind-numbingly painful thing to be.