Second Wife, Second Best?: Managing Your Marriage as a Second Wife
Marshall Fine was Assistant Professor of Family Studies, University of Guelph, Ontario.
This book is an attempt by Mrs. Glynnis Walker to highlight the particular issues that might be faced by second wives in North American society. Aided by the 200 responses to her questionnaire, Mrs. Walker explored a series of relevant issues faced by the women in question. Areas covered include dynamic relational issues with the second wife and the children, families, friends, and ex-wives of the husband, coping mechanisms used by second wives, legal and contractual matters related to the second marriage, and the implications and legal complications regarding divorce and the second wife.
Mrs. Walker’s attempt to answer questions concerning the status of second wives within society, within their families, and in their own eyes appears hampered in a number of ways. Most noticeably, the study that provides the backbone for the book is methodologically questionable. Subjects of the study were volunteers who completed the questionnaire after hearing radio and television shows in which Mrs. Walker espoused the particular problems encountered by second wives. Therefore, they entered the study biased by the researcher’s goals and points of view. In addition, it would be an error for the reader to conclude that the study results represent the majority of second wives. Two hundred subjects who happened to listen to Mrs. Walker’s views on radio or television, and who had the energy and motivation to complete the lengthy questionnaire, would hardly seem representative, especially in view of the scanty demographic information collected.
Research aside, it is fair to say that some second wives, or second wives to be, may gain some useful knowledge from the book. However, additional problems outweigh the potential value of the book. Some of the rationale offered to understand problems encountered by second wives, particularly with respect to their husbands, is simplistic and reductionistic, disregarding the multicausal nature of most relational issues. At times, arguments for the particular problems encountered by second wives lack clarity, polish, and punch. The second wife phenomenon is worthy of study, and Mrs. Walker does raise some relevant points. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the points are often buried in seemingly superficial and diffuse arguments.