My husband and his brother got into an argument over my husband’s disagreement with how his brother is handling some affairs in his marriage. The brother got upset and revealed to me that when my husband and I first started dating, my husband said I was cool but I would never compare to his ex, who he was still seeing at the time. I'm beyond pissed and hurt and feeling like a second choice. Yes, he married me, but I feel like he was forced to move on because his ex broke up with him. Am I overreacting? —Anonymous
I know your feelings are hurt. Most people would be hurt in this situation. So, no, you’re not overreacting. Surely, the brother-in-law didn’t say it in a “Hey, I think you should know because I care” kind of way. He flung it at you as the insult it was intended to be, which made it hurt doubly bad.
Understand that your brother-in-law is a petty man. Your husband may or may not have been right to speak to his brother about the issues in his marriage. Yes, that too is a highly sensitive topic that would upset most people. But the brother-in-law’s choice to drag you into this disagreement as a way of upsetting his brother is going too far. There are lines; he just crossed a huge one.
Given the lack of character that your brother-in-law has demonstrated, what he said could be true or not. Before you get more upset about this, you need to speak with your husband, who, hopefully, will tell you the truth. Since your ego has taken a huge blow—because unless your husband has made you feel like a second choice all along, that’s what your feelings about the brother-in-law’s revelation are about—your husband should also reassure you that he chose you because he wanted to be with you, period.
You also need to put into context the alleged facts of what your brother-in-law said. If your husband actually said this, consider when he said it. It wasn’t while he was walking down the aisle or while you were married; it was when he first met you. Neither of you knew each other well; you were getting to that point. If you were dating, then yes, he was supposed to be dating other people; so were you. Exclusivity is for relationships.
So many of us like to buy into the fairy-tale idea of relationships depicted in Disney films, Hollywood romantic comedies and classic R&B. The truth is, reality is a lot more complicated, and “love at first sight” barely exists. Maybe your husband fed you the fantasy of “I knew the moment we met.”
If that’s the case, it was romantic but wrong of him to say. It was also naive of you to believe. He didn’t know you, and you didn’t know him. At best, he was attracted to you and you to him. You built what you have now—or what you had before the brother-in-law got reckless. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The unromantic truth is that unless a man marries his high school sweetheart, he was in love with someone else before his current spouse and likely envisioned spending his life with her. That doesn’t make all wives who weren’t the high school girlfriend second options. It means everyone has a past, including your husband—and you, too.
So your husband may have had feelings for his ex when you met him. Maybe his ex rejected him and he was forced to move on. Do understand that he didn’t have to do that with you. If you wanted him, I’ll guess that he’s an attractive man with something going for himself. You weren’t the only woman who saw those traits in him. He had options. He wanted to make you a priority, and so he did.
Again, unless you’ve spent your marriage thinking that you were a second choice—and if that’s the case, you just got confirmation (in the worst way) that you’re not crazy—this issue is a one-off discussion, not a subject that needs to linger or disrupt your marriage.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “I Moved to Be Near My Man and We’ve Talked About Marriage, so Why Hasn’t He Proposed Yet?”