Expectations. That’s probably one of the most common threads that has run through my first year as a second wife—unfulfilled expectations, unrealistic expectations, and most importantly, beyond my highest expectations!
Communication. That’s probably the key element that I have relied upon during my first year as a second wife—learning to listen, staying consistent to who I am, accepting truth, talking freely, remaining silent, speaking up, laughing often!
Uniqueness. That’s probably the greatest gift I’ve been given in my first year as a second wife—having a husband who understands that I’ll do things differently, accepting the fact that we are both in a new season of our lives, knowing that what works for us may not work for others because what worked for others most likely would never have worked for us!
Yes, my husband was married before. His first wife, a friend of mine and my father’s former secretary, passed away in 2015 after a long-term struggle with heart disease. They were married for over forty years and had a love that ran deep.
He has, on rare occasions, called me by her first name. From the very beginning, I did not find that awkward. It was a habit of his, and I understood that. For over forty years, when he spoke of weekly activities or talked with friends about something he and his wife had done, he would use her name. He loved her. Using her name was an expression of that. In replying to him when he rapidly apologized for using the wrong name, I did not tell him, “That’s okay.” It’s not okay to be called by someone else’s name. Instead, I replied with, “I understand.” It’s very rare for it to happen, but I, as a second wife, have chosen to understand that when love runs deep, habits die hard. There’s actually a sense of security I receive from knowing that because Joe loved his first wife so intently, he will do the same for me. His character has not changed. In fact, if I arrive in heaven before Joe, I want him to remarry quickly (he would NOT make it well on his own…and he knows this!), and…sorry, but I hope he calls her “Brenda” at least a few times because of the depths of his love for me!
As for family adjustments, I count myself blessed. My husband’s only child is a grown daughter who is married and has two children, ages ten and thirteen. I am “Brenda” to all of them—by my choice and theirs. We have this amazing, growing, compassionate respect and understanding for all that has taken place over the last year, and I could not have handpicked a family any dearer to call my own. But like any good relationship, our family relationship is intentional: Joe and I have made a great effort to visit them often, and they have spent time here as well. We communicate freely; we respect the past and find hope in the future, and I couldn’t have mapped it out any better than it is. My husband’s grandsons have amazing grandparents on their father’s side, and I am grateful that they are not only the boys’ grandparents, but they are also our friends.
Joe’s brother and his family live out of state as well, and we are eagerly anticipating a trip to visit them. I respect them highly though I do not know them well yet at this point. However, I am already looking forward to getting to know them better when we are with them in person again! My siblings had the advantage of being family friends with Joe and his first wife for many years, so they love him as one of our own and have welcomed him in the same spirit of love that I have received. Sweet Mama considers him one of “her boys,” and that means a great deal to Joe—and to me.
My husband’s first wife’s family lives nearby, and we have enjoyed lunches and special celebrations with her siblings and other relatives. When Joe and I began dating, we often spoke of the “Ruth and Naomi” connection because of my living with my mom to assist her prior to my marriage to Joe. In the Bible, one of the verses Ruth speaks to Naomi is one whose words I have also spoken to Joe: “Your people will be my people.” For more than forty years, these dear ones were “his people” and his daughter’s “people.” Therefore, they are part of my circle now as well, and I am thankful that there is a connection there that is ongoing.
We live in the house where my husband and his first wife lived. We received adamant counsel from some friends to buy a new house, new furniture, new everything. We received adamant counsel on the other side as well. We chose what worked for us. I’m too practical to toss aside a beautiful home that serves our purpose and our location well. As a gift, I’ve been given amazing neighbors who have welcomed me with open arms! An even greater benefit is that Joe and I have had fun “repurposing” some of the furniture to new areas of the house. We’ve become HGTV groupies, gathering the latest ideas to help us “tweak” the next room in the house. In our bedroom, we got a new mattress and box springs, and we rearranged the room to make it “ours.” We followed this pattern in the living room, dining room, and family room as well. Our dishes were a wedding gift from my mom and brother, and the contents of the kitchen cupboards reflect our streamlined style of organization.
As for church, we attend the church where Joe has a been an active member for many years. I love the church and am now a member there also. Perhaps because these dear people knew Joe’s first wife so well, it is taking a little longer to forge lasting relationships there. Additionally, I have cut way back on my involvement because adjusting to married life was thrown a curve ball when both of us spent several weeks (as in seven, in my case) sick with colds and flu, and I have found that I like the role of wife far better than any other role I could add into my schedule just for the sake of being busy!
Here’s the bottom line: It was not a surprise to me that my husband was married before. I came into this knowing that there would be changes, adjustments, and new ways of doing things. But I also spoke my promised vows at the wedding from a heart that knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the words of Psalm 118:23 were true: “This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” I love Joe Henderson, and I know that Joe Henderson loves me. And that turns every question mark that has arisen in this first two-thirds of this first year of marriage into giant exclamation points of God’s grace!