‘It’s natural to feel anxious and compare yourself to those who have come before you’ (Picture: Getty)
When first place is up for grabs, coming in second can sting.
This can be even more devastating when it comes to romantic love.
Feeling like a partner’s ‘second choice’ comes with a whole host of insecurity issues – and this tricky dynamic can cause problems within a relationship.
Recently, we watched this unfold on Love is Blind with Jarrette and Iyanna – but experts say it’s actually a pretty common phenomenon.
‘Contrary to popular belief, feeling like a partner’s second choice is a common feeling in many relationships – particularly in the early days, but it doesn’t mean your relationship is not going to last,’ explains Michelle Begy, the founder of Ignite Dating.
‘Whether you’re dealing with the ghost of your partner’s unforgettable first love or are in a relationship with a widow or widower, it’s natural to feel anxious and compare yourself to those who have come before you.
‘After all, your partner was in love with them and even the most secure of us will often wonder how we match up to those we deem to be the love of their life.’
For some people this ‘second best’ feeling will catch them off guard, while others might willingly enter into a relationship knowing this might be the case.
Lohani Noor, a resident psychotherapist at the Manchester Institute of Psychotherapy, says: ‘You might realise over a period of time that your new partner is still madly in love with their deceased ex and that nothing you do or experience will ever match the idealised love that previously existed.
‘Equally, you might find that your partner is in love with an ex who has long moved on, yet you feel compared or side-lined as your partner pursues an interest in their ex’s life.’
If you’re currently experiencing this ‘second choice’ phenomenon, experts reveal how to deal with it and move forward.
Communicate with your partner
Sexologist and relationship coach Ness Cooper stresses that often this emotion can occur when communication is lacking in a relationship.
‘Communication can lead to reassurance, which is a key factor needed to help you feel safe within a relationship,’ she explains.
‘Talking through any worries is important rather than letting them fester. Often a partner can explain why another relationship with someone else wasn’t as important as the relationship they’ve formed with you.
‘It can take time – so don’t try to rush and figure out why you are feeling like this in a relationship, as it’s likely you’re still trying to find your feet in other areas of the relationship, too.’
Michelle agrees and says open and honest conversations are vital to stop resentment building up.
She says: ‘If you’re feeling like the back-up option in a relationship – whether this is through something your partner has said or done, an internal feeling you have or a combination of the two – the first thing you need to do is address those feelings before they become a bigger issue.
‘If you feel second choice now, holding onto those feelings will only lead to growing resentment and insecurity further down the line – and it’s often this factor that causes the end of a relationship, rather than the initial feeling of being second best.’
Think about how to get closer
Experts share how to address the situation (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Ness suggests asking to be a part of a partner’s world more – this might be seeing their friends, or talking about their work.
This might give you the reassurance you need, as a result.
‘It can make you feel you’re more involved in their lives, and help you realise that – even when apart – you’re the one they go to or think about,’ she says.
Form joint boundaries
If you’re struggling with jealousy or envy, it’s important to form joint boundaries that you both consent to.
However, Ness says: ‘Don’t force or put pressure onto each other to have ones that can lead to uncomfortable feelings of resentment.’
She adds that asking a partner to stop seeing (or being friends) with their ex will rarely help the situation. Instead, it’s likely to result in an unhealthy relationship between you and your partner.
A person must come to this decision on their own.
Look for other issues in the relationship
Ness says this ‘second best’ feeling can sometimes occur early on, when you’re establishing your own relationship dynamic – but it can also be an indication of issues elsewhere.
She continues: ‘Often there are other relationship issues or you’re still developing your own relationship rituals when thoughts and worries like this arise.
‘Looking deeper into what else may be causing conflicts within your relationship, and the feelings behind them, can help.’
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Question if the relationship is worth it
If you believe your ‘second choice’ feelings are valid, Lohani stresses that it’s important to consider whether the relationship is worth it for your self-esteem and mental health.
‘Realise that the longer you stay with somebody who invites you to feel second best, the longer you will reinforce your own sense that you are only worth second best,’ she explains.
‘Trying to convince someone that you are worth more reinforces the idea that you are second.
‘Speak to your partner about how you feel, give them a chance to consider how their behaviour impacts you. If they chose to ignore your concerns or only minimally account for your experience, move on.
‘You are absolutely worth being somebody’s number one.’
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