In news designed to strike fear in complacent husbands everywhere, we learned this week that half of all women have a "Backup Husband" in mind if Mr. Now fizzles out—and sometimes even multiples. Sad part: The likeliest candidate is just the guy who still has feelings for you after all these years. Pardon me for saying so, but if this is how you're doing Backup Husbands, then you are doing Backup Husbands all wrong.
The concept is brilliantly simple, though: You're married, but you're a level-headed, pragmatic gal, so you've got a next-up partner or two in mind should this relationship hit the skids. Who hasn't mapped out a flowchart of alternatives in the event of a natural disaster? Hey, a backup plan is nothing to be left to chance or circumstance.
But puzzlingly, this seems to be the case for the women surveyed (which you correctly suspected comes via Daily Mail), whose answers sound positively lazy:
… the back-up is likely to be an old friend who has always had feelings for the woman in question.
But other candidates are an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband, a colleague - or someone who they have met at the gym.
Weird that your ex-husband would be the go-to after your current husband, who is I guess then your second husband? And since when are guys you meet at the gym good boyfriend material? (Genuinely asking: Have been to a gym once.)
Things take a truly terrifying turn over the Mail when your Backup Husband begins to sound like some kind of Sleeper Cell of Second Chances/Emergency Contraception:
The survey of 1,000 women also found Plan B is also likely to be someone whom she has known for around seven years, who will be 'ready and waiting' because of 'unfinished business'. Furthermore, around one in ten women said their Plan B had already confessed his undying love, while one in five said they were confident he would 'drop everything' for her, if she asked him to.
Drop everything! No no not those flowers — it's my best vase!
In other unsurprising news, about half these Sunday drivers already knew the man in question. The other half said he existed B.C. — Before Complacency. But here is around where it gets rock-bottom, Sad Human Condition time:
Around one in four women who have a back-up plan have feelings as strong for him as they do for their other half.
OK, hold the phones—only ONE IN FOUR women have feelings equal to those of the dolt who will be marrying them next? No no no no no. Do not do the thing where the other person loves you more then you love them. That is a recipe for unequal loving.
Here is how to actually choose a Backup Husband.
If you're going to choose a backup husband, you should actually, you know, CHOOSE A BACKUP HUSBAND. "Choose" is the operative word here: don't let one fall into your lap. You deserve more. Don't pick some dude whose been hangin' around just cuz it's easier. Dark horse candidates should be selected with all the scrutiny and careful consideration you neglected to apply to your current sitch. This means:
The dude who has always had feelings for you is probably not your dude for a reason—I am thinking of every old movie/sitcom I've ever seen where the long-suffering wife won't stop exclaiming, "I could've married Harry Finklestein!"
Back when you could've married Harry Finklestein, you didn't. You scanned the horizon for better options, for one reason or another. Why revisit the past? Why romanticize a non-(Finklestein)-entity? Go fresh, go big. Get it all like it's your job to plunder. This is your time to shine, to issue a corrective to all the things you didn't get the last time around.
I think you know what I'm saying here: Go Gosling. But you know, whatever the Gosling is of your actual life and options. GET YOUR GOSLING. Unless you had him already, and now he is gone, in which case, get Gosling's third cousin, twice removed.
As a friend pointed out about this survey, you married for love last time, and look how that turned out? Let's just say that since money is the one of the top sources of conflict in most relationships that we can assume you argued about it in your last relationship. Get whatever amount is enough to not have to fight about it. You know how Michael Pollan advises us to "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants"? Go that route. Only with money.
Have Fun With It
This sounds like "Aim High," but it is not. Aim High is about standards. Have Fun is about dreaming big, or at least going offbeat. I say surprise everyone with your backups and go rogue. Unexpected. If your current type is a staid high-finance guy, next time marry a low-finance woman.
Enjoy the Wait
Since this is not happening anytime soon—
The good news for the nation's men is that one in three women said they 'doubted' anything would ever happen with the man in the background. Around half had a 'never say never' approach, while trouble may lie ahead for one in six who said they were 'seriously considering' rekindling their romance with the man in the shadows.
—you've got some time on your hands. Use it. Appreciate what you've got. Remain optimistic. Tweak the list. Move some people around. Prune wisely. Man in the shadows this. Guy in the closet that. Stay cool. Don't go changin'. See ya next summer!
Never Speak of Him/Them
You would think women would keep their list of Shadow Husbands written in invisible ink, stored under a loose plank in the fireproof safe at the far right corner of that turn-of-the-century barn six miles yonder, but no.
...despite the secrecy involved in having a close friend or ex to turn to, around half of the women who took part in the poll said their other half was aware of the 'third party'.
If your dude knows who you're cultivating for a second act, he'll probably drop some hot jokes about every five minutes, eventually working his way into your subconscious, ruining your moment of joy when it's time to run into the arms of your Sleeper Cell Backup Husband™. So zip it up, loose lips. It's called repression. Look into it.
Unless That Was Your Whole Plan, You Old Sly Boots
The upside to talking about Harry Finklestein every time you feel like it is that it keeps Mr. Now on his toes.
Says the Daily Mail:
'This news may cause a few men in relationships to think twice about not taking the rubbish out or choosing a night down the pub in favour of a cosy night in with his partner.
To be clear, your Backup Husband, no matter how much more into your favorite Thai dish he is, will probably not take the rubbish out either. But a girl can dream.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.