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Playing Second Fiddle in the Relationship

Updated on June 26, 2018
MsDora profile image

MsDora, former teacher and Christian counselor presents practical Scriptural principles for joyful everyday living.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) directed the New York Philharmonic from 1958-1969. He led more concerts with the orchestra than any previous conductor. It is reputed that when asked what is the hardest instrument to play, he answered:

“Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm . . . now that’s the problem. And yet if no on plays second, we have no harmony.”

The importance of the second fiddler is also true in a relationship which we can imagine to be an orchestra of two.

No Second, No Harmony

New York Philharmonic Orchestra and The Westminster Symphonic Choir at Carnegie Hall.  Photo by Yorkshire Railman
New York Philharmonic Orchestra and The Westminster Symphonic Choir at Carnegie Hall. Photo by Yorkshire Railman | Source

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. . . Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

— Romans 12:9, 10

Second fiddle, the idiom, which refers to someone in a supportive rather than a primary role, originated in the music world. The term spread throughout the orchestra to include the second horn and the second flute; and even outside to the business world where subordinate is the synonym for second fiddle. However, in the love or friendship relationship, as suggested in the verse above, the partners consider each other as equals.

The Relationship Orchestra

Both first and second fiddle roles are necessary in the relationship; and the harmony between the players is more important than the personal roles they play.

The harmony is for their enjoyment and the enjoyment of those who care about them. Their union is viewed as two-in-one without any analysis of who has more talent, who makes more money, or who makes the bigger contribution to the marriage.

The Jamieson, Faussett, and Browne Bible Commentary, explains it. Each person takes the lead in outdoing the other in affection.

The other Scripture versions besides the Message, render the concept as “honoring” or “preferring” one another. So, the person in second fiddle position sincerely wants the other person to succeed in the lead role.

The supporter may express his or her support this way:

  • “I am the most effective, reliable, empowering partner he will ever have.”
  • “I am committed to helping her perform at her best.”
  • “Love . . . Isn’t always me first” (1 Corinthians 13:5 MSG).

Skilled Players Take Turn

 Photo by Han de Carpentier Wolf
Photo by Han de Carpentier Wolf | Source

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. - Harry Truman.

“Second violinists are first-class musicians,” read the Los Angeles Times headline on May 17, 2009. In the article, Glenn Dicterow, current concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic stated, “Our string sections have rotation, so all second violinists actually end up playing in the firsts at some point during every season.”

Dan Nobuhiko Smiley also affirmed, "Playing second fiddle may connote being second best, but the preparation for playing first or second violin is exactly the same.”

In the relationship, playing second fiddle is as much a desire and a privilege as playing first. Each partner recognizes the value of the secondary role.

For example, when one heads up a project, the other values the opportunity to be the neck that turns the head. The supporter is as significant as the leader will ever be. It is important that the person in the lead position lead with humility and consideration; and it is also important that the second fiddle serves with the same enthusiasm as he or she did in the lead role. It is all about harmony in the household, in the work team, between friends or wherever the success of one becomes the success of all.

If someone finds this concept impractical, here’s the reason. “It is only those whom the love of Christ constrains to live not unto themselves, who are capable of thoroughly acting in the spirit of this precept” (Commentary).

Playing and enjoying the second fiddle in the relationship orchestra is a necessity. It may not come naturally, but by practice and more practice. What good is the relationship without the harmony?

“May God . . . help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.” Romans 15: 5 (NLT)


Master Conductor, we are grateful for the opportunity to play our various roles in life’s orchestra. We realize that You value our contribution in the second position or in the back row, just as much as when You let us play the lead. Help us to love selflessly and enthusiastically no matter in what position You place us. Bless our relationships with Your love, peace and harmony always. We pray with thanksgiving in the name of Jesus. Amen


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    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Hi Word, so encouraging to see you visiting my old hubs, and your comment is insightful. Thanks!

    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      Very interesting Dora, Sometimes, playing 2nd fiddle is better than not playing at all. You may eventually play to the top. Great article!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great insight, Bob, and well-expressed. I appreciate your input.

    • BobMonger profile image


      6 years ago from Carlin, Nevada USA

      There is a certain security in being the "second fiddle." Mostly I let those who crave the spotlight go ahead and have it, I'll just sit in the back and enjoy the music we make. It's nice to get the accolades when you're the one up front, but you get the blame as well when all doesn't go as planned. Just remember it isn't the musician we should appreciate, it's the music that's being made.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Manatita, Nikki and Laurinzo for your input on this issue of humility, and cooperation. Thank God. we're all improving in this important aspect of our lives.

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      LJ Scott 

      6 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      I agree 100% harmony can be established in so many realtionships, but someone has to be the first to realize and give in to better judgement. God is definitely the conductor of this movement. I am again learning to flow with that. Great reminder!

    • Nikki Major profile image

      Nikki Major 

      6 years ago

      yes. God instructs us to seek each others well-being over our own.Sometimes, this means we have to play second fiddle.

    • manatita44 profile image


      6 years ago from london

      Full of profound Truth. I once worked in a shop where I took the lead role in emptying the garbage. It was a secondary role, but for me it was significant and a doorway to humility. Wise hub.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Perspycacious. I appreciate your votes and your kind comments. Blessings!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      6 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      So well done that I hope it gets a lot of viewers thinking. Up, etc. and shared.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Ann, your application to marriage is completely true. Both the lead and the second fiddle must give 100% if they want 100% harmony. Thanks for your input.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Tim, your comments make me smile. Being comfortable in the second fiddle role is the result of being gifted for that role. I'm sure that you perform with excellence because you have the right attitude. Blessings!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image


      6 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Great hub! In enjoyed it very much. I love the way you drew the parallel of playing second fiddle with being a Christian. It is the same in marriage. I have a hard time with people who say marriage is a 50/50 proposition, when in fact, often it is one person giving 100% sometimes, and the other giving 100% sometimes.

      Voted up.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      6 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank You MsDora. I smile saying this is a most wonderful hub with more truths than you can shake a stick at. I think this well written chorus full of harmony and melody is just what the doctor ordered. I'll sit in your pews anytime. I may fake a song or two until my partner gives me the nudge I'm in tune, being tone deaf and all - smile, but I will sure accompany her voice in action. Seems that is how mom and dad raised me.

      I have always preferred the second fiddle. Even when put in the lead with work, my secret strategy was always to discover someone greater than I, give a nudge, plop some experience down, then run like He** lol and resign. Then look for a second fiddle job. One knows their calling when spoken.

      Thank you again, posted and voted.




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