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Rebecca Syndrome

Lily Page as the second Mrs de Winter in the Netflix film

Lily James as the second Mrs de Winter in the Netflix film, Rebecca

Rebecca Syndrome is named after Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel, Rebecca, in which the heroine, the nameless second Mrs de Winter, develops an obsession with her husband's dead first wife, Rebecca, and is convinced that she will never live up to her.   Early scenes in the novel show us how insecure the second Mrs de Winter feels, as she sits at what was once Rebecca's desk and wears her raincoat to walk down to the beach.  Of course, as the novel progresses, Mrs Danvers constantly adds fuel to the second Mrs de Winter's fears by showing her Rebecca's beautiful bedroom and the clothes in Rebecca's wardrobe.

Imagr from the cover of the Readers Digest edition of Rebecca

The front cover of the Readers Digest edition of Rebecca, published c1994

The second Mrs de Winter is typical of women with Rebecca Syndrome in that she is convinced she'll never live up to her predecessor.  Sufferers of this pathological jealousy continually compare themselves to their partner's ex, including what they look like and what kind of relationship they had.

Claire Cohen has written an excellent article for British Vogue, highlighting the rise of Rebecca Syndrome in this era of social media.  To read more, please click here

February 2024.

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