When you find out your husband wants to have another wife or has actually married again, one of the first questions that plagues you is: why?
Yes, it is allowed in Islam, often recommended, but so are many things which have less impact on people’s lives yet are conveniently forgotten – Qiyam ul Lail anyone?
But this question of ‘why?’ has roots grappling with a woman’ self-esteem and so I think is important to address.
I recently read about a woman whose husband had decided he wanted to get a second wife. She couldn’t understand it because he said he was happy with her, and she felt they had a perfect marriage. This assumption that men get another wife because their first isn’t enough or satisfying them often is false. Yes, this can be a reason and maybe they stay with the first out of loyalty, or because of the children, or because things aren’t that bad. Maybe in the worst case scenario, things are actually fixable but due to lack of communication, the marital problems don’t get addressed. But if a man thinks another wife will automatically be the antidote to a failing marriage, he is entering dangerous territory. What if the husband is the main one at fault? Then the second marriage is likely to go down the same route.
There must be something wrong with me if my husband wants another wife!
Assuming something is wrong with the first wife is a big mistake made by outsiders and well as the wife herself. The feeling of “Something’s wrong with me!” leads to a greater lack of self-esteem, which only magnifies the difficulties a woman faces being in an unwilling polygamous marriage. Listen, chances are your husband is happy with you. You are a loving person, you are a great wife.
So if a man is happy with his current wife, why seek out another? All men are different and so all men have their different reasons to want to have more than one wife. There are the few who choose polygamy primarily in order to fufil the Sunnah, or to be a protector for a woman who, unfortunately in this day and age, would normally have difficulty finding a marriage partner (for example, older widows or divorcees with many children).
There is the usual reasoning of men generally having a higher sex drive, but marriage isn’t just about sex. A common reason is just because they have a natural inclination to it, and because they can – Allah SWT has given then that right. Of course, this reasoning doesn’t often make a woman feel immediately at peace with the situation. Logically, yes, it makes sense, but emotionally it can be really hard to accept. Logically, a woman should be pretty content with a fair and just husband who practices polygamy properly. ‘All’ she potentially loses is time, which in fact can make a relationship stronger and more intense and enjoyable – absence makes the heart grow stronger as they say. When you know you only have three nights a week with your husband, you don’t want to waste it on bickering and sulks. And the extra effort you put in those days, you can recover from during your days off the ‘work’ of being a wife. But this is just logic. Logic is often a poor band-aid, especially in the early days, for the the raw emotions of jealousy, self-hatred and despair that may be triggered by a husband taking another wife. These feelings may not be the expected by the husband, especially if he thinks she has a high level of iman, but these have to be acknowledged rather than dismissed.
Insha Allah, I will delve further into the reasons why women have such a difficult time accepting polygamy in the next post.