We have looked at the effects of culture on women’s willingness or not to accept polygamy. Now I want to look at another issue that makes polygamy hard for women to accept: the sense of betrayal. There are two parts to this feeling of betrayal: Firstly, if a woman is culturally expecting a husband to be monogamous, then any pursuit of polygamy will feel like a betrayal, almost at the same level of adultery, and this was addressed in the my most recent blog post. Secondly, there is the betrayal in keeping things hidden which is what I shall look at more closely now. Hopefully, this will help explain why polygamy can feel so bad for many women and show that a man keeping his desire for polygamy and/or subsequent marriage secret is rarely a good idea – for all involved.
Assuming a woman is not willing to be in polygamy, this often leads to a man who wants to marry again to go about it in a secretive way. But going behind someone’s back is worse long-term than being upfront. If a man doesn’t have the courage to tell his wife his intentions either before they even married in the first place (in fear that she might not want to then marry him) or before he subsequently takes another wife, he is actually creating a new set of problems. Maybe he is not telling her with good intentions in mind, but being honest is, as the saying goes, the best policy. When a wife does eventually find out, she then has both the change of lifestyle plus the feelings of betrayal to deal with. Can she ever trust him again?
Why do women in this position feel so betrayed? Although it is, according to some scholars not obligatory to tell one’s wife, in all practicalities it is likely to be revealed at some point, especially if children are involved. And for most women, their expectations are that their husbands will share everything with them – their bad day at work, their excitement over an upcoming football match, who they met at the mosque at Jum’ah – without wanting or needing to hide anything, and vice versa. As a woman, we probably share more than they expect to hear about our day or feelings! So when they have kept a whole compartment of their life secret, especially if they had explicitly or implicitly shown an intention to be monogamous, men should not be surprised when all hell breaks loose!
But still many men do not want to risk their current marriages and keep their polygamy to themselves; they do not want to rock the boat. However, unless they are happy to live double lives (which I believe not many are) they must be brave and face the consequences of their actions.
And many might disagree, but bravery is also required by us as women to fight the internal battle of dislike and acceptance of sharing their husband, mentioned in this post, and understand the other side of polygamy – that it is not all negative. Then I hope men will be less scared to bring it up and the incidence of this double whammy of betrayal and ‘you are now in polygamy’ will be reduced.
So secret marriages happen, too often from my experience, and subsequently lower the opinions of many even more about polygamy. Being betrayed, especially by someone close to you is devastating and only you can decide if you can trust that person again – they are going to have to put a lot of work into rebuilding that trust, but trust me, it is possible.
Have you been betrayed in this way? Have you managed to regain trust in your husband and if so, how? Leave a comment and do share with those who might benefit. Also come over and visit, like and share the Polygamy Unpicked Facebook page where you’ll find more thoughts and opinions from those also trying to unpick polygamy!