I am still trying to get my head around jealousy, what exactly it is, why it feels so bad, what purpose – if any – it serves, and how to allay it or at least not let it affect me to a debilitating level. Jealousy is something most people think of if you mention polygamy – it’s a major cause of why it is so hard to accept for many women. Often I hear, “I’m a jealous person so I couldn’t cope with it.” We all are prone to jealousy to a certain degree – it is part of human nature – so trying to deny it can be counterproductive, but trying to understand it should help us to manage this highly negative emotion.
Imagine the following scenarios:
Your husband is taking someone out to dinner instead of you.
- His other wife
- Your and his teenage son
- His mother
- His male friend who he’s not seen in years
Is your reaction the same to all of these? If not, why not?
I can imagine that scenario #1 would bring out feelings of jealousy in most of us women, but the others not at all, or not with such strength of feelings. For each scenario, you are still losing the same amount time with your husband and the chance of a eating a scrumptious meal. So how can we can puzzle out the different reactions? If we think about what the purpose is behind the dinner date and what is the relationship between your husband and the various people that is different, then this may give us a clue.
Another wife could replace you, fulfil the same needs as you. You can’t replace a son or a mother even if you wanted to. Male friends aren’t either going to try take your place.
Then there is your relationship with the particular person he is taking out; when it is with your son it may make you actually very pleased because two people you love are having a bonding experience. How you feel in him taking out his mother would also depend on your relationship with your mother-in-law! A male friend, well, it could bring some resentment, but the reason behind could help. If it were a friend who wanted to spend time with your husband in his every spare moment might make it harder but still not the same intensity as if it were a woman.
Jealousy is in fact a mixture of emotions: anger and fear. You fear consciously or subconsciously some kind of loss, and obviously two negative emotions combined really does not feel good and you want to do anything to make that feeling go away.
Why are you angry? Something has been done that broke your trust or expectations; I believe this is why the culture you are brought up in, which I wrote about here, helps mold your expectations of marriage and can worsen or diminish feelings of jealousy. What can be done to counteract this anger? If a husband can be fair and not let you down, for example, spend a similar amount of time taking you out somewhere nice as he does with your co wife, then this can avoid a jealousy-inducing situation. This is in fact what Islam requires, and it is when things aren’t done in the right way, when there is a sense thatthings are unfair, that the trouble starts.
Fear of loss
Then there is the fear of loss, that the other wife is better than you in some way so your husband will grow apart from you. In one video I watched, a polyamorous woman talked about when her girlfriend went off to her other lover, but managed not to feel jealous. Why? Because she felt sure her girlfriend was coming back; she had confidence in the relationship they had. Building a strong relationship when your husband is with you could reduce this fear rather than worrying about what the other wife is doing or how great she is being for your husband. If he comes back, willingly, then things should be OK. Husbands need to make sure their wife feels wanted more than ever in this situation and mentioning her good points can never be done too often.
Women who aren’t affected by jealousy
From my experience, women I come across who aren’t affected by jealousy, or at least appear not to be, either have been brought up with polygamy as a natural thing, or that their relationship with their husband is not their main focus, but rather their kids or some other part of their life is. Women who have a very strong relationship with their cowife as well as their husband appear to have no jealousy issues, and importantly, they have a high level of self-esteem. Of course having a strong relationship with their Creator is the most important, but even the Mothers of the believers had pangs of jealousy, and Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) daughter felt she couldn’t cope with sharing her husband.
So how to manage this jealousy? If we accept we are all going to get our jealous moments, we can get ready and use acts of ‘ibadah such as dhikr to battle the wiswas and Shaytan. Realize the impact of the culture we were brought up in on our feelings, and question it. Nurture our self-esteem (which I hope to write on at a later date) and work on improving our relationship with our husband, co wife (wives) and our Creator.
I am sure there is much more to write on this subject of jealousy. Let’s hear from you in the comments, especially on tips on how to minimize feelings of jealousy.