Children and Polygamy

From the start, children are not in polygamy – it’s their parents that are, but they are no doubt affected by it, in one way  or the other. Most of the time we focus on the issues of the wife (or wives) and husband when we are discussing polygamy. But as we are talking marriage, more often than not children are going to be involved. How are they affected by polygamy?

The answer to this will be as varied as it is for the adults involved, depending on the surrounding culture, upbringing and personalities of the children. But some assume it will necessarily be negative – take a look at this article where the ex of a man tried to use his polyamorous lifestyle to stop him retaining custody of their kids.

The judge ruled that actually it wasn’t necessarily going to have a negative impact on the children. Children live happily in all sorts of family setups around the world, and at the same time, there are many child abuse cases happening within monogamous family setups.

 

From my own experience, because polygamy wasn’t an unknown concept to my children, they weren’t particularly affected or at all ‘disturbed’ by it. On the other hand, because of the prevailing culture and having non-Muslim relatives, there is the potential for stressful situations. I can see as polyamory becomes more and more accepted, as are homosexual parents, that this will be less and less of a problem.

The actual problems involving children and polygamy I see are that when cowives (or one of them) want to live completely separate lives from the other family (families), the siblings will be missing out. I can remember enjoying spending time with my cousins which you could say is a similar, or maybe slightly more distant relationship, to half siblings, so why should half-siblings miss out? I think here husbands need to make things clear from the start how the extended family will work. Using the children as weapons against each other, which I have seen in monogamous relationships too, is just not on!

Another proactive stance a man should take is to make a greater effort to spend time with all his children. Just because it is one particular wife’s night shouldn’t mean he ignores their children. I know this might be difficult when everyone is split across the globe, but nowadays most people have access to Skype or whatever video calling method they want to use.

What do you think? Is polygamy is good or bad for children?  Leave a comment or join in the conversations over at our Facebook page.

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Polygamy and Hormones

You might be thinking I’m going to write about the biological reasons men want to have more than one wife – that they have the urge to have more than one sexual partner because of their hormones. There is some evidence that higher testosterone does preclude men to being in polygamy.

But today I wanted to briefly talk about my experiences and similar ones I’ve witnessed of other women where the hormones coursing round our bodies at certain times of the month or at certain times in our lives, make our reactions to things – let’s just say – different.

When writing this blog, I hope I am including a fair bit of objective, logical type information to increase my and anyone else’s understanding of polygamy. But also I can’t, and won’t, deny the more subjective and emotional responses we get when placed in this situation. I have my ups and downs of feeling that polygamy is completely sensible, beneficial, and altogether can be positive if done properly. And then, Boom!, there are times when I just don’t want to think, hear or talk about it at all.

Am I the only one on this roller coaster? I doubt it, and I have come across several women who have expressed how hard it is to cope with their emotions when in or soon to be in polygamy at the same time as they are due to get their period, or if they are pregnant, or recently given birth.

To the men out here, please be aware of this and how the women in your life are affected by their hormones. You are affected and sometimes act on your hormones, so don’t expect women not to. At some times of the month/stages in their life, they need to feel like they are all that matters to you, safe, and loved. By chance, I read this recently in the Amani Birth book by Aisha Al Hajjar:

All through pregnancy, labor and birth there is a complex interaction of hormones at play.

Most pregnant women are notably more needy, emotional, and anxious. The intensity of these needs and emotions grows in pace with her belly. The companion should be compassionate with regard to her increasing needs for love, encouragement, and support.

Anyone else find that the time of the month or pregnancy has a significant effect on how they deal with polygamy? Let us know in the comments!

Polygamy Turned Around: Why I Wouldn’t Want More Than One Husband (if it were allowed)

I have mentioned the cultural and societal reasons that I think have led to polygamy -specifically polygyny (a man with more than one wife) – being shunned. There is the debate as to whether this is fair as now all sorts of relationships are becoming accepted and even legally validated in many countries around the world. The question of the discrepancy between allowing homosexual couples to be legally married and a man to take more than one wives has come up – with the former being often seen as slippery slope to the latter. But on the other hand, there are many positive articles and a certain acceptance of polyamory, so why is polyGYNY such a problem to many?

Gender equality.

Because if woman were allowed to have more than one husband then there would really be no argument, in the opinion of most. We can love who we want, however many we want, as long as everyone consents to the situation. This is what happens in many an ‘open’ relationship. Polygamy – as in more than one wife – to the average person (including many Muslims), reeks of oppression and inequality. And there are, unfortunately, plenty of examples of injustice – but not in the original examples of the Prophet (SAW). It’s again, look at Islam not the Muslims when you want to make judgments about certain aspects of the religion. But, yes, there is no denying things are not equal for men and women when it comes to marriage options in Islam. Women, for a start, have a lot more choice when it comes to men. For men, all married women are off limits. The thing is, as Muslims, we trust our Creator has given us certain limits because He (SWT) knows us better than ourselves. If that doesn’t fit with gender equality then tough, because however hard we try, men and women are not the same.

Goodbye ‘me-time’ if I were in polyandry? 😉

But what if marriage options were exactly equal for men and women, what if we were allowed to have more than one husband? Well, here are my personal reasons why I am glad there is no pressure or expectation to have more than one husband. Although I don’t find it hard to accept that I don’t have the polyandry option, maybe some women do.

At the age of 14 I learnt about polygamy and its various forms in my Social Science lessons. Polyandry, a woman having multiple husbands, was indeed rare but not unheard of. The lesson given by my white, female teacher brought images of faraway tribeswomen with their palm leaved skirts, having men at their beck and call is all I can remember (this was the unpolitically-correct 80s), but it wasn’t discussed in any detail. I have since read about women in parts of India having more than one husband, even with brothers, seemingly out of necessity due to the lack of females available for marriage. These sort of articles rarely have a negative tone.

But if I look at it on a personal level (not necessarily a female level, but maybe the majority of women would feel like me?) could I handle more than one husband? I barely have enough energy for one and the demands that ensue. Not that I am resentful, but I have only one pair of arms and legs, one brain – and I’ll stir up the feminists out there – one womb. The thought of having to deal with practicalities, let alone dealing with more than one man’s emotions (and they do actually have a lot of those, including jealousy in abundance) would be too much. Maybe the multiplied income could be seen as a plus, but who says I’m materialistic!

Of course, I am writing at a personal level, with my worldview of a what wife and husband’s roles are, but call me old-fashioned, would you really want to have another pair of socks to find or mother-in-law to please?

To be honest, I am amazed how men are able to look after more than one wife and family adequately – and am not entirely sure that many actually fulfill their responsibilities. Many men don’t consider the full implications of taking on another wife, mother-in-laws included, deeply enough.

I am perfectly happy with my marriage options, and I believe that even if polyandry were allowed in Islam, the whole polygamy thing would still be criticized. What do you think? Is gender equality the main issue for people who are against polygamy?

Do leave a comments including any aspects of polygamy you’d like to see in the blog. And don’t forget to follow Polygamy Unpicked’s Facebook page for more discussion and latest posts about all things polygamy-related.

Self-esteem and Polygamy

Self-esteem is how we view ourselves. If we have low self-esteem, we don’t have a high regard for ourselves and this can affect our lives in so many ways such as accepting abuse or never attempting to reach our dreams as we don’t  believe we have a chance of success or if we try and fail, we won’t be able to pull ourselves back up.

Poor self-esteem often stems from criticism from those around you when you were a child, as well as later on in your life, and from your inner voice. We can’t change our childhoods, but we can make changes to what we are doing now about our sense of self-esteem – improving your self-esteem is so important, whether in polygamy or not.

So one thing that became apparent to me after finding myself in polygamy was that jealousy and feelings of insecurity were partly exacerbated by my own sense of self-worth. Why was I suddenly finding myself checking out and attempting post-baby tummy exercises on YouTube, bothering to wear something half decent and brushing my hair more often? More importantly, why didn’t I do this before – was I not worth a bit of self-TLC?

 

 

Women who are happy with themselves seem to be happier in polygamy than those who have low self-esteem. Satisfied with who they are, these women realize that they don’t need to have one man to themselves to feel confident in their own qualities, and are confident their husband loves them for who they are. If you have low self-esteem then you will more likely believe the common myth you are not good enough a wife if your man wants to practice polygamy. If you feel unattractive, ‘just’ a mother, and generally down on yourself, of course the mean voice who plagues you day and night is going to whisper that your co-wife must be the most beautiful, successful, pleasing wife in the world –  and then there is the threat this will show up your flaws even more clearly and decrease the love your husband has for you.

But how can we improve our self-esteem?

One thing is to challenge that voice in your head telling you you’re not worthy. You are not defined by your marriage, but instead by your good qualities, your taqwa. Find the caring voice inside of you and tell yourself things that you will actually believe – with poor self-esteem it can be hard to accept compliments and saying things that aren’t true or exaggerated will not help. Just ‘You are great’ isn’t so helpful. So pick out specifics that you can’t deny, like you have beautiful, big, brown eyes; you are a very loving mother; or you are good at organizing. With the latter for example, take action with your strengths to enhance your self-belief – organize a party for a friend for example.

In the evening before you sleep, think back  over the day about things that went well or better than expected, for example, ‘I kept control of my temper when my son tipped milk all over the table.’ By writing this post, I realize I still need to work on getting rid of this mean inner voice; it bugs me day and night saying things like ‘I am not the successful businesswomen who also homeschools and serve organic, healthy meals every night’. I need to replace that with a kind voice that sees and acknowledges my qualities.

Again, kick out the comparisons

These sort of negative thoughts spoken by our inner voice are influenced by comparing ourselves to others, but everyone is created differently which is what is so beautiful. Instead of feeling inferior to others, you can try to become the best you, because there is only one you – someone who is special, and remember that your husband has chosen to be and stay with you.

Polygamy leading to positive action

Other women I’ve come across have taken positive directions since they’ve been in polygamy. They’ve had more time for themselves to pursue their interests – starting an online business, writing the book they’d always promised themselves, taking yoga classes. They have shown, to themselves most importantly, that they are successful as their own person. This is part of the positive side I see to polygamy it makes you get on with stuff you otherwise might have put off. You know you’re going to be on your own for a good part of your life, and you can cope and in fact benefit from it. For me, being apart was nothing new as my husband was often away for business, but I can imagine if your husband has been with you every night since you married it would be a big change and upheaval. But sitting around, waiting for the time when he comes back isn’t helpful and a waste of your precious time on earth – take control and fill it with beneficial activities.

How others can help

Your husband can also help with building up your self-esteem. Ask him to write down the good points he sees in you, especially useful for those first days he is away from you, one quality a day for you to look at to give you a little boost. On the other hand, comparing you to another wife is out of the question, and if a man starts doing this in polygamy, trouble lies ahead. Also, maybe you have friends close enough who can tell you what they appreciate about you.

What are you going to do next to boost your self-esteem? Start going to the gym or enrol in that writing course? I encourage you to take positive action to boost your self-esteem, whether in polygamy or not – it’s win-win! And after writing all this,  I think I’ll write down what I’ve done well in recent times and boost my own self-esteem!

What did you do well yesterday, however insignificant? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Love in Polygamy

My  teenage son recently brought up the topic of love in regard to love for one’s children. I’m not sure if he was just trying to cause a ‘discussion’ – he has recently started finding pleasure in debating controversial topics with us, or if he genuinely believed what he was saying. He put forward that people have more than one child because the fist child is not enough for them and they are not satisfied with that child.

The phrase from the husband in Sister Wives, corny though it may be, “Love should be multiplied, not divided” immediately sprang to my mind. Instinctively, or maybe also culturally, we know we can love more than one child (although we may have preferences, which is a topic for another day) but rarely would the birth of a subsequent child mean you would reject the first.

 

I have come across the comparison of sibling jealousy and polygamy in at least two books on childcare. In one, Your Baby and Child, polygamy is looked at in  distinctly negative light and therefore used to justify why a child would feel so jealous when a new baby arrives. The other, How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, looked at how to work through the jealousy issue in the way a man in polygamy might talk to his first wife (and shows that older children getting over this kind of jealousy is expected, and the justifying of their jealousy cannot practically, nor culturally, be sustained.)  The lessons learnt here are interesting and I’ll insha Allah bring these up in more detail when I look at the husband’s role in making life easier for the first wife.

But back to the topic. Love has always been difficult to define and pin down and it was actually this issue, that love is not something tangible that can be ‘proven’ that started the conversation with my son. The terms romantic and platonic love show it is not so simple. Even love of ‘things’ such as chocolate, travelling, and books show that by loving more than one of these items, our original love for item number one is not reduced. If I love going to Paris, it does not stop me loving visiting Prague. Dare I say the atheist Richard Dawkins does not seem to oppose polygamy as he looks at love of more than one partner in this way. But as I discussed in my post on culture, romantic love -love for one’s life partner –  is restricted culturally to one.

Loving conditionally and unconditionally

Can true love be conditional? The first example that springs to mind is the love we have for our children or parents – platonic love – which as a child I called ‘family love’. Romantic love can be fallen in and out of and therefore can end – it is more conditional. Of course even with blood relatives, there are lines that are crossed which would cancel that love connection such as abuse, but even the most heinous of crimes appear to be forgivable by some.

Changing our view of Love

So when I come across the crime of adultery or polygamy in Western culture,  this brings a conflict of how I should feel or behave according the societally-produced lines that have been crossed. Many women would be filing for divorce after their husband has had a one time fling or even been in any kind of romantic contact with another woman, let alone married someone else and started a family with them. Their lines are different;  love can’t be multiplied in this case -it has been divided and therefore reduced – often to zero in these sort of situations.  Coming to accept polygamy means changing the positions of these lines. Change is never easy and we need to acknowledge this and give plenty of time  to adapt to a different way a of thinking,  and accept that the old patterns may resurface. Teaching old dogs new tricks is not always easy, for want of a better term. Changing our view on love is usually necessary for any progress in the acceptance process of polygamy.

Who really deserves our love?

Yes, we love our husbands and our families and friends. Sometimes it is all too easy to get caught up in our love for our mate – it’s again part of the culture, often part of feeling ‘whole’ to have that loving connection with our partners. But it’s useful to rip off the heart shaped sunglasses that we view our lives through and remember who our focus should be, who loves us more than any family member or husband. Allah (SWT) shares His Love with trillions of souls, yet we feel special as we place our foreheads on the prayer mat, and hear the whispers of du’a that pass our lips. Many times when I’ve felt low and this strain on my love for my husband, I have asked Allah (SWT) to make me whole, to fill the space in my heart that I sense forming when jealousy, and other feelings, are overwhelming me – to make me realize what really matters in the grand scheme of things.

I’m not dismissing the hurt we feel when we have to share our husband by accepting polygamy. Many of us may have been through it when we had a new brother or sister as a child, but we usually overcame that. I hope and pray if this situation is current for you, that this post gives some hope that any difficult emotions you are having right now will not be be long-term, that you will come through this stronger and with a greater love for your husband and most importantly, for the One who created Love itself.