Advice to Men Considering Polygamy

Last week, I wrote about the Second Wife’s perspective in polygamy. Today I’m sharing some sincere advice for the men thinking of polygamy (polygyny) written by Hasan Clay, MBA, ABD and Naaila Moumaris-Clay

I think this is of course useful for any men out there to read, but also for women. It shows that polygamy is not an easy path to take if done properly. But the men that do their duties as they should deserve some credit.

Remembering which key is to which house is the least of a polygamous man’s worries

POLYGYNY: All Things Considered

1. You will miss your wife while with the other wife.
2. It will feel awkward initially when establishing a home with the new wife. You may not feel so comfortable and desire to be “at home”, the other house.
3. You will miss seeing your children. This may make it harder to fairly implement time.
4. You will have to resist submitting to your wife’s emotions, and may appear insensitive, to limit manipulation.
5. Find ways to be sensitive and to do more to show love and appreciation. No matter what you do, emotionally and mentally, you will come up short. Do and be extra when you can.
6. You will never be able to control the relationship of your wives. For this reason, selection is key.
7. You will be forced to make decisions you do not want to make. These women and families are intertwined due to you. Don’t ever take a back seat on leadership.
8. You may briefly lose some of the closeness you had with your existing wife as she learns to trust your decision to take another wife. It can be regained.
9. Unless you are wealthy, you will likely encounter a financial struggle with one or both homes, unexpectedly. Even if you do not have to initially, plan to take care of each household. You may have to.
10. With the additional responsibilities, you may periodically tire of the sexual benefit of multiple wives.
11. Your children deserve an explanation for your absence in the home. You should inform them.
12. Giving one wife more benefits or time will likely give her a feeling of superiority. This will come back to haunt you.
13. When you insist upon keeping your wives separate, you create doubt and lack of trust. It allows for a man to be raggedy and you know it. Don’t do it. You look like a man with poor character.

Hasan Clay, MBA, ABD and Naaila Moumaris-Clay, MS, NCC ©2017

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The Second Wife

Most of this blog looks at polygamy from the perspective of the first wife – that’s the role I’ve had and it’s most often the first wife who has issues with polygamy. A second wife should have no problems with polygamy, she chose it after all, right? Really, how can someone coming into a marriage knowing her husband is already married really complain? The words ‘homewrecker’ and ‘selfish’ often come up in conversations about second wives.

Woah! Hold on!

Yes, some of the above is sometimes the case, but polygamy is not an easy option, whatever the ‘wife order’ (which by the way, irks a lot of people because wives are supposed to be treated justly and having the 1st, 2nd etc. gives a sense that the first is somehow superior.)

From what I’ve seen, jealousy is also an issue for subsequent wives. They can feel jealous because of the stereotype in brackets above, or even because the husband has alluded or outright stated his preference. They can sense the green monster creeping up on them when they think about all that time their husband had with wife #1 before he became polygamous, and all the firsts they have together. Jealousy is something almost everyone is afflicted with at some point and just because someone chose to be in a polygamous marriage doesn’t mean they deserve less sympathy than anyone else.

Some second wives may have unknowingly become #2 and had thought they were in monogamy, until the husband plucks up the courage to reveal they have another wife, probably in another country.

Some may have difficulties finding a husband of good deen and character and the only other option is spinsterhood.

Some may want to follow the Sunnah and have overcome their nafs to go for polygamy.

Some may be in a situation such as being a divorcee or widow and also having several young children, which makes it extremely hard to find a husband (through no fault of their own but rather through the ignorant bias of their community.)

Some may just like a bit of time to themselves and find being a ‘part-time’ wife convenient to their lifestyle.

I don’t have the statistics, but going out to be a homewrecker, expecting their husband to divorce his first wife so she can have him to herself is hopefully not as common as it seems.

It does happen, but occasionally I come across stories which alter your perspective on second wifedom. Take, for example that of a sister,  let’s call her sister A, who begged her husband not to take a second wife. He complied and so the lady lined up (who was in a difficult situation, I believe widowed with young children) was rejected. Not long after, the husband died and sister A  found herself in a similar situation to the woman who could been her cowife. And guess what, sister A remarried and became a second wife herself, despite her new husband’s first wife having a hard time accepting polygamy. This first wife overcame her negative attitude to having a cowife, seeing how it could benefit a fellow sister – and of course a wave of guilt overcame sister A.

Yes, have sympathy and support those sisters whose husbands want to or have taken a second wife and find polygamy hard, but don’t assume those who become second wives have it so easy.

They often have all the struggles like anyone else and need support too.

  (Here’s a link to a book showing a different perspective of a second wife, His Other Wife by Umm Zakiyyah -worth a read! Also, check out Polygamy Unpicked’s  Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter!)

 

 

Polygamy in ‘The Color Purple’

Polygamy, especially as it’s often discussed in an Islamic context, is usually seen as an Arab institution. Of course the Prophet (SAW) and his companions were mostly Arabs and to have multiple wives, not just four, was the norm. So although jealousy is a natural part of us all, the culture around presumably made things more acceptable to most women’s minds (I have written more about culture and polygamy here.)

So it was interesting to me when reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker, that the character Samuel, who is a black Christian missionary to Africa from the US, expressed his views on polygamy.  Where they were living in Africa, carrying out their missionary duties, polygamy was also the norm. There was a feeling that the locals thought that the character Nettie was his second wife, and Samuel was not happy about this; you also get the sense his wife is jealous about this.

Later in the book, we are shown how Samuel has a mental shift about polygamy. He has observed friendship between co wives in the village where they are living and how they help each other, so that he then questions his own condemnation of polygamy.

Coming across this was interesting to me because,

  1. This showed a man who thought polygamy was wrong (I would think that most men would quietly think it was at least acceptable, if not desirable, especially if all parties are happy with the idea – even though they might publicly denounce it.) Maybe the culture of his Christian faith was a factor in cultivating the original mindset.
  1. This showed the the relationship between co wives is incredibly important in making a polygamy situation acceptable to all involved.  

Maybe for some it works to keep the wives and their children (although this is another issue, which I have written about here) completely separate, but overall from what I’ve seen, the happiest women in polygamy are those who have a great relationship with their co(s), and I wonder if the husband might even get jealous of them!

Coming across polygamy in a context other than Islamic texts or discussions, if shown in a positive way, can help those of us having been brought up or living in a non-Muslim culture involved in polygamy. It can help us move towards a feeling of normalization of polygamy, and hence an easier acceptance of sharing a husband. So although it was not at all a major theme in The Color Purple, my ears pricked up, so to speak, when I came across these small snippets about polygamy in the book and I thought I must write about this!

Seeing Jealousy from a Different Perspective

I’ve written about jealousy before in the blog here – it’s what puts most people off polygamy, and affects almost everyone in a polygamous relationship one way or another.

 

I’ve recently had first-hand experience of jealousy of a different kind – that of a child towards his new little sibling. Now I know some may get offended at their emotions involved in a marital relationship being compared to a child’s emotions on getting a new baby brother or sister, but at its heart, jealousy is the same whatever age we are. It’s how we react that is most going to be affected by age. So what have I learnt?

 

  1. Behaving badly backfires

When the older sibling acts out and maybe attacks the baby, it does not increase the love a parent has for his or her child. It takes a lot of gritting of teeth to avoid increasing the jealousy and removing the older child from the room, and a lot of pretending to be more affectionate to the older sibling when your baby is being attacked. In fact it can come to  a point where patience wears too thin and the baby does get all the attention and protection and the older child is practically abandoned due to their dangerous behaviour towards the baby.

And conversely:

  1. Being kind and affectionate to the new baby makes your parents love you more

There’s nothing sweeter to see than a toddler stroking the new baby carefully and planting a sloppy kiss on baby’s forehead. Showing care for a new sibling makes a parent want to spend time with the older child and time altogether as a family.

  1. It’s hard work trying to give the first child attention

However much you don’t want to admit it, a new baby does draw out the parental loving instincts and these sometimes have to be fought off as you try to pay more attention and show love to the older child so as to avoid this big bad beast of jealousy. This tug between the two is exhausting and feelings of guilt may crop up that the new baby is missing out somehow. That’s why point #2 has the happiest outcome for all involved in this new family dynamic – parent – first child -second, new child.

  1. In time, things usually get better, although there will always be some jealousy/sibling rivalry – this is normal.

Now I’ll translate this into polygamy terms: if a husband gets a new wife when the first is not happy about this, jealousy is going to happen – it’s a natural emotion that strikes the best of us. But if the first wife kicks up a huge fuss, is this going to help her achieve her aims – a happy marital relationship? Or will it backfire? Will her husband resent her, will he show her more attention because he feels he has to or because he wants to? How is the new wife affected? Is jealousy always going to be a major issue?

To the last question, I often thought ‘Can’t this just end? If it all goes away, this polygamy deal, so will the jealousy and so will the pain.’

But there are polygamous families out there that do work, that are happy; long-term, happiness and polygamy can be a reality I believe for those who find it hard to start with.

Insha Allah these two children I now witness as arch rivals will one day build sandcastles together, play hide and seek and stick up for each other at school.

As someone once comforted me in those early days of being in polygamy, ‘After the storm comes a rainbow.’

 

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