Why Don’t You Just Get a Divorce?

Don’t like being in polygamy? Stop moaning and do something about it – you have the right to get a divorce.

That’s the gist of a comment posted by I hope a well-meaning sister about my last post. She was disgusted by the way I am apparently judging someone’s iman if they ask for a divorce and that I am apparently saying a woman has no choice but to stay unhappy in a polygamous marriage.  

Iman of course affects how someone reacts and accepts trials in their life. I’m not trying to judge someone about their faith, it’s just iman is one of many factors involved. A high level of trust in Allah (SWT) and His plan is going to help anyone through difficult periods in their life.

I specifically pointed out the ‘smell of Paradise’ hadith as this is what guided ME. No one forced me, but when I was asking Allah (SWT) for guidance when considering asking for divorce, this is what I found out in my research. I took that as a sign. I did actually have a valid reason to seek divorce – I had a ‘no polygamy unless I gave permission’ clause in my nikah contract. If someone says that that clause is not valid, then secondly things had been done behind my back which according to my urf would make that a reason for objection. But I didn’t want to chance it. For ME , akhirah is too precious to risk this.  And I was not in my normal state of mind. As I think I mentioned before, I know for sure not to make serious decisions when angry.

I also added the ‘smell of Paradise’ hadith alongside the consult a sheikh paragraph, because to recommend someone a divorce is a serious thing. Both sides of the story need to be known, and someone of knowledge and who fears Allah (SWT) rather than basing things solely on their emotions needs to assist here.

If you look back to my article ‘Polygamy is Not gonna Change‘, it shows that I felt my option of divorce was not going to bring me sakinah – peace and happiness. All it would achieve in MY case was a sense of revenge.

I would then be a single mother of six, who would be desperately missing the good times I could have been having with my husband. To find another husband in my 40s with so many children who was as great overall as my current husband would be unlikely, and there would be nothing to guarantee another man wouldn’t also want polygamy. To get married again would most likely would be only achieved through being a 2nd wife – oh the irony!

Basically, I still loved him, and he still loved me and wanted to make up for things, not do things behind my back again and altogether treat me right. Am I weak to forgive and give someone another chance? To focus on what’s good in our marriage and amplify that? To keep a family together, or to split it apart for my own ego? If things had carried on for 6 months or maybe a year and I was still finding it unbearable then maybe the divorce route could be the right decision, but often a blanket response of well-meaning people is ‘leave!’

It’s just not that simple.

How Long Does It Take to Accept Polygamy?

I’ve been asked on several occasions how long it took me to accept being in a polygamous situation. Two metaphorical pieces of string are involved here. Firstly, what is acceptance? Yes, I accept polygamy is part of Islam – how can I deny that? Whether it is ‘right’ for our family, or my marital relationship is another matter.  Basic acceptance at logical level is the first step, and shouldn’t take so long if things are being done fairly and everyone involved  is following their religion. But being happy and grateful for the change in lifestyle I think is something that will likely take a long time.

The length of the second piece of string is due to a person’s individual situation and opinions, past experiences, level of iman and many other factors – including the way polygamy is done.

I remember asking a friend in the early days, who was happily in polygamy, how long am I going to feel this bad? She replied, a couple of months. Six months later, still struggling, I asked her again and she said it could take a year. My situation wasn’t straightforward though. It involved two other cowives, a miscarriage, a failing business and what I believe took the longest to overcome – trust issues.

At the time I felt like I was occupying a dark period in my life, but at the same time, it wasn’t a 24/7 living hell. Life went on, the kids needed their sandwiches made, work tasks needed to be done. However,  I knew the daily crying sessions were not sustainable and all I wanted was to feel at peace, have sakinah. This didn’t necessarily mean that polygamy should disappear from my life altogether, although this did seem to be the obvious and quickest way back to a sense of serenity.

It is now, about two years on and no longer in that particular polygamy situation, that I appreciate a day without a pain in the stomach appearing at least once. I still get triggered by certain thoughts that randomly pop up, or other external triggers such as ‘on this day’ on Facebook, and even dreams/nightmares.

I have read about a lot of people, initially unhappy (and I put this mildly) about being part of polygamy, but in time have come to accept and maybe even thrive in it.

But what if you don’t or can’t accept it? Well then the option is to seek a divorce, which only you know is right for you and will be a better situation for you than in a polygamous one. When I myself considered this, I did take into account the hadith “If a women asks her husband for a divorce, for no reason, then the smell of paradise is forbidden for her”. (At-Tirmidhi) and I am glad I didn’t go that far. So please consult a trustworthy sheikh who may well say you have grounds for seeking khula.

So logically I am in a total place of acceptance of polygamy if it is done according to Qur’an and Sunnah with full justice and amicability between all involved. Emotionally I don’t know when that will be. Before my marriage became monogamous again due to outside factors, I felt like that the emotional acceptance would come as time goes on and the situation became the norm for me, but this would be a long process after 15 plus years of monogamy. Like someone who is used to being a couch potato, they would have a lot of painful sessions at the gym and sacrifices of their favourite foods in order to become fit and healthy. The long term benefits of a healthy lifestyle wouldn’t be noticeable for many months and the extended life expectancy wouldn’t be apparent for years. But all the initial difficulties that would have to be overcome, would in time seem worth it.

When I mentioned to someone that it felt like a period of grief when I found out I was in polygamy, someone who was fully positive about polygamy did actually agree with me. Grief involves denial and finally acceptance. We don’t expect people to get over the death of a loved one overnight, so why should anyone expect a woman not wanting polygamy to ‘get over’ her feelings in a short space of time. It may be tough for the man involved to see his wife hurt and upset, but this is likely a necessary part of the process to firstly at least logically accept things, and eventually emotionally be in place of peace.

Unfortunately there are no quick fixes to this situation – just patience, prayer and love.

Wishing these for all those having a difficult time right now in polygamy so they can feel peace again in their heart. 

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On Being Single in Polygamy

Unless you’re living with your cowife (wives), being in polygamy is actually a case of living two lives: one as a married person and the other as a singleton. This may sound negative, but when looked at with a certain attitude, I think you can get the best of both worlds.

Monogamy sits somewhere in the middle, and one could say, on the fence is a pretty boring place to be (if you let it). And being in polygamy can be a dark place to be – if you let it.

So who wants to be single? Plenty of us made a huge effort to find a partner and now you’re talking about enjoying some spinster-like state?!

Being on your own on certain nights, for many, is a new thing. Maybe some women have never had their double bed to themselves since they were married. This change – and all change is scary – can be too much for many women, especially because their husband has chosen to be away from them.

But if this is your situation and you want to stay with your husband, there has to be a way up and out of the dark hole of negativity. Polygamy forces you to be happy with your own company, forces you out of the thinking I am so and so’s wife and rather, I am me and I am going to achieve X,Y,Z. Force is a strong word, but if something breaks down the barriers restricting you discovering your potential, maybe it is necessary, like being offered food you’d always thought you’d hate and finding you actually quite like it, as you are forced to eat it out of courtesy.

Of course being in polygamy isn’t the only path to finding happiness in yourself, but when you see this positive aspect, it can help neutralize the acidity of the negative feelings that may bubble up about polygamy.

Do you realize how much time you spend on doing things for your husband? Quite a few hours no doubt, and however much you love to be there for him, you’ll now have that extra time for things for YOU. Just not expending the mental energy of whether you’ve soaked the rice or coordinating your schedule with him instead of doing things when you want, frees you up.

One sister said to me that as I’m in polygamy, I’d still be getting the same reward of being a good spouse but with half the work involved as it is shared with the other wife.

And one, l’m afraid less pleasant, side-effect that may be necessary: being used to being single I hope will cushion the blow a teeny bit if you ever lose your spouse before they lose you, either through death or divorce. We can pray these things never happen, but being strong in yourself and not reliant on someone else entirely for your happiness can only be a good thing.

Let’s hear from you in the comments or join the discussions on our Facebook page and follow Polygamy Unpicked on Twitter.