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.