The 5th post in the series by Sister H
When Polygymy Goes Wrong
When polygyny is practised as it should be according to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, then it is a beautiful thing. Whenever we hear polygyny horror stories, it is because at least one of the involved parties failed to follow shari’ah prescribed guidelines, or behaved in a discourteous manner.
The majority of the success in a polygynous marriage lies on the husband’s shoulders. It is up to him to appease and comfort existing wives, and to choose future wives who are compatilbe with his deen, lifestyle and already existing families. Should he do that, then even the hardest, anti-polygyny first wife can eventually come around, calm down, be at peace with and even enjoy being a part of a plural marriage. However when ego and nafs get involved, openess and transparency disappear, secrecy and suspicious behaviour come into play, then the door for discord opens widely. Yes, a husband doesn’t need his wife’s consent to marry again, and he also does not need to tell her that he’s married again, however, if you have only 1 wife and stop coming home every night, and start showing up looking and smelling as though you’ve showered and dressed elsewhere and start behaving like a reborn man in the bed, then that approach can lead you to have problems in your previous marriage. When first wives don’t know about second wives, second wives don’t know about third wives, second wives think that they are the first wife, not knowing about the existence of a first wife (and children), sometimes in another country, etc. then things can and do get messy. When husbands are unjust and unfair in their treatement of wives, with respect to division of finances and time, then problems and hurt feelings grow.
New wives often create problems in already existing marriages. Many feel that there are deficiencies with previous wives, hence the reason that the husband remarries. This attitude can wreak havoc. It is not any new wife’s business to speculate, or to entertain negative talk about the ongoings on other wive’s households with anyone. Remember that this husband is an ammanah and meant to be a wali. If he can disclose another wife’s secrets to you, then he can do the same to you with someone else. And for the record, never enter a marriage with the expectation that he is going to divorce previous wives and remain with only you.
First wives also need to remember to fear Allaah! Feeling anger, jealousy, pain and sadness is normal. Acting out trying to take revenge or cause the others to feel what you feel is not. Losing your Islaamic morals and conduct is not the solution. Hurtful and spiteful words and actions serve no beneficial purpose and do more damage in the long run. Trust that Allaah would not give you this test if He did not think that you could handle it, and pray. More tahajjud, more sawm, more Qur’aan, more of everything which brings you closer to Him! And know that Allaah will reward you on yaw mul qiyyamah if any injustices are perpetrated against you.
Any spouse who feels wronged could and should make use of your imaam and whatever other marital services which are offered by your masjid and community. Though hard, we should all try out best not to stray from the shari’ah in our conduct when facing the trials which polygyny brings.