This is post 4 by Sister H in the the polygyny series.
Unfortunately when a man marries a second wife, she comes under a lot of criticism and scrutiny. Friends and relatives of the first wife, as well as in-laws who like the first wife, tend to look at the second wife as a home wrecker This is unfair. There is no hierarchy of wives in Islaam, and she does not need to justify to anyone why she accepted a proposal to marry a married man. Western society does not necessarily see things that way though, so second wives tend to be heavily observed and judged for potential flaws, way more than first wives are when they marry and are the only wife. Therefore, many first wives are seen as victims and second wives as villains.
On the flip side, there are some second wives, as well as friends and relatives of second wives, who assume that the reason why a man is looking for another wife when he already has one, is that there is some flaw or deficiency in the first wife, and he is unhappy with her and his marriage to her. While this probably is true in a handful of situations, it is not the case the bulk of the time. Some second wives come into a marriage with an attitude that they are the prized possession whilst the first wife is being kept solely out of sympathy. This is also very unfair.
Many sisters, including myself at one point, want to marry as either third or fourth wives to avoid these stigmas. But why does it have to be this way? Why can society not realize that some women know that men are polygynous by nature, and are actually OK with it, and when they marry as the first wife, they don’t expect to be the only wife and support and encourage their husbands to multiply their family? Do we believe that it is only the Mormon women of TLC’s ‘Sister Wives’ who believe in and practice plural marriage in this way?
Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu, sister.
I am a second wife. I have been married for three years, and for 1/2 that time, we have been living in what one would term "active-polygyny" here in rural Egypt.
What makes our situation uniquely challenging is that I, like so many other American reverts, was unaware of his first wife when I married my prince charming. It wasn't until after I was in love with him and my son attached to him that I learned about her. They were an arranged marriage which was never happy on either end from day one, but nonetheless, with 20 years and 6 kids between them, and being 2nd cousins and sharing blood relations throughout the countryside, there was no way he could divorce her, as much as both would like it. So, he went to America to make dawa, mashaallah, and toward the end of his time there, he met and married me. When I learned about his wife I was devastated, to say the least. Aside from the obvious fact that I, ahving grown up in the western mindset, was (am) convinced that if a man really loves a woman he would never dream of touching another woman, there was the reality that if (when) he decided to go back to his country, I could either stay without him in my country with our baby and my son, or go with him to a strange place with people who looked at me as a home-wrecker. 20 years her seniors, white skin, blonde hair and green eyes–she hated me.
I too wished for the sort of relationship with her I saw on 'sister wives' but after a few months of trying and being continually hurt by her (for, I am sure, reasons she justifies), I had to give up. Now, she refuses my salaams, allah give her the best in this life and the next.
I make du'a for her, and ask God to keep her far away from me, and me far from her, because it's the best for us and our families and our husband.
I can only imagine both places are hard places to be in. Unfortunately many times women marry men, who they know can take a second or third wife, but think they will never do it. And when they do it, the mess starts.
In an ideal world women should be respectful of each other. After all they are in the same boat.
My friend is a second wife and she is treated badly by her husbands mom, who doesn't understand polygamy. It was his first wifes idea to have a second and it should be her job to set things straight with the mother in law… my friend is made to feel like the other woman and its not fair