One thing that seems to be a commonly quoted issue with polygyny is that one wife has it better than the other. It is often the view that the second wife comes along and gets the easy life, compared to the first wife. Often the first wife has been the one to help establish a home, been patient with financial matters, and helped to mold her husband into the man he is by the time the second wife comes along. The first wife can be left feeling that the second wife gets more money (because she married the husband when he was better off), an easier life, and is benefiting from all the improvements in the husband that came about as a result of those hard early years. However, there is so much more to it than that and as a first wife I can honestly say that the grass isn't greener on the other side, it's green on both sides.
I know I've written before about some of the benefits of polygyny, but here I want to do a real-life analysis of my thinking regarding the situation of a 40-something first wife (me), a 20-something co-wife, and what we represent to our 40 year old husband.
- I married a man of similar age (well actually he is 5 years younger) because I wanted someone as active and energetic as I was. Co-wife has married a man 12 years her senior, so she has someone with maturity, education, and the potential for financial security.
- Hubby and I have been raising our family for the past 8.5 years, and our children have, for the most part, enjoyed the benefits and stability of having a full-time father. I have had 8 miscarriages (al hamdul'Illah) in the past 2.5 years, so I am not expecting any more children, Qadr Allah, mashaa fa'al. Hmmm....no more morning sickness, hormonal pregnancy mood swings, discomforts, afterbirth and newborn baby exhaustion....I guess I can cope with that, LOL. I am heading towards menopause within the coming ten years, when I will no longer have any "time off" for prayer or marital relations. Co-wife has a good 18 or more years of fertility, so she can offer hubby a fresh, young body and mind with many children - perhaps 12 or more, to be realistic. Children are such a joy that hubby will be strongly tied to his new family and perhaps more enamored with them, as the novelty of someone new and having sweet babies to hold again will be quite irresistible.
- On the other hand, our youngest child is 4.5 years old, so we are starting to reap the benefits of our children being more independent. I have more time for personal interests, learning and development, and quality interaction with the children now that I am no longer preoccupied with breastfeeding, changing diapers, and potty training. As the children grow older, we have increased freedom to enjoy vacations, outings, and activities...even some outings without them. For his new young family with Co-wife, he will be kept on his toes and need plenty of energy. However, there will be far less freedom and one-on-one time, once the babies start coming.
- In our home, there is less housework, as the children are assigned chores and many of the time-consuming daily tasks are delegated. It will be several years before any chores can be delegated in Co-wife's home, unless she delegates to hubby = ).
- I know my husbands faults and weaknesses, have come to terms with them, and have found a way to handle them wa al hamdul'Illah. It's nice to have gotten through that tough stuff. Co-wife still has all that ahead of her. Co-wife has all the newness of marriage and getting to know her new husband, with language limitations early on (She only speaks Arabic, hubby's native tongue is English and his Arabic is limited.)
- She has to make a life for herself, structured around her time allocation. Our life is relatively unchanged, except we perhaps see him slightly less. Our household doesn't revolve around him being here, and there are too many of us to be lonely, lol.
- I may, bi ithn Illah, grow old with my husband comfortably, sharing similar experiences and enjoying a similar level of maturity due to life experiences and age compatibility. Our home is a place for hubby to relax in relative peace. I enjoy the depth of a relationship that has been established for years and the closeness that going through so much in life and raising children brings. I am still a place for hubby to find his comfort, talk about things freely, eat familiar and favorite foods, and enjoy my humor and the familiarity we have. I am the one who shares the same dream with hubby of having land and living the Sunnah. We have spent years discussing, researching, and planning for it. Co-wife will offer hubby a home without children, just pure adult freedom, initially. Hubby will be able to start things as he wishes to continue. He may "train" Co-wife to do the things he particularly likes...especially those things I don't or won't do. Later on, it will be a home with babies, young children and different atmosphere to enjoy and appreciate.
- As for practical matters, I will get more of my needs taken care of, as I was the always the wife who didn't ask for things, didn't go shopping, didn't spend unless seriously warranted, and only bought from thrift shops. Although I am fine as I am, the financial division and fairness will mean that more will be allocated for me inshaa'Allah. Hubby has to set up home with Co-wife. In addition, things like long overdue doctor's appointments will finally be made, inshaa'Allah. Co-wife will have appointments for pregnancies. Hubby will have to ensure fairness and good treatment of both wives.
- Hubby's two children from a previous marriage,will now have two step-mothers and the responsibility of raising them can be shared.
- Before retirement age hits, all our children should have finished school and whatever arrangements for higher education taken into account and planned for, inshaa'Allah. I will have more time for my studies, taking care of myself, and to sleep early and wake up fresh, inshaa'Allah. All of Co-wife's children will have a middle aged father, with a large age-gap. The youngest will just be entering higher education when hubby hits retirement age. The older ones may not be ready for higher education until hubby is between 60 and 75 years old. The risk of their father dying while they are still young is high, and Allah only Knows.
- Co-wife is embarking on a family life, with pregnancies, child raising, schooling, with all the joys, blessings, hard work, and time that it entails. She will have Hubby's support through her different developmental stages and his maturity will be reassuring, inshaa'Allah. I am well down the road with the child raising, schooling, and blessings of marriage and family. I give Hubby support through his developmental stages ;P
So as you can see, the grass is beautifully green wa al hamdul'Illahi Rabbil al ameen!