Saturday, January 29, 2011

Polygyny - Realistic Expectations?

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Often the subject comes up about why single, childless women marry into polygyny. I often wonder if men seriously consider how important it is to portray the reality to the prospective wife. We hear so many stories of someone marrying a married man and then complaining or disliking certain aspects that were obviously going to exist from the beginning.

Why is it important for the prospective wife to know about the current wife and her views on polygyny? Because if the current wife doesn't accept polygyny, she needs to know. She needs to know from the outset that there is an issue of weak emaan, which WILL be a source of fitna and problems. It may just be contained by the husband, meaning that he doesn't allow her to slander, backbite, harass, or interfere in the second wife's life. However, it will take it's toll on the husband because he will have to handle all the stress and conflict in his home. If it isn't containable, then the next wife needs to be prepared for an onslaught of fitna. Not fun, not easy, and not necessary.

Whenever I considered polygynous proposals, one question I always asked early on was how the existing wife felt about it all. If I were to even consider it for second, I'd have to know she was all right with it. If I were to continue down that path, I'd have to meet with her prior to even praying istikhara so I had a clear idea what I was getting into and so did she. I am definitely a proponent for meeting each other beforehand. As a first wife, much of the discomfort and unease about polygyny comes from the unknown. Seeing the reality of your prospective co-wife can put many hearts at ease, because if she is truly good, you will not fear her and you will have an optimism from the beginning, based on reality, that you can make it all work. On the flip side, if she really doesn't seem genuine or a good fit, then at least there is a chance for both to realize that and perhaps warn the husband before it is too late. Worst case scenario if you have reservations about her, at least you can set up ground rules, take precautions, and be on your guard from her fitna.

The biggest factor in women's expectations of polygyny is the men. Men need to be REAL. It really doesn't help in the long run to sugar coat things. Tell the prospective bride how it will really be. Tell her, "You are going to sleep alone every other night. You are going to eat alone a lot of the time. You will have to find beneficial things to occupy your time and draw closer to Allah. My children take priority...because they don't have to share me.You will not have more time, more preference, or more money that the other wife. Do not imagine that I am only having marital relations with you or only find you attractive. I am still her husband. Just as you and I are an "us," so are her and I...and we've been an "us" for some years!   You will have to respect her just as she will have to respect you. Never speak badly of her, because she is my wife.

My husband told me that one highly recommended prospect for marriage was almost about to go through with it and suddenly one day said she'd just realized she would sleep alone every other night! What was she thinking all along? This, and so many other events that take place after the nikah, lead me to think that prospective additional wives, especially the single ones, are simply not looking at the big picture realistically.
I think that being honest with them and giving them a realistic idea of what their life will be like, will help them make an informed decision and also prevent a lot of marriages that are destined to fitna and failure.

I wonder if men spend so much time trying to promote the positives of polygyny, because they want it so badly, that they pass by the aspects that aren't every woman's dream. It appears that they often only promote the positives to themselves as well and are ill-prepared for the realities that polygyny holds for them, too. It is omissions like those that come back and bite everyone in the bottom!


  1. Great post, indeed some of these things arent 'seen' until after.

  2. Mash Allah! I also wonder how do men feel, when the newness wears off. When she has kids and busy attending to them. When she isn't just sitting around the house waiting for him to come home. I think they eventually become burned out, and they are still shifting between two homes etc....

  3. I think its a combination of a few things. 1. Men focusing on the good parts/benefits 2. New person may think they are coming in and can regualte or replace the 1st wife. 3. the man new to polygamy and not really having realistic expectations himself. But people need to keep it real. But i do not agree with the week iman of why the 1st is not accepting or "ok" with it. Guess we will agree to disagree on that one.

  4. @Sweetlikechocolate, I think that you can bring more perspective to this because you are one who went into polygyny as a single sister. Don't you think that a more realistic portrayal would have helped you and better prepared you for the reality?

  5. Umm Salwaa: I think that it is more work for the men than they usually think it will be. I also think that if they don't develop a strong relationship with the subsequent wives they will find themselves less and less happy and more and more busy and weighted by responsibilities. The time, the energy, the parenting, the's a lot. That's why it is more satisfying for men when they want to raise and support two families, because although it is hard work they feel validated by it all. They thrive off being needed and helping more than one woman/family. When it is purely physical, there may be a gradual lessening of satisfaction once the novelty wears off and/or the babies come. Either way, I would really love to know how well the reality matches up with what the men think it will be like. Now that would be a fascinating read!

  6. @Jaiyana. Yes, mashaa'Allah, good observations. Number 2 is the one that speaks volumes about the importance of the man being real and telling her that the first one isn't going anywhere and still has his love, etc.

    As for the existing wife/wives not accepting polygyny being a sign of weak emaan, how isn't it? If any Muslim does not accept Allah's decree, seek His guidance, and fear Him in their actions then isn't their emaan weak? I didn't say that if she faces polygyny, seeks Allah's guidance, and then walks away from it that she has weak emaan. I said if she doesn't accept saying, "No, I don't deserve this and I'm going to make a stink about what Allah has sent to my life." After all, you are in polygyny and you didn't wish for it but mashaa'Allah, you are handling it and learning from it! You have accepted it as part of Allah's Plan for you and you are trying to deal with it in a way that pleases Him. You take it one day at a time, but you are winning your battles with shaytaan and you have grown immensely from the start of it all, mashaa'Allah! That is good emaan, and may Allah bless you in it and increase it for you - ameen!

  7. @ Jaiyana - I think 'accepting' polygamy has A LOT to do with one's personal circumstances. For example, if you are still young and likely to remarry, or are working and can support yourself, you might think you can easily be happier on your own. Although I don't doubt the imaan of some sisters who have accepted polygamy, I have yet to see a young, financially secure woman that decides to stick it out. Even women who are obviously NOT RELIGIOUS at all, accept polygamy because they are too old or can't support themselves.

  8. Ahh words of wisedom! I really do agree, and like this post. Sooooo true I agree sometimes second wives may have a unrealistic vision of how her marriage will be with her already married, (and in love) husband. If the brother is trying his best to spend time with his children, first wife, and second then their will not be so much free time just for him, and her. The husband absolutely plays a part in buttering up the women who is coming in to the marriage. But you have to be realistic especially if you're marring a man who already has a family. You have to be okay with his family if you expect to stick around. Your honeymoon period may only be the 3 days after the Nikah. Maybe the husband and the second wife both so badly want to be together, that they only allow themselves to see the positives. When life returns to "normal" and people are seeing "all glitters aint gold" then it's a new day.

  9. Umm Assad, glad you liked this one, LOL! I think that the motives of prospective second wives really need to be examined. I also think that a good dose of reality will put many off, especially those who think that they are going to be his top priority or he'll be doing backflips to be with her and keep her. It can be deceiving for them, because men are so attentive in the chase and shower so many compliments, that they think it will all be the same afterward. I imagine that nearly everyone who enters into polygyny - both husbands and subsequent wives - finds the reality to be quite different from the idea they formulated.

  10. Well without going into detail, my situation is a little different to the normal poly situation, so if what you wrote above had applied to me, as a 2nd wife i would NOT have accepted.

  11. @Sweetlikechocolate, I hear you. I was only thinking of it in terms of preparation for the fitna from the first wife...not anything regarding the rest. Mashaa'Allah, it is a blessing that your situation is a little different, wa al hamdul'Illah. May Allah bring you all every closer to his pleasure - ameen. Jazaaki Allahu khayran!

  12. This is a very insightful post!

    One thing that surprised me and I thought was awesome about you and your husband's situation is that your husband's children, your step children, stay with your husband as he moves back and forth between yours and his other wife's home. I don't know why I was surprised because it is as it should be, after all they are his children that he has custody of - they are not yours (although in many ways, I am sure they have become yours in love). But I think many men would leave that responsibility with the first wife so that he could have alone time with the new wife - at least at first.

    Was your husband's new wife prepared for that reality? Even if it was talked about before - I can only imagine what kind of adjustment she must be going through with the reality of living it. Not only does she have a new husband she has to get to know and is in the "newlywed" stage with, along with splitting him and his time with his other wife and children, but her newlywed stage time also includes two time consuming children and all that comes with them. Can anyone really be prepared for that kind of reality? lol

    Do you think your husband really factored all of "the reality" of his children going back and forth with him and how that might impact them along with his new relationship with her?

    It is all very complicated isn't it!

  13. CM - LOL! Yes, very complicated indeed!

    I read this to my husband, who replied, "I told her, but it didn't seem to sink in. I think the reality of it smacked her in the face. In addition, our expectations of behavior and manners, and discipline of the children, are foreign to her. I guess in the back of her mind she was thinking that they might end up staying here. I explained that it wouldn't be fair to either wife for them to stay with just one."

    So, yes after the 3 day period, in which he still dropped in to check on us and see how we were doing, we started the daily rotation and off they went! Definitely makes one wonder how realistic her expectations were.

  14. lol tbh i think the reality of everything only sets up AFTER marriage, before a lot of things are 'ok'.

    As for the step kid rotation, husbands kids have given me a hint of the food they like and the youngest very nicely asked if i will let him sleep with us (!!) and he really meant it lol

  15. Mashaa'Allah, Sweetlikechocolate! That is so cute!

    Yes, all that romance at the prospect of marriage equates to very big over-sized rose colored glasses BEFORE marriage and lots of okays.