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!