Phase II – Self Anger/Self Doubt
Phase II is marked by the woman shifting the focus off her husband to herself, questioning her ability as a wife, lover and mother. Interestingly enough, it is during this phase that she decides to either persevere and move past the negativity, or if she will no longer continue in the marriage.
Emotion: Failure – The woman will feel lacking and inadequate, causing her to feel as if she has failed her husband.
Effect: The woman will examine her behaviour, language, sexual performance and household, and try to find some flaw and reason for the situation.
Role: The length of time the feeling of failure will last depends on if the failure is imagined or real. If it is imagined then it will pass easier.
Verbal Manifestations: What could I have done differently? I could have changed. Why didn’t you warn me? Tell me what you want and I’ll do it.
Physical Manifestations: Sadness, self anger, lethargy
(Source: Coping with Polygamy – From Monogamy to Polygamy By Umm AbdurRahman )
Fiona:I don’t know. Well yes, there were times when I wondered what I had done to deserve being forced into polygamy. But these thoughts were only ever very occasional, and not very strong. I think maybe, for self doubt to be a strong sentiment in dealing with polygamy, you have to have some kind of inner feeling that your partner might have been right in becoming polygamous, that he had a right to do this to you. This is where the Stockholm syndrome sets in! If you can justify his action, you will be able to submit and become a victim of Stockholm syndrome, whether you think he is justified because allah or someone has permitted him to become polygamous, or whether you justify it with you own failings doesn’t really matter.. I never could justify to myself what my husband did. So my rage and hurt was always directed at you, and your new woman. I suppose this was where I started to differ from muslim women who are taught to consider themselves a degree below men, bound to submit and enslave themselves. But lethargy is true. Many days I couldn’t get out of bed. I just lay there, letting my imagination and jealousy rage inside…If my husband was with me or with his new woman didn’t really matter. You coming home didn’t help or make things easier, quite the opposite. I didn’t have the strength to cope with noticing little changes is you, your trying to avoid my noticing when you texted each other, that kind of thing. I just wanted it all to stop. I don’t really know if it’s true that this is when I decided to stay. I remember it more like a day to day struggle with whether to live or die….I it weren’t for the children, I do actually believe I could have killed myself at that time.
Husband: I was really really scared, seeing the state you were in. It was torture. Every time I had to leave I was afraid you would do something stupid when I was gone, that I would never see you again. Had your parents been alive, I would have asked them to stay with you, or your brother hadn’t he been so ill. The children of course hated me and blamed it all on me, so I couldn’t talk to them and I wouldn’t have wanted to put any burden on them anyway. I felt so guilty, so sad. Some of my arab friends said that this was tactics, that women do this to send their husbands on a guilt trip for becoming polygamous. My new wife too, said you were doing this just to make things difficult for her and for our marriage. So sometimes I tried to be firm and I was really angry with you. But I could tell it wasn’t a game really, it just made me feel better believing it was. I handled it by escaping to my new wife. I could be happy there, in love and everything was easy. I dreaded going home. The time I tried to talk to you, and you described the visions you had of me and my new wife, of our being intimate, I still think that was one of the worst moments in my life. It felt like you were pouring down melted led down my throat, into my heart. I never thought you would be picturing us, I didn’t think you were picturing sex that way. It hurt like nothing I can describe when you forced me to face images of you with another man. Those images came back to haunt me, I can tell you! I felt immense self anger at that time. If I had been able to see any honorable way out of my second marriage right then, I think I would have opted out. But I was really in love with my second wife. This phase was real torture, just thinking about it makes me feel sick.
Husband: Self anger? YES! Definitely! I mean, I knew for sure that you would never have become polygamous if I had stayed your husband only and full time. I knew I had brought this upon myself. But I turned my anger towards you too. You chose to go out and meet another man, have feelings for him, betray me.. But all the time, I knew that this happened because I wasn’t there, because I had hurt you, because of everything I had done. I hated myself. I took it out on my second wife too. I felt that if I lost you completely it would partly be her fault because she sometimes tried to turn me against you. I felt lonely with her because I couldn’t talk about what was hurting me. I hated myself very much at this time. I took it out on both her and me by staying at our house when you were with your new husband instead of going home to her. I kept calling you because I wanted you to see I was calling from our home phone, to see that you were the one doing the deserting. And I begged you to tell me what to do to make you leave him, come back to being only mine. I felt I was a failed husband since I hadn’t been able to keep both my wives happy and satisfied, the way other men said they could. I felt weak. At other times I thought I’d divorce you, you had cheated on me, hurt me, been with another man.. One time I was really angry, thinking about how to lash back, and I suddenly realized that I had been thinking “She won’t get away with trying to treat me like a woman” That really made me stop short. I mean, a have never thought of myself as a sexist, I didn’t understand where that thought had come from. But it made me see some truths about myself, and who I was, and what I didn’t want to be. And yeah, I guess that was when I decided I didn’t want a divorce.
Fiona: I was prepared to let you go, but somehow I never really thought you’d want a divorce. It made me very angry though when I tried to comfort you by saying some of the things you had told me in the beginning, that I loved you just as much, that sharing is good, that you should love for your brother what you love for yourself, things I thought you had said because you believed in them. As it turned out, you only believed in them where I was concerned, you didn’t believe you should share or love your brother… That disgusted me. I knew you were going through hell, and I felt sorry for you. But I also felt we had a chance now to find each other again, because you would have to do some soul searching! I tried to be really patient with you and your moods, never to throw in your face that you did this to yourself in a way. I tried to be normal, to pretend nothing had happened, that life together was normal. I wanted you to see that I was still there, still loving you. That my marriage to my second husband would not change anything between you and me, except for some minor practicalities..
(Texts are moderated transcriptions of our recorded conversation)