Coping with Polygamy – Part Seven: Phase III Growth/Change

treringarPhase III is the final stage of the healing process. The uncontrollable emotions that have plagued the woman throughout the ordeal are not so uncontrollable or unbearable anymore. However, in this phase the woman will experience some of the emotions but her ability to cope and manage these emotions will improve. (By Umm AbdurRahman)

Emotion: Coping – Finally the woman will attempt to deal with and overcome problems and difficulties within the marriage.

Effect: In this stage the woman will essentially face reality and stop running away from it. This is a very painful and deeply uprooting process. It becomes an everyday battle mentally, physically and emotionally.

Role: May be the longest part of the healing process.

Verbal Manifestations: Please just give me time. I am working on my view of things. I am trying everyday. You can’t help me move on, I have to do it myself.

Physical Manifestations: Intense sadness, tears and anger, reliving hurtful moments, loss of appetite, withdrawal from daily activities. (Source: Coping with Polygamy – From Monogamy to Polygamy By Umm AbdurRahman )

Fiona: Intense sadness, yes. Grief. My parents died when I was in my twenties, in a car accident. My brother died in 2011. If you look at the process here, both as described in the book and the way we lived it, the process of loosing a loved one and the process of being forced into polygamy are very much the same. I have lived it, I know. The shock, grief and reactions are the same. The sense of loss, irrevocable loss is excruciating, and in polygamy too you must mourn something that died. The father of one of my best friends killed himself. I talked to her about this, and she said that polygamy might be more actually like what she experineced. Her father chose to leave his family, just like a husband in polygyny chooses to leave his. Yeah, I agree. And we choose to live with the ghost of Banquo, because that is better than losing him altogether… So, finally deciding to try to cope is really just a matter of life going on. It’s not really that things get better, that’s bs. But we cope because we have to cope. It’s true I felt I had to do it on my own. My husband couldn’t help me, how could he? He was the one who killed himself and left me, by getting a second wife. O god, talking about this is still extremely hurtful…  I tried to get some kind of control by making demands, by trying to get a better schedule, by watching every minute you spent with her or with me to make sure I wasn’t losing out, by making sure you paid me as much as you spent on her, that kind of thing. And I decided to start my own business, to take economy classes, and that’s where I met Graham. So I moved on by moving on, not by accepting the situation. I think, had I not met Graham I would eventually have divorced, or died.

Husband: I had a sense of losing you. You were just a shadow, and I never knew what to say or do. I asked you so many times to forgive me and you just said you were trying. I was starting to understand that the damage I had done was irrevocable. I was devastated when I realized. I had thought everything would get better, I had believed polygamy could  make marriages better, more exciting and that women could like it too once they saw that their husbands wouldn’t leave, wouldn’t stop loving them.. When you decided to start your company I was happy. I thought it meant you could build a new kind of happiness, that you would come back to me and be happy again.

Husband: I felt trapped. I would wake up having panic attacks, feeling caged. Every time I left you, you would go to him and the thought was driving me crazy. How could you love somebody else, you were my wife, I loved you… But then I would realize that I love two women too… I had to leave, because I had to be there for my second wife, I wanted to make her happy, but that meant leaving you to go to him… The whole situation was emotionally impossible to handle.. But I had to cope. I couldn’t give you up. I knew that I couldn’t. When you said you loved me, that you promised to stay with me and love me even though you had a new man too, I knew I couldn’t give you up. This was hell for my #2 too, because she saw my pain, and she knew it was caused by my love for you, and that hurt her. So I was hurting in both my marriages. I coped by concentrating on matters at hand, every day little things, trying to make things seem normal. I also became very protective of my “rights” and suddenly I understood why wives in polygyny are so careful counting minutes to make sure time is shared equally, why we had to come up with rules as to how many minutes you are allowed to say good night to the other spouse on my night and so on… The need to be in control of what little you can control is almost overwhelming.. And you had always been my strength in life, whenever I had problems you would help me. But this time you couldn’t help. I had to face the music alone. I am glad I had religion. Without it I would have gone crazy. But I had to struggle with my religion too, since my religion and some of my values crash. It’s been a real struggle.

Fiona: You snapped easily. I tried to give you space, I knew you had to find your own way of dealing with the situation. I could see that you wanted to cope, that you were struggling. I had wanted to help but I also knew that I was the one who couldn’t help – you had to come to terms with the new situation in a way that worked for you. When you were able to let me go to Graham without having major fits about it, it felt like things were moving forwards.

(The text is a moderated transcription of our recorded conversation)

5 thoughts on “Coping with Polygamy – Part Seven: Phase III Growth/Change

  1. You are both so intelligent, and yet this is so impossible, so irrational. I keep asking myself, is this part of the evolution of the human species? To test ourselves, to test one another as to the limits of love? I don’t judge. I have, I face, my own impossibilities and incongruencies. And I get the way this situation keeps marital complacency at bay. Is this because we’ve lost our need for survival on a primal level?

  2. I never thought of it that way… Actually, that idea fits into another post I’m working on, so I’ll elaborate later. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂 What set our situation off was, the way I see it now anyway, that when our daughter left home to go to university, my husband used all the new spare time to join a club for arab businessmen. They inspired him to go to the mosque where he met more muslims and made friends. He started to become more religious and he was influenced by his new friends. I think also he wanted to reconnect to his cultural heritage. I suspect all of this was part of a midlife crisis. Anyway, the saudis and some other people he got to know kept talking about polygamy, how it’s a religious duty to take care of young women, marry them and guide them in islam. They also kept saying that it revitalized them to have beautiful young wives who look up to them, and that their first wives would have fits but soon get over them and enjoy competing for their husband’s favour and attention… They were feeding him crap that fitted his desires of the moment perfectly, and he just lost all sense. If you go have a look at any salafi or sunnah website you will see that they are singing the same siren song of polygamy being beautiful, spiritual and also beneficial to women…I can tell you, the awakening has been just as brutal for my husband as it was for me! Still, we have both had a choice. When I think of all the women out there who are forced by the law of their land, or by culture or by financial necessity, to stay with their husbands and live in the excruciating pain of forced polygamy, it makes my stomach turn… To me, cultures and societies that allow somebody to become polygamous without the consent of their first spouse, and without allowing the first spouse a divorce on grounds of polygamy – these cultures are committing a crime against humanity.

  3. I was forced to become a polygamist once. It was different. My husband was condemned to hell. I was led to believe that by becoming polygamist, I would somehow give him a chance to be redeemed.

  4. I read an article by him, The many wives… I read it over and over and the reality of what you must have experienced is overwhelming. I wish I could reach out, tell you I’m here, I’d love to be able to tell you how much I admire the beauty and strength that is so visible through every breath and blink you share on your blog..

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