Jealousy is extremely painful.
In polygamy, jealousy is, I’d say, unavoidable,
If you are forced into polygamy, the jealousy, betrayal, pain and sorrow could actually kill you. Even if you manage to survive, the pain will never really go away, you just learn to live with it. But even if you want to live polygamy, even if you have entered into it with open eyes, accepting or even embracing it, it will be painful. Jealousy will become part of your life, and sometimes, maybe when you least expect it to, it will show up like a migraine, turning your life into blazes of agony.
So, how does one learn to live with polygamous jealousy? How do we manage?
One thing I know now is that jealousy can be lived through, dealt with, faced, contained or run from, but it can not be managed. It’s simply not to be managed.
There are different kinds of jealousy. Many times, jealousy is irrational, based on low self esteem, insecurity, fear of losing somebody. But in polygamy, we know that our jealousy is rational. Our partner IS making love to somebody else, falling in love with somebody else, building a life with somebody else, comparing us to somebody else, giving things that used to be ours to somebody else. So jealousy in polygamy is rational. Remember that when people tell you women get jealous when their husbands marry another woman because they are emotional and irrational. No! We get jealous because we are rational!
You can find islamic websites where scholars claim that polygyny for the first wife means gaining something, not losing. They mean that she will be gaining a sister wife, rewards for being patient and obedient, and a husband who is growing in deen because he is providing for plural wives. Well, ok, I won’t even go there.
What they don’t dwell on is the fact that the first wife loses out on half the rest of her life with her husband, half a father to her children, half the moneys the family used to have- maybe they were planning on sending their children to a public school but now they’ll have to go to a comprehensive instead. AND – she is losing out on being able to share secrets with her husband, trust her husband to always put her and her children first, everyday talk without being guarded about what to ask and what to say. She is also losing out on half the sex, instead she will know that he will be carrying bacteria from his second wife to her bed, acari and body fluids, no matter how carefully he does ghusl. She will have to imagine him having sex with the other woman all the nights she is spending alone at home. Not only having sex, but making love – building and sharing love by sharing the intimacy of lovemaking. It is rational to be jealous!
But it might not be rational to let jealousy eat you up.
In the early stages of polygamy, I used to wallow in images of my husband with his new woman. I would lie in the dark and let the images of the two of them together swallow me. It’s excruciatingly painful, but you know I believe it’s good. A lot better than brushing it under the carpet or making yourself believe that their love must be platonic. After a while the brain simply tires of coming up with new images. You start being able to slowly begin thinking of other things too. You get through it. In a way, you simply bore the sexual jealousy to death.
I admit though that I had not been able to let my husband back into my bed before I met Graham. I couldn’t stand the thought of letting him touch me with traces of her on his skin, kiss me with traces of her in his mouth, invade my body while I had images of him with her in my head. When I first made love to my husband again after he became polygamous, I had traces of Graham on my skin and images of our lovemaking in my mind. That’s what enabled me to make love to my husband again.
Even now, I still have to live with jealousy. I can tell that my first husband misses his #2. He’s a scribbler, and sometimes I find things he has scribbled while talking with her or Skyping with her. I hate those jottings that show me he is part of another love, another marriage that means he doesn’t always prioritize this marriage. If he had children by her, I think this kind of jealousy would be unbearable. The way I cope is simply by reminding myself he has granted me the same right to prioritize somebody else. I think this is where muslim women instead go for the “focus on allah” deal. Well, if it helps.
Another important thing has been to let each other know what hurts the most. Tell the spouse what things set your jealousy going. Not all of them, because many things can’t be avoided, but the things that hurt like knives in your heart and can be avoided. Things like mentioning her without warning, things like answering texts in front of you, smiling at what she wrote, things like suddenly introducing new things in bed that will make it apparent he tried it with her. Communication is a must, and your spouse MUST respect these pleas for consideration. If not, it’s time to leave.