Advice to Husbands – How to Survive Polygamy

polygamy-femaleWhile polygamy is frequently seen as benefiting the wife to the detriment of the husbands, the reality is that it’s far more difficult for the wife. She has to not only fulfil the rights of both husbands and support both families financially and emotionally, she has to juggle her time between them, settle any disputes and difficulties that arise, and all the while ensure that she’s being just and fair. For women that take Islam seriously, polygamy is a huge and weighty responsibility and it’s an arduous task to get it right. Meanwhile, each husband has no more responsibility than a monogamously married husband, and in some cases they can end up with a lot less responsibility than monogamous husbands, as they share the running of the household and help each other seeing to the needs of their wife.

Sharing love

One of the biggest fears men have of polygamy comes from a misunderstanding about the nature of love. Love is seen as something finite which has to be shared between people, so if a woman takes a second husband, it’s assumed that she must love her first husband less because of it. The truth is that love is infinite and does not need to be shared between people. Just as when a father has a second child he still loves his first child as much as ever, when a woman takes a second husband she still loves her first husband just as much. Good Muslim women who choose polygamy do so because they truly want to love and care for two or more men. If she really didn’t love the first, divorcing him then remarrying is a much easier option for her both financially and emotionally than having two husbands.

Sharing time

What you share in polygamy is your wife’s time. Nothing else. (Let’s keep this on a platonic level shall we!) Whether spending less time with your wife is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your outlook. Of course it’s natural to want to spend plenty of time with people you love, but we also need time for ourselves. On the days when she’s with her other husband, there is no benefit in sitting around missing her. Instead, treat it as a time for you, and a chance to enjoy things that married men find it hard to make time for. On your nights with her, you have a wife to share your bed with; on the other nights you get the whole bed to yourself and can snuggle up with a good book or a football match on TV and have some “me time”. Plan your evenings when you’re not with her to do things that you enjoy around the house, so you look forward to your evenings without her as much as your evenings with her.

Co-husband rivalry

Try not to see your co-husband as a rival. Instead, try to focus on strengthening your relationship with your wife. If you don’t feel secure in your relationship, then it’s only natural that you’d see the other husband as a threat. If you are sure of your relationship with your wife, then ask yourself why you feel threatened, and remind yourself of what you have. If your wife is going to love you and stand by you no matter what, then what can he take from you?

A useful piece of advice I heard from a sister is “the insecurity of the first husband is that the second husband is his replacement and she doesn’t love him any more. The insecurity of the second husband is that the first husband is her first love and she’ll never love him as much as she loves her first.” This reminds us that the other husband has his own doubts, and to see clearly what we have instead. Look at why your wife loves you and try not to dwell on what she may or may not feel about him.

No love triangles in Islam

Focus on your relationship with your wife as a single entity, disconnected from her other marriage. Islamic polygamy is not a triangular relationship; her marriage with you and her marriage with your co-husband are two separate relationships. You are not obliged to have anything to do with your co-husband, but if the two of you choose to be friends, then that’s a third and discrete relationship. This means when you’re with her, the two of you need to act like the other husband doesn’t exist. Enjoy your time with your wife and do all the same things a monogamous couple would do together. If you are friends with your co-husband, don’t discuss your wife when you’re together, and spend time with him when she’s not around.

Tackling jealousy

Jealousy is best tackled by focusing on what you have. “Jealousy is when you count someone else’s blessings instead of your own,”. If you feel jealous about anything, ask yourself if it’s over something that you really want, or whether you desire it simply because your co-husband has it. If it’s the latter, then try to forget about it and remind yourself that you don’t actually want it. If it’s something you really want, then focus on how you can get it for yourself because you would like it, not because he has it.

If it’s the relationship you’re jealous of, concentrate on building your own relationship with your wife as though he’s not in the picture. If you feel that she loves him more than you, then maybe she isn’t giving you enough attention or affection, and frame this as a problem in your own relationship that you need to talk to her about and resolve, rather than as a problem with your co-husband.

These things won’t eliminate jealousy altogether, but they should minimise it.

When things go wrong

If your wife is not dividing up her time fairly, or not fulfilling your rights in Islam then she is the guilty party so don’t blame your co-husband for this. This applies whether it’s something minor or very serious. Speak to her about the problem and tell her how you feel. If she’s a good wife, she’ll do something to rectify the situation. If she doesn’t and you’re having significant problems in your marriage because of it, then you need to go about dealing with it in the same way you would if you were monogamously married.

Marriages fail either because one partner is not fulfilling the rights of the other (or worse, abusing the other), or because the two partners are not compatible. This is the same in monogamy and polygamy. Relationships fail sometimes in spite of one or both partners putting in their best efforts.

Sometimes women try to fix a failing monogamous marriage by taking a second husband – in my opinion this is like trying to put out a fire in the living room by starting another fire in the kitchen. Other women want all the benefits of polygamy but refuse to accept any of the responsibility and end up treating their husbands very badly.  An important thing to remember is not to blame polygamy itself for the marriage failure. The failure is due to incompatibility, or one partner systematically failing to fulfil their responsibilities to the other.

Polygamy, when done according to the Qur’an and Sunnah can work and indeed be beneficial to the husbands, and it’s my opinion that it doesn’t need to be feared. We should fear Allah swt, and be good spouses to each other. We should remember to show our wife our appreciation of her and all that she does for us, and she needs to do the same for us. This is the key to a happy marriage, whether polygamous or monogamous. Insha Allah, by following the advice above, this happiness can be maintained in a polygamous marriage, despite the specific challenges this type of relationship may bring.

17 thoughts on “Advice to Husbands – How to Survive Polygamy

  1. You had me laughing so hard I had to put my coffee down. Oh how I wish a lot of men would pick up on your advice! 😀

  2. I am upset when I read this. Aren’t you afraid you will harm women who are trying sincerly to live polygamy according to Islam? You will maybe make them feel anxios and questioning the justice of their marriage and break families? What will it gain to ridicule polygamy? For us who try to find peace and stop from hurting this can cause more hurt. Forgive me for speaking honesty about this. It took me many time to find peace in my new marriage situation and sometimes I need help and I find this it makes me upset.

  3. Hello Aymina and welcome,

    I don’t mind at all that you come here and speak honestly – that’s what this blog is for! 🙂 But you see, I want to make women in polygamy question the justice of their marriage, that is one of my main objects! Islamic polygyny is unfair, unjust, discriminating, a violation of basic human rights and a crime against humanity. That is what I’m saying over and over again in different ways because I want women in islamic polygamy to question the justice of their marriage. I am not against polygamy. It can work. It can be beneficial. But only if it is equal and offers exactly the same rights and obligations to all spouses. So I am not ridiculing polygamy. I am ridiculing the notion that some people should have rights that other people don’t. I am ridiculing the notion that some people must submit to other people based on race, gender or the like.

    So I am glad you are upset. You must begin to question the justice of your polygamous marriage! Maybe it’s time even to question the fact that men should have rights over women? 😉

  4. I am showing this to hubs. Sometimes i think the problem is they forget to place themself in our position and ask How would I feel? As if it is easier for women to share i think it is not easier!

  5. Very clever way of turning things around, Fiona 🙂 It amuses me when people get all wound up when you post the usual polygyny coping advice and do it from a polyandrous view. Like Ana screaming about you being adulterous and evil and so on when all you’re doing is precisely what your husband did, what her husband did, what all of our husbands did. I posited the what-if to my husband when he took #2, what if I got another guy? Husband barely batted an eye and said “hey, if it makes you feel better, go for it”. I didn’t, had no desire to, but it was nice that if I took him at his word then I could have, and give him a taste of what it’s like….and tell him “oh, it’s “just” jealousy…it’s a man thing” as if his pain didn’t matter.

  6. 🙂 Do you think your husband really meant what he said? Or did he say it because he knew you wouldn’t?
    When my first husband became polygamous I asked the “what if” question too, and he was all “I would have respected your decision. I love you and trust our marriage so I would have been able to see the advantages..”… That tune changed 200% when he was faced with fait accompli, I can tell you!!!!

  7. My husband never has been the jealous, possessive type (kind of antithetical to the typical Muslim guy I guess), but honestly I couldn’t have cared less at the time whether he meant it or not. He sure didn’t care how I felt when he got with #2!

  8. I hear you! 🙂 It was excruciating the way the “how can you do this to me” conversations just never led to any answers. No answers I could accept or understand anyway. I read this interview, a daughter describing her father: “She is convinced that her father was a sensitive man and had guessed that he was involved with something bad. “I’m sure he was sad inside,” she recalls. “It is just a feeling. The way he was at home, the way he was with us, sometimes he looked sad when he came back from the other place.”
    She struggles to reconcile her father’s dual nature. “There must have been two sides to him. The one that I knew and then another. …”

    This is exactly the problem. These men, we love them and trust them and suddenly they do something that makes our worlds come crashing down and we can’t understand how they can live with themselves, with causing us so much pain while still wanting us to love them. I still can’t understand it.

    (No, it’s not the daughter of a polygamous father speaking. It’s the daughter of Rudolph Höss, Kommendant of Auschwitz)

  9. The sad thing is that muslim women are fed this with the breast milk in some cultures like Pakistan. This garbage is also all over the internet – I am very happy Fiona that you started this blog to show other sides of polygamy. The amount of men posting here clearly proves men are searching for facts and discussions too, maybe they are wanting to know how their wives eill react maybe they want to know the true feelings women have. It is important you show the truth and blog like Anas can not be allowed to make men believe twisted falsehoods and wrong interpretations of Islam. Even though you have had such bad experiences from Islam Fiona I believe your views are closer to true Islam than Anas. Islam is about love, harmony and respect. This is more what you stand for Fiona than Anas hate and pain mongering.

  10. I couldn’t agree more, Carmela. The sad thing is, when I was in the depths of despair and coming to the realization that #2 was there to stay and if I wanted my marriage then I had to accept it, I was floundering every which way to figure out how to cope. And part of that coping was falling for the whole bag of shit Ana and the extremist ilk was selling. It actually did help – I am nothing if not extremely good at deluding myself I suppose – but it sure wasn’t in my nature to accept all my (natural) heartbreak, anger, depression, etc were a result of a “diseased heart”….or that my gut instinct screaming how absolutely, utterly wrong this all was, was “Satan’s whispers” that I had to silence. Or to give my philandering husband a pass because, after all, he didn’t do this to me…it was all the will of the invisible dude.

    Turning to a religion that deep down I really don’t believe in was like putting a bandaid on an amputation. It didn’t last. Nor did husband’s second marriage.

  11. I found a recording program on the internet and filmed a long letter I recorded for my husband. I had it on the computer and left a note for him to watch when he came home to me.I left and sat in the library. I knew he was to come home at 6.30 so I waited until library closed at 8 and went home. I had used much from your blog Fiona and I told him things like you did in Love for your Brother and I told him my pain and I told him of the children’s pain they have told about here and I poured out everything in my heart and I talked of what it would feel like for him to lie awake knowing I was with another man, maybe trying to make a child with another man and falling in love. Everything I could think. I was afraid all evening and the hours in the library were very hard. When I came home he was waiting for me in the kitchen and he had been crying. We have had the longest talk and it was painful because he confessed he is in love with his new wife. I said he must choose I can not go on. He said now he understands that I can’t. He just doesn’t know what to do. I said he can sleep in the sofabed. Now I am alone in the bedroom and I don’t know what will happen. But I feel better now.

  12. Aymina,
    You said: “It took me many time to find peace in my new marriage situation and sometimes I need help and I find this it makes me upset.”

    So Aymina, if you believe that polygyny is correct, why would you find it difficult? I imagine that you probably have doubts. But if polygyny is for you, and you want to accept it, why would you come to this blog? Are you asking the blog owner to be someone she is not, so you can feel better and more confidant of your choices? Does the fact that Fiona has made different choices make you feel insecure about your own? If it does, then you can use the opportunity to review and recommit yourself to your chosen path, or you can find other people to associate with who do not, through comparison, undermine your choices.

    Blog associations are obviously voluntary. I suggest going to a blog that supports your beliefs, and will help you on your path. Good luck.

  13. Fearful, my heart aches for you. I know all too well what you’re going through. When my husband confessed he was in love with #2, fairly early on and before their “marriage”, it was a devastating thing to hear and really should have been the death knell of our own marriage. But we kept it together, somehow, for quite some time after that, to include their marriage and a 50/50 schedule. It was hell. #2 hated me, the feeling was mutual. We each just wanted the other to disappear.

    To this day that woman blames me for their marriage failure, calling ME a “homewrecker” though I never, not once, tried to sabotage their relationship…she sure cannot say the same. Good grief! I thought I was good at self-deluding but I don’t hold a candle to that psycho.

    I advise you to think long and hard, Fearful. If you know for a fact you cannot live polygyny, you know what you have to do. Take the bull by the horns, take control of the situation and your life and do what you need to do to get peace within yourself, whatever that may be. Don’t let husband’s turmoil be yours…sounds like he’s pretty lost as to what to do since he’s in love with the other and of course doesn’t want to lose her, or you. I’m sick of people advising us women how to make the husband’s burden easier, when the husband is the one who got himself into the mess to begin with. In my opinion, he deserves every ounce of misery he’s in. YOU don’t!

  14. “You will maybe make them feel anxios and questioning the justice of their marriage and break families?”

    This is not because of anything Fiona said, this is because their marriages are unjust.

    Fearful (but hopeful), I hope you are fine.

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