I am an American Revert and never in my life thought that poligyny would have any place in my life. Subhan'Allah, it has had probably the biggest impact on my life than anything after taking shahada and the birth of my son !
I have to admit that this has been the biggest test from Allah and I am still not sure that I have passed it - but I would like to share my story because I have searched everywhere and can't find any Muslim women who are the "first" wife and are willing to share their insights.
There are plenty of women who are the second wife who talk about trying to cope with jealousy and fear, etc. The feelings that a first wife go through are different, though, I suspect. I felt jealousy and fear but I also had to struggle with feelings of inadequacy, betrayal, lonliness and loss...
Let me begin my story by saying that I became Muslimah after meeting my husband, alhamduLILAH. I found it to be the easiest and most understandable religion. In all of my studies, I never found any teaching or belief that contradicted another in Islam. Even when I studied poligyny, I thought " It makes sense. There are many proofs that it is difficult for men to stay with one woman and with poligyny he is responsible for the women. He cannot simply have an affair and go on his merry way !" However, when my own dear husband brought up his desire to add to his family by marrying, I was not thinking "It makes sense !" I was devasted... I felt like a failure. I was sure that he was sick of me. I felt guilty that I hadn't kept him happy. I hadn't been able to meet his needs and wants. I thought that he probably wanted to be rid of me but felt sorry for me and didn't divorce me.
I know all of these feelings might seem crazy to others but they were real for me. A lot of women that I shared this with told me that this is Shaitan whispering to you. That may be so, but no matter what I did the feelings didn't go away for long. I read Quran and prayed but still I didn't feel relief. I was tortured daily with the knowledge that my husband was actively searching for a new woman to meet the needs that I had failed at. Please don't assume that these needs are sexual. This was the easier thing for me to understand since I had been raised knowing that 'that's all men want'. NO, I was depressed because I felt that I hadn't been his Partner - I hadn't inspired him in his career, I hadn't made his home a place of peace, I hadn't learned to cook his favorite meals. I argued with him and ignored him when I was tired or busy. All of my inadequacies were floating in my mind from the day that he started his search.
I also had to face the lonliness of watching my husband throw himself into the tireless search. He spent hour after hour, day after day looking for the right woman. It was all done online so I mostly just saw the back of his head at the computer ! This only fueled my jealousy more ! I got angry then and began to hate him and any woman that he was considering. I don't think that my husband meant to ignore me but everything he does - he does with passion and total commitment. But I felt ignored and lonely. It was at this point that I wished and prayed that he would find someone just so that we could get on with our lives and be done with the whole idea. The problem, however, is that I never totally got past the feelings of inadequacy and fear of losing my husband and child ( I feared that the new wife would be so great that he would divorce me and have her raise my beloved son !)
I suppose that some of you are saying 'This woman is really crazy or paranoid !' I am trying to be totally honest in my feelings and thought pattern in hopes that other people in this situation ( including husbands and new wives) can understand. I hope that any first wives out there can know that they aren't bad or crazy and that these feelings can be overcome...
Well, let me continue with my story: my husband has remarried, Al hamduLilah... it did not devastate me, in fact it made me stronger. I think that an old saying is true - that Allah only gives us what we can handle. Or 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger !' During my husband's honeymoon, I decided that I had to learn to cope and live within Allah's will for my life without fear or hate. I decided that I would want what is best for my husband and accept whatever makes him happy. Afterall, isn't that the duty of a wife ?
To do all that she can to make her husband comfortable ? These new thoughts were a great relief to me but unfortunately were very difficult to keep in mind as the old thoughts would sneak their way back into my mind. Maybe this was the work of Shaitan, afterall ? I don't think that I had totally renewed my thinking because shortly after my husband's return he began looking for wife #3... and this time the woman was younger than me and had a lot of the qualities that I felt I lacked - so back came the old feelings of inadequacy and fear and anger that I had fought so hard to lose just a few weeks before.
I felt that this battle was really too much for me. I had been through this for nearly two years and I didn't think I could take it anymore ! That is when I began to distance myself from the whole idea and decide that I wanted nothing at all to do with poligyny... My husband could go and live with the other women and I would just devote my life to my son. I didn't want to feel the pain anymore. However, I knew that deep down I would always feel that pain because I would feel that I gave up or lost my husband ! I knew that I had to find some peace from this horror. I couldn't blame my husband anymore... it was obvious that the problem was my own self esteem. I began reading online about poligyny ( mostly Christian because there were no stories about Muslim first wives) and discovered that all of the women who were happy in this lifestyle were strong, happy, self- satisfied and dedicated to God. I thought to myself, " I want to be that way." I knew then that my responsibility to my husband wasn't to MAKE him happy because no human can do that for another. All that I can do is share my best qualities with him and wish for him what I wish for myself !
That second part is important because I know that I wouldn't want to be limited to only one friend or one family member to share my life with... I rely on my friends so much for advice and learning and sharing Islam and the love of Allah. What if my husband told me " You can only share your life with me." I would die because I can't imagine that limitation. I realized that my husband has always related well to women, not men. It is haram for him to have close friendships with women and he obviously misses that female connection.
Just as I would miss it if I was limited to only my husband or only one girlfriend. I began to let go of my own self doubt and realized that I was being selfish ! My self - esteem has always been low and really has nothing to do with my husband 's desires or needs. I asked Allah for forgiveness and decided that I would allow my husband to be happy without hindering or trapping him in my own fears. May Allah guide me and lead me peacefully to better feelings about myself.
Yesterday, I talked to my co-wife for the first time. She is a pleasant and interesting woman. It is no wonder that my husband liked her. She is benefitted from my husband because she was lonely and a new muslima. How selfish I was being to try to keep him from re-marrying ! I have to admit that I am not as jealous of her than the new perspective wife because she is older than I am but I remind myself when these feelings come back that I may find a new and better peace than what I have now... I just have to trust Allah and be willing to grow under His Guidance. Maybe this new wife will become my best friend or maybe Allah has plans that I can't even imagine... I just have to sit back and remember what is important in life - my submission to Allah and my dedication to Islam... Shaitan will always be around to remind me what I lack and I think that this will be the greatest test in my life - AllahuAlim
Jazaka'Allah khair to all of you who made it through this long post :) I hope that there will be many comments and stories to follow so that we may all learn and share insha'Allah. Please, feel cautious to blame my husband because I have done enough of that already ! Whatever faults he may have, they have no issue with poligyny and I would have had to go through this test of selfishness and poor self esteem no matter how perfect my dear husband had been.
Please, if you are a first wife or a maybe soon to be first wife, please share your story with me:)
Wa aleikum salam !
~A First Wife
Taken from Muslimah Inspirations.