Big Faith

The show is called Big Love but polygyny really takes Big Faith

Am I normal? (some common feelings of first wives)

emotion-grap.png(Disclaimer: I am speaking in this post primarily about women who entered polygyny knowingly.)

No matter what you feel as a co-wife at any given moment, almost everyone wonders, “Is this normal? Am I crazy to feel this way? Am I a bad Muslim if I feel this way?” Some people will make you feel as if weak iman is what causes various emotions. But be assured that emotions are just that – feelings – and no emotion can make you a bad Muslim. In fact, if we didn’t have those emotions, we’d already be perfect and not human, and there would be no point to this dunya! Also be assured that most co-wives’ emotions run the entire gammut at one time or another!

Most importantly, it is completely normal for your emotions to fluctuate and bounce all over the spectrum from one second to the next (this is true about second wives as well, of course. I’ll talk about second wives’ emotions in another post). The adjustment to being a co-wife is somewhat like loss, because you’re changing your previous identity and role. So you may feel horrified, grieved, betrayed, sad, excited, angry, hopeful, afraid, indignant, relieved, impatient, all in one day! Often your “state of acceptance” is very black and white: either your’re completely fine with it (one minute or one day), or you’re completely falling apart (the next minute or the next day!). Another pendulum swing is from wanting to rise to the occassion, greet your co-wife with graciousness and take polygyny head-on in a positive manner, to wanting to crawl into bed and cover your head, never greet your co-wife at all, and jump off a cliff rather than face life in polygyny.

Most first wives experience a lot of self doubt. “Why am I not enough for him?” A close relative of this emotion is its polar opposite, “What’s wrong with him that he can’t be satisied with one good woman??” Seek refuge with Allah from shaitan whenever you feel these emotions, because, while normal, if you dwell on it it can cause a lot of misery. Remember, “IF” is a door for shaitan.

The rockiest time as far as pure adjustment goes usually lasts about a month or so, and that is a healthy amount of time. One sister, Zainab, reported with a chuckle, “I cried for three weeks straight. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I did nothing but lay on the bed and cry. Then, after three weeks, my husband said, ‘OK, girl, that’s enough crying. Come on,’ and I stood up, dried my eyes, and didn’t return to that state. Things just seemed manageable.”

Incidentally, these emotions are normal even for women who were completely OK with the polygyny concept, and who may have even encouraged their husbands to marry another wife. When the reality comes closer, fear and doubt sometimes set in, and the emotions do tend to runneth over! But this is most usually a temporary state. After the knot is tied, the drama is past, and things have a chance to settle down into a routine, the adjustment is easier. One sister said, “All kinds of people told me I was crazy and that after the deed was done I’d regret it. They said, ‘Thinking about polygyny is one thing – the reality is another completley.'” I kept saying, “If they would just hurry up and get married, I’ll be fine.  And once they did, I was.” So don’t let other people make you doubt yourself by pushing their own emotions onto you.

As time goes on, the adjustment to polygyny progresses and your issues and emotions change. You may have issues with friends who either stubbornly invite one wife and not the other to parties, or who treat you as connected at the hip, always assuming that one wife will tell the other about the party and that they’ll both feel equally invited that way, which is not the case. You’ll turn your attention to dealing with your families’ reactions to your polygynous marriage, and the affect their reactions have on the respective marriages. There will always be challenges, but many sisters report that they are worth it. Sister Zainab now says, “Polygyny is difficult, but I like the independence it has given me now. If something happened and I had to go back to monogamy, I wouldn’t want to.”


April 17, 2007 - Posted by | Coping with polygyny, faith, Islam, marriage, Muslim women, polygamy, polygyny, religion


  1. OR… you could just not accept such a horrible thing and oppose polygamy

    Comment by salahudin | April 17, 2007 | Reply

  2. Ahhhh, but that’s the point. Polygyny is not, by definition, a terrible thing.

    Comment by juwayriah | April 17, 2007 | Reply

  3. it is, by definition, a terrible thing.

    i offer your own article detailing the pains and misery of women as evidence of the bad consequences of polygyny.

    Comment by salahudin | April 18, 2007 | Reply

  4. Hmmmm. By that criterion there are a lot of terrible things in the world! Childbirth, for one. It sure causes a lot of pain and misery – even death. Olympic training is another terrible thing. More pain and misery and often injury. If pain and misery are the parameters, my children could write you a whole novel on why homework is a terrible thing. The wise man with Prophet Musa scuttled a boat and killed a child. Terrible, terrible things.

    The thing about life is that we, as finite creatures, can’t always recognize what is a terrible thing and what isn’t. We might look at a situation and say it is terrible, seeing only the surface or the present. Whereas Allah, knowing the depth of blessings it might bring us and/or the blessings that will follow from it in the future, knows it is not a terrible thing.

    Polygyny is a trial, like any marriage is (especially for the wife) but whether or not it is a terrible thing is up to the people involved, just like any marriage.

    My posts about the pain and misery of polygyny are related to husbands who sin by marrying behind their wives’ backs. Polygyny entered knowingly can be an adjustment but it does not have to wind up as a terrible thing.

    Comment by juwayriah | April 19, 2007 | Reply

  5. “It sure causes a lot of pain and misery – even death”

    indeed! furthermore, only a foolish woman would PURPOSELY WANT to go through child birth if the norm was to not have to go through it in the first place… 🙂

    “Olympic training is another terrible thing.”

    The thing about Olympic training is that no one makes a decision for you that hurts you, unlike in the polygyny.

    “The thing about life is that we, as finite creatures, can’t always recognize what is a terrible thing and what isn’t.”

    didn’t we do just that?

    “Polygyny entered knowingly can be an adjustment but it does not have to wind up as a terrible thing.”

    I suppose if everyone’s okay with it then that’s their choice… although it IS common sense to oppose the propaganda that “one OUGHT to be OKAY with polygyny”… it’s like saying one should be okay with your loved one stabbing a stilleto in your heart every now and then…

    Comment by salahudin | April 19, 2007 | Reply

  6. Good points! Although the analogies can be taken further. For example, these days it is actually the norm to avoid experiencing pain in childbirth. That does not mean that that is the best or most healthy way to give birth. It’s not. Natural birth with no narcotics or epidural is the safest and most healthy style of birth for both mom and baby. So while avoiding pain is possible, it is not advisable. Childbirth is a spiritual time and a spiritual act, as well, and deciding to watch TV in painless oblivion instead of concentrate on the miracle at hand is to cheat onesself.

    Actually, I think you and I are on the same page about polygyny. I contend that to marry on one’s wife secretly, or to do so and then spring it on her, is sinful and abusive. To be married upon is indeed a terrible thing, and should that happen, there is no blame on a woman if she should leave her husband.

    My point is that more women should consider the advantages of polygyny on their own merits instead of jumping to the conclusion that any polygynous marriage would be terrible. Because the advantages are many and varied and cannot be found in a monogamous relationship. I do NOT mean that women should just accept being forced into polygyny without warning or being treated unfairly after the fact.

    Comment by juwayriah | April 19, 2007 | Reply

  7. Even with how my experience with Polygyny was sprung upon me….I do admit that polygyny is NOT the problem….it is my husband’s practice and interpretation of it….there is a difference…

    Comment by safaseeknsolace | April 19, 2007 | Reply

  8. Assalamu alaikum,
    I’ve been happily married now alhamdullillah for 6.5 years and we are having trouble getting pregnant. He loves kids and wants them so much, and his family is pushing him to take another wife. I can’t really oppose him or them, because this is a very legitimate reason for taking a second wife. I feel like I don’t have a choice and no matter how good I am it’s not enough. I am having a really hard time dealing with this. I know I could handle it, but I don’t want it! I’m so confused right now. I still have hope that I could get pregnant since I had a miscarriage in May. I just don’t want him to give up on me. I’d appreciate any advice you could give me.
    Maha (

    Comment by Maha Abdo | November 14, 2007 | Reply

    • uhktee your feeling a legitimate, but please do relax… if you stress and get upset it will be harder to conceive! remember that Allah would never give you something you could never handle. i say embrace the idea! speak to him, he surely loves you enough to want the best for you. so also desire the best for him. be good to him so that he can intern be good to you. i wish you the best!

      Comment by uhktisharee | April 20, 2010 | Reply

  9. Asalaamu Alaikum.
    Sister I am trying to get untouched with first wives who agreed to or even initiated the decision to take a second wife.
    Please could you send me their contact details if they don’t mind – or ask then to contact me?
    Jazak-Allahu khayr
    Sarah x

    Comment by mindponderings | March 27, 2013 | Reply

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