Second wives have emotions, too!
While I’m not a second wife, I have been in contact with many of them and I can assure you that second wives encounter their own share of adjustment issues, and indeed are sometimes completely blindsided by them.
Many people assume that since most second wives entered their marriages knowing it would be a polygynous situation, they are not entitled to their share of adjustment issues. This is not only unfair, it’s downright stupid.
Every marriage, polygynous or monogamous, involves an adjustment period and goes through different stages – some harmonious, some discordant. So second marriages should be allowed that room to struggle just like first marriages. The thing is, with second marriages this is happening in the “shadow” of the husband’s experiences with his first wife. So if his first wife was more acquiescent or more domestic or more strong-willed (whatever the case), the second wife will feel she’s being compared to that. And some unwise husbands even harp on such things to their wives (“The other one doesn’t talk back,” “The other one dresses up more,” “The other one [fill-in-the-blank]”). So there may be a sense for a second wife that she has to “live up to” or “excel” her co-wife.
A second wife is also often going through the ups and downs of early marriage at a time when her co-wife is far past all that. Early marriage involves power struggles, boundary setting, cooperation style finding, etc. These things don’t usually happen in complete bliss. They are struggles. They involve conflict and emotion. Can you imagine going through all that feeling that your co-wife has already ironed it all out and is more stable in her relationship with your husband? And what if your style is completely different from that of your co-wife? Some husbands deal better with such a situation than others. Some husbands expect to behave with their second wife exactly the same way they deal with their first, and this does not always work. So sometimes second wives have a double-hard time of it because they have to find their own way and disabuse their husbands of the idea that they are a clone at the same time!
In my opinion one of the worst things second wives have to deal with is the wagging tongues of others. People who are normally kind and generous and forgiving can grow forked tongues and horns when the subject is a second wife. Not only is she accused of being a home-wrecker, but any problems she has are considered deserved, so she suffers twice. This can make for a very lonely road.
So being a second wife can be as much of a struggle as being a first wife. Of course the methods of coming out healthy and victorious are the same: du’a, sabr, and leaning on Allah. If a polygynous family can agree to meet all their challenges with humility and trust in Allah it can be the most rewarding kind of family, because it offers so much room for spiritual growth, maturity, and the gaining of wisdom.