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As a Second Wife, I’m Not Being Treated Equally

Questioner

A

Reply Date

Jun 02, 2018

Question

As-salamu `alikum.

I got married for the second time in Ramadhan last year. I knew this guy for a while. I also knew he was married and had a first wife. When he proposed to me, I was against it as I knew he wouldn't be able to handle the two of us. Anyway, since we got married, all we have done is arguing. His family knows about us, but they think it's not a marriage. Please read my message carefully and advise me as the situation is tearing me apart.

When I got married, I asked my husband to let the first wife know (as from my understanding he has to ask her permission). He said to me she was aware and had agreed. Secondly, when the Imam conducted our nikkah ceremony, we had witnesses, but he did not bring the marriage certificate book. Since then, I've been begging my husband to get the marriage certificate, but he is always talking himself out of it.

Recently, our arguments have escalated as his first wife and I had good communication; however, the other day she twisted my words and told him which he took quite badly. He came over to my house. I explained that it was not what I had said and even showed her message, but he still didn't believe me. I have now had enough; I've compromised a lot already. He never eats in my house; he never has taken me out. He asks for money, but the most upsetting for me is that he only stays around two nights a week. His first wife can drive, his two sons are 14 & 15; they are capable to look after themselves. I'm not saying he should leave them. I have never said it, and I wouldn't even say it now. I just want equality. Yes, he does most of my shopping, but then I have to listen to it all the time. He is a helpful man and does help me with chores, but that's all. In his eyes, I should just fulfill my duties as a wife and that's it, which I do as he's my husband and I do love him.

This week, our arguments escalated so much that he told me to find myself another husband. In anger, I said I would. He then said: "well, I'm not going to divorce you, but you can divorce me". I had a horrible first marriage, and to be honest I have no regrets when we separated. I can't have the second tag on my head; it will kill me.

I love him very much. I have two little kids (from my first marriage). He does love them dearly, especially my daughter whom he calls his own and would do anything for her, but he is never there for us. He understands his duty towards his first wife and kids, so why not toward me?! Please, tell me what to do as it's becoming more and more unbearable everyday. I don't want to reach the point where I have to seek khul`a.

Counselor

Answer


As a Second Wife, I’m Not Being Treated Equally

In this counseling answer:

• What are you looking for in marriage in general? How do you expect to maintain equal treatment in a marriage where the foundation of the marriage is unequal?

• I would recommend consulting with a local marriage and family therapist in your area that is comfortable, familiar, and knowledgeable about working with Muslim families in therapeutic settings.


As-Salaamu ‘Alaikum dear sister,

After reading your question, there are three major themes that resonate with me which are: the importance of following one’s intuition, utilizing and developing insight, and the importance of having a strong sense of self-worth. A person who possesses these qualities will have a basic emotional foundation that will help the individual in navigating the world of marriage.

In your initial statements, you said you married a man, and you knew he was married to someone else when you married him. You also stated that “when he proposed I was against it because I knew he would not be able to handle the two of us.” Although Islam in the Quranic and other religious texts mentions polygamy as being permissible, there are certain criteria that must be met – that most men are not able to meet. Among these criteria is treating the women the same in every way. If you would like further elaboration on that, I would encourage you to post your inquiry on the Ask About Islam or Ask the Scholar sections of our website.

Due to the fact that the standards are so high and that multiple marriages should not be taking place unless these criteria have been met, many men Islamically are not able to obtain this type of lifestyle and fulfill the Islamic obligations successfully.


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Also, historically, the men who had multiple wives did not necessarily marry these women to fulfill some types of selfish desires. Many of the men married women who needed help financially, their husbands died in a war, as a form of protection, etc. So, as I mentioned earlier, these situations are contextual, and although it is a historical practice that is mentioned as permissible, it does not necessarily mean that it is appropriate for implementing in the modern western society which, in many western nations, is against the law. As a result, part of being Muslim is abiding by the laws of the nations in which we live and being contributing and engaging citizens and members of our community.

One of the reasons the criteria for having more than one wife are so strict and very specific is because these criteria are meant to serve as a protection for women, in general. A lot of critical factors that are often not taken into consideration are: sometimes a woman can’t get a marriage certificate with her husband or receive a firm commitment from him; she isn’t acknowledged by the family as being a wife; her property rights and inheritance rights often go unfulfilled; there is arguing or fighting between the wives involved in the marriage; and sexually transmitted diseases are sometimes spread.

Based upon the explanation of your question, your main concern is that you obtain equal treatment from your husband, that you argue with him frequently, and you only get to see him twice a week. Looking at all of these factors, my question to you is: what do you want to get out of this type of marriage? What are you looking for in marriage in general? How do you expect to maintain equal treatment in a marriage where the foundation of the marriage is unequal?

You stated that “since we have been married, all we have done is argue.” What does a healthy relationship look like to you? Do you feel that the current marriage that you are in is a healthy relationship? Emotionally? Psychologically? Spiritually? Sexually? If the answer is no, then now is the time to reflect on whether it is healthy and safe for you to continue in a situation like this.

 I would recommend consulting with a local marriage and family therapist in your area that is comfortable, familiar, and knowledgeable about working with Muslim families in therapeutic settings. However, these key questions should make it clear to you as what the best course of action to take is. I highly recommend utilizing a therapist to help you in negotiating the equal treatment you would like to receive in your marriage.

May Allah (swt) bless you,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Second Wife: He Divorced Me Out of Fear

Confessions of a Second Wife

Shall I Be His Second Wife?




About Sakeena Abdulraheem

Sakeena Abdulraheemholds an MA in Social studies with a concentration in Islamic studies from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. She is currently completing her M.A.in counseling psychology with a concentration in trauma counseling. She has extensive experience working as a teacher, mentor, and consultant.


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