What to Do When Your Husband’s Ex-Wife Dominates

01 February, 2018
Q Hello. I just got married in October and my husband is divorced and he has 2 lovely children with his ex-wife. But my problem is that he has started doing everything for her buying her everything and anything she wants. And he barely gets anything for me. Now he tells me that he still loves her and he has to make her happy to see his children. I don't understand what he is doing because he just started doing this in December. Things have changed between him and me.I love him with all my heart. I do everything for him.I don't have a problem with him seeing the children I encourage him to do so .he is a wonderful father. But my problem is that now he is staying the night there and giving all his money there left me here with barely any food I ate 1 piece of bread a day for 2 of the days I talked to him about this he just says I have to make her happy. I said I don't understand what is going on because I came here from America to be with you I left everything behind to be with you. .and you left me here with nothing no food no water for 3 days I don't have friends here don't know the area and you need to make her happy? ?? What about me I said ..he said if he doesn't do he can't see the kids. .I said you have broken my heart he says everything is okay just give him time fix the problem with his ex-wife. I am so lost now I don't know what to do I don't understand. Please help me


In this counseling answer:

“I would kindly suggest that once you are clear on a husband and wife’s responsibilities in an Islamic marriage, you sit with your husband when things are calm. Please bring up the points of both his and your responsibility in this marriage as Muslims. Ask him if he is able to fulfill these requirements.”

As-Salamu alaykum sister,

Thank you for writing to us, sister. I am so sad to hear about how your husband is not supportive of you and how things have changed since December.  As you have only been married since October, it was not a long enough time to see how things would run normally with him.

As you know, in Islam Allah created marriage to be a mercy and a protection. The Quran states:

“..And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” (30:21)

The Qur’an also states that

“Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others…” (4:34)

This means that your husband has to support you, provide you with food, water/drink, clothes to wear and somewhere to live, among other things. These are just the basics, but I do highlight them as you stated your husband leaves you with no food to eat but a few slices of bread and no water.

Not only is your husband supposed to support you financially; he is to support you emotionally, with loving kindness and mercy.  It appears that he is not doing any of this but is rather hoping you will “hold on” until he resolves whatever it is he is needing to resolve.  However, his “resolving” whatever issues he needs to address should not interfere with his maintenance of your needs or the household. You sound as if you have been and are a very loving, patient and understanding wife, sister. You show your husband a lot of support concerning his children. However, I do encourage you to think further about your needs, your position as his wife as well as what is going on since you have been married.

Sister, you have only been married a few months and he has been giving all the household money to his ex-wife (in order to see the children, he says). He says he still loves her. Is he still in love with her or loves her/respects her as she is the mother of his children?  He is buying her a lot of things and buys you nothing.  He is also sleeping there (big red flag). It sounds sister as if they are still married, Allah forgives me if I am wrong. But as you know, he can have up to 4 wives.

However, he told you he was divorced and additionally if he is married, he is not treating you both equally – which is a condition.  So, for the sake of simplicity at this point, we will assume he is divorced, as he stated.

He has left you with no food or water for days and he thinks this is tolerable? Sister, the bigger question is, do you think this is tolerable?  Do you think these are behaviors illustrative of love, mercy and grounded by Islamic foundations? I understand that you are an American and came to live with him in his country. You told him you don’t know what is going on; however, I urge you sister to stand back and look at what is really going on.

First of all, you don’t leave someone you love and cherish alone with no food and water. That is neglect. In fact, you wouldn’t leave a pet cat, dog or another living being in your care without food and water.  You don’t take all the money from your home and give it to an ex-wife. You don’t spend the night at your x-wife’s home. You do not leave your new wife alone all the time in a strange place with no contacts (what if you got sick or there was an emergency).

Sister, there are a lot of red flags, Allah forgives me if I am wrong, but something is not adding up here. Either your husband suffers from a deficit which causes careless behaviors or your husband is still married to his “ex” wife and you may be the 2nd wife, or your husband just doesn’t care about this marriage or you and is using it for his benefit.

Again, when you love someone, you don’t leave them with no food or water. As a Muslim, he knows his Islamic obligations to you which he is not upholding.

Perhaps, he thinks you do not know your rights as a wife. Sister, if you do not, I urge you to please read up on them. There are many great articles on AboutIslam.net.

Sister, I would kindly suggest that once you are clear on a husband and wife’s responsibilities in an Islamic marriage, you sit with your husband when things are calm. Please bring up the points of both his and your responsibility in this marriage as Muslims. Ask him if he is able to fulfill these requirements.

I would kindly suggest that if he states he is able but that he just needs more time (as he has already asked for more time), I would inform him there is no more time as you married him under the premise that this was going to be an Islamic marriage.

As Allah hates divorce and you do need to do all that you can to save the marriage without putting yourself at further risk, I would kindly suggest that you ask him to: 1-keep the household finances within the home with the exception of a set portion for the children’s support (you may wish to see the court order for this). 2-Ensure there is food and water in the home at all times 3-No more sleeping at “ex” wife’s home. Children are welcomed to sleep at your home.

Should your husband refuse to comply with these very basic Islamic principles, sister, you do have the option to divorce with every right to do so given his behaviors. Just his failure to provide is grounds for divorce (not to mention his other unIslamic behaviors). “Failure of the husband to provide. When the man, who is considered the provider and maintainer of the family, fails to shoulder his responsibilities and the wife decides that she cannot continue tolerating his shirking of responsibility, this is grounds for divorce.”

I would suggest that insha’Allah you also contact your family back in the US (or friends) and seek their help and support should you decide to leave. I am not sure where your marriage took place but I would recommend that you look into the laws about filing for divorce (if you choose) in the US as it may be easier for you emotionally as well as financially as you stated you do not know anyone there. As you do not know how this will turn out, it is best to have supported in place.

Additionally, sister, please do insha’Allah start attending your local Masjid. Participate in prayers, take some Islamic classes, and make friends with the sisters there. Insha’Allah you will make lasting friendships which you will cherish no matter if you do come back to the US or if you and your husband work things out and you stay there. You will have your sisters, and you will also have the blessings of Allah from worship and seeking Islamic knowledge.

While I know you love him, sister, I am asking you to really look at the situation, insha’Allah. Look at it from a different perspective. What would you advise a friend who told you this was happening to her, or say you had a 20-year-old daughter and her husband did this?

All I am asking you to do is to love yourself as much as you would a family member or friend who was being treated this way.  Ask yourself, what would you advise them? What would you think is really going on?

Sister, I know this will be hard if it does not work out as it seems you have put your whole heart, all your love and dreams in this man. However, it does not seem he has done the same thing for you. Please, do read up on your and his responsibilities concerning an Islamic marriage, look at his actions from a detached perspective. Ask yourself, is this truly mercy, love and kindness?  Try to speak with him about saving the marriage with set Islamic expectations as discussed above. Insha’Allah he will be open.  I pray your husband agrees and changes so you both will have a happy marriage.

Sister, if your husband does not agree, look at this as a blessing.  Instead of going through a neglectful marriage for years, maybe decades (and one possibly involving zina) and with the neglect possibly turning into abuse, you will have only spent under a year giving your all for the sake of this marriage. In the end, you can say you tried.

I pray your husband changes so you both will have a happy marriage. Either you will have a happy marriage with him, or without him, may Allah bless you with a husband who treats you as our beloved Prophet Mohammad treated his wives.

Please, let us know how you are doing.


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.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.