Saudi Gazette Report
November 13, 2014
THE way polygamy is practiced nowadays in the Kingdom is drastically different to how it used to be in the past.
Polygamy used to be a social norm that no one questioned and polygamists were never frowned upon. Things are, however, very different nowadays. All that was needed in the past was for a man to have the financial and physical ability to maintain more than one wife, and that was it. However, polygamy today has become a secret affair, one that leaves men fidgeting just thinking about it.
It is an extremely risky affair and those contemplating getting married usually end up consulting their friends. Some abandon the idea and settle down with one wife to ensure their happy and stable marriages continue. Others take the risk hoping they can weather the incumbent storm.
Though the way polygamy is practiced might have changed over the years, the mindset of men has not. Many men view polygamy as an act of virtue, an endeavour to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Polygamous marriages nowadays happen in secrecy as men feel this is the best way to keep out of trouble. However, secrets do not last long.
When men gather, they never miss the opportunity to discuss polygamy, both in jest and seriousness. There will always be one man who will brag — truthfully or otherwise — that he has more than one wife.
To have more than one wife, in such gatherings, is considered a sign of masculinity and male pride. Many dare each other to try their luck at a second wife and anyone who declines is branded a coward.
Polygamists often influence others and paint a very rosy picture of their exploits. However, their depiction is not always honest as many take second wives and then never see a happy day again. Such men are involved in two unhappy marriages. Sometimes, tying the knot with a second wife leaves the husband with nothing as both marriages ultimately fail.
Such is the situation that many women prefer their husbands not to hang around with polygamists, fearing they will an influence on their husbands.
Women are known to belittle their husbands’ polygamist friends in their presence and criticize them behind their backs, hoping their husbands will find a better monogamist group of friends. No woman would be pleased with the idea of sharing her husband with another woman. A woman would prefer her husband dies than goes and marries another woman. Jealousy is inherent within the female character and one of the most challenging things that a man would find hard to remedy in his marriage.
In the past when life was simple, taking a second wife was less complicated. The financial aspect of it was less costly and the marriage gifts were humble. A man would return home with his second wife. Both wives would live under one roof and the need to buy separate homes did not arise.
Moreover, the first wife would probably help choose the second wife to ensure she would be living with someone compatible. The way husbands and wives communicated were, in those days, much more simple and frank when compared to the way we operate nowadays.
Today, men are unable to tell their wives that they plan to take second wives. They fear rejection and anger. Then they begin to weave a web of lies to marry in secret. The husband will spend time with his second wife by lying to his first; he will say he is out travelling on business and the like. It does not matter how well the man covers his tracks, the truth will eventually come out and taking a second wife will become a decision he will end up regretting.
With so many technological advancements, keeping such a huge secret is nearly impossible. Men are bound to telephone their second wives and the first wives can easily check their husbands’ call history or by answering their husbands’ cellphones.
Moreover, the Kingdom’s legal system makes it clear that all marriages must be legally registered with the Civil Affairs’ Department. As a result, first wives are bound to come into contact with their family register documents while enrolling children in schools or taking them to doctors.
Not all men want to marry for a second time, as many prefer a monogamous life. These men feel the responsibility is too much and the consequences severe. They do not feel they would be fair to their wives and so opt for one wife. Such men, moreover, feel one wife is enough for a lifetime. The need to double the burden then seems pointless.