That night, I sent a message to several women I knew, asking them to find a second wife for my husband. And then I lay in bed and imagined what this woman would be like the woman who would make my husband happy, who would be everything I was not, who would be my daughter’s stepmother. I felt a bizarre mixture of jealousy, sorrow, and giddy relief.
I threw myself into reading about polygyny – the usual cut-and-dried fiqh rulings about husbands being obligated to be scrupulously equal in terms of time and finances; the generous staple of Muslim poly horror stories; and the rare glimpses of a happier kind of polygyny, in which co-wives went shopping together and the husband took all his wives and children to the park for a family day out.
I decided to Find Another Wife for My Husband (Urdu)
Where the emotional struggles of first wives were balanced with discovering time for themselves, being able to re-discover old hobbies, or exploring new activities.
My daydreams became more detailed: my future co-wife would be Arab enough for my husband, but would strike up an instant friendship with me; she would teach my daughter Arabic and provide her with everything necessary to navigate Arab culture and the khaleeji society we were living in, while I would breastfeed her (surely inevitable) son and slyly raise him to be a man with feminist values…
Best of all, I would be relieved of all the expectations that had been weighing down my shoulders for the last three years. I would be released from being held responsible for my many shortcomings, and I would finally have the time to accomplish all the dreams that I’d been forced to put on hold. I felt immensely pleased with myself for constructing the perfect Salafi feminist model of polygyny.
At night, though, I struggled with the slightly darker side of those daydreams. Was it fair to the other woman to pin all my hopes –and burdens – on her? Was I ready, no matter how difficult my marriage was, to send my husband to another woman?
Was it right to harbor the tiny voice inside me that whispered that, should all else fail, this second wife would be my ticket to getting out of an increasingly unhappy marriage without feeling guilty for abandoning him? Why did I still feel a twist of jealousy in my gut thinking about my husband being in love with another woman – even though, to be honest, I’d never really fallen in love with him anyway? In the end, I decided it didn’t matter. This was the best solution, and I wasn’t going to give up on it.
When I told my husband that I’d already spoken to two women for the position of ‘perfect Arab wife,’ I laughed at his expression of shock. I had already fallen in love with the idea of the other woman…and, I realized, even more out of love with my husband.
In truth, our marriage was already beyond saving, and deep down, I knew it. I also knew that my poly fantasies were unrealistic, if not ridiculous… and yet, I still felt inclined to polygyny as a model for marriage. I found monogamy to be suffocating, and though I knew some would say it was because of my own troubled marriage that I felt that way, I had reached the point where I no longer wanted a man – any man – all to myself. I’ve always been somewhat eccentric, to say the least, and now that I had immersed myself so deeply in the idea and possible reality of polygyny, there was no going back.
I was in a strange place, emotionally. On one hand, I cared deeply for my husband and was anxious to find someone for him who would be compatible with him in all the ways I was not; on the other, our relationship was becoming even more toxic, and I was swiftly reaching the point of considering divorce. Having felt overly controlled and smothered by various restrictions, I decided that it was time to go back to my life goals and make a firm choice to achieve them.
Not only was my current marriage not conducive to accomplishing the long list I’d compiled, but I also realized that monogamy wasn’t going to help me get anywhere. No matter how supportive or loving a husband I could have, the simple reality of monogamy meant that many, many compromises would have to be made – compromises that I no longer wanted to make or had the mental stamina to be patient with.
Polygyny was the only type of marriage I wanted… go big or go home, right? Go big or go home, indeed. Little did I know that a year later, I would be divorced and that I would become a second wife less than a year after that.