His first wife is threatening me

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My husband and I have two children while he has one child with his first wife who sometimes comes to my house to play with my children. I am okay with this but his first wife is not. She thinks I am trying to steal his son’s affection and get her out of the picture

We are Muslim and I am the second wife. My husband and I have two children while he has one child with his first wife who sometimes comes to my house to play with my children. I am okay with this but his first wife is not. She thinks I am trying to steal his son’s affection and get her out of the picture. She also keeps calling and sending me messages about how she was the first and no matter what my evil plans are, I will not succeed. It seems my husband and his first wife have a problem between them and I am being accused of causing it. Please help. I believe we can live in harmony. 

Anonymous

Dear anonymous,

Your belief that you can live in harmony as a family is good and can lead to positive change. Families will usually have hiccups whether about children, finances, different personalities, and many more. This is normal as long as the family is skilled at conflict management. In this case, the religious culture seems to influence events in this family. While it is normal for a Muslim man to marry more than one wife, it is another task for women to bond and live in harmony.

Children are innocent and so is your co-wife’s son. It is the adults who might interrupt this as they use them as an escape during such conflicts. You can only do your honest part as a fellow parent by letting your co-wife’s son, who is also a brother to your children play freely with his siblings

However, it is important to know that your co-wife might not appreciate your efforts. It is only within her means to choose to relax and accept the changes in the family that are acceptable according to Islam. Her actions should not influence you negatively but instead enable you to understand that her reactions are only the icing on the cake. The underlying factors could include struggling to adjust to staying in an inclusive relationship.

The messages and name-calling are all a sign of a hurting person and so, I am sure it is her maladaptive way of coping since she knows that she cannot change anything in the family. Accept that you might not change her but you can change your attitude toward her as this is in your control.

Harmony is a positive thought and looking forward to this enables you to stop focusing on your co-wife and instead, understand that she is seeking ways of staying in control of her marriage. In case she stops the child from coming to your house to play, remember you cannot influence what she decides to do with her son. Let the child be free to play while at your house if he has decided to come and play.

Pay attention to your thoughts and interpretation of the situation since this can be detrimental to your mental health too. Let your husband take the initiative of fostering peace and harmony in the family. Spiritual and family counselling can be a good option too.

Reader advice

Focus on your marriage

Judith Mukisa. The key is to remember that both wives struggle a great deal, facing their own insecurities and jealousies. I truly believe that the secret to being able to positively live in a polygamous situation is not comparing oneself to the other woman. But in developing one’s own self-confidence and self-esteem. Rather than focusing on what the other woman is doing or saying, focus on what you have for yourself, and within your marriage.

Your happiness is key

John Mukau. What are the things that make you happy as an individual and as a wife? What are the things that you can do to improve your own emotional and mental well-being? Do you have passions and interests that you can spend time on for self-care?  What hobbies or activities do you share with your husband that are meaningful and enjoyable to you both? How can you both spend more time connecting positively rather than being stuck in a cycle of emotional toxicity?

Do some research

Doreen Wangu. I recommend doing research on how to handle the emotional challenges of such a marriage, in particular, feelings of jealousy, hurt and anger. There are actually many good resources from non-Muslim outlets, specifically ones about polyamory. By learning about the methods used to process those emotions, and combining them with an Islamic perspective and remembering one’s Islamic values, I hope that your journey into polygamy will become easier to cope with.

Talk to your area Imam

Moses Earthe. It seems you are the one with a problem because you keep saying my husband. In Islam, when there is more than one woman, you say our husband. Secondly, in Islam, there is nothing like first wife, second wife, third or fourth. The Quran says we marry one, two, three or four if we can deal with then justly and we can manage. So, all the four wives have equal rights and responsibilities and are treated equally. Your problem must be solved by your area Imam who should come and have a meeting with your family and help you find common ground.

Engage a counsellor

Shakkie Tunnie. It is always painful seeing your husband with another woman. Her being mad at you makes sense. With time, she will get used to it although it will not be easy. Why not engage a counsellor to help you go through this phase successfully?

Be patient

Grace Marley Muhendo. Be patient with her, with time she will come to accept you and if she never does, it is also okay. There is not much you can do about it.

Evelyn is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation

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