Publication Date: 
Wed, 2011-03-09 00:18

In Islam, men are permitted four wives at any one time. However, the faith insists on men treating their wives fairly. Those who fear they might not be able to do justice to multiple wives are commanded to refrain from marrying more than one woman.
Some scholars are also of the view that a husband should tell his first wife if he intends to marry a second time, but her permission is not necessary for subsequent marriages.
According to statistics issued by King Saud University in Riyadh, men taking second wives are the cause of 55 percent of divorces in the Kingdom.
So why do women not accept their husbands taking second wives? Is this due to jealousy, egotism or other social factors? Do contemporary Saudi women accept polygamy the way their mothers did 20 years ago?
Kholood Muqbel, a Saudi teacher and mother of two girls, married first when she was 18. “I was in college studying literature then. My father treated his children very harshly and my mother was always weak in front of him. These circumstances pushed me to make a bad choice in getting married," she said.
"I was carried away by emotions. However, after getting married I became upset. My husband would mistreat me. He was harsh and stubborn," she added.
Her husband then decided to take a second wife. "What pained me the most after all that and what caused me to leave him was that he married a second time without informing me. If he was good man and kind, I could have accepted this, but he was horrible and so I asked for a divorce, which I eventually secured after a long struggle," she said.
Looking after two young children as a single mother proved difficult for Muqbel. “Taking care of two girls on my own was very difficult, so I thought about getting married again,” she said.
Muqbel began looking for a man but soon realized that it was difficult to find the kind of person she had always fancied. She finally accepted the prospect of being a second wife. "I gave in to this since the man was well-off and promised to take care of my children. It pains me sometimes that his first wife knew nothing about our marriage. My difficult circumstances forced me to accept what I had myself refused to accept in the past,” she said.
Eman Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi woman who is aged 30 and a mother of two, said she is against her husband taking a second wife. “When the husband gets married to another wife, he immediately ignores his first wife and gives all his attention to the new wife. Some men claim that the second marriage will not affect their relationships with their first wives, but they change once they get married," she said.
“I grew up in a very large family. My father had three wives and I know the negative effects his multiple marriages had on our relationship with him. I would never accept polygamy unless my husband decides to divorce me to marry a second wife. In this case, I would prefer to keep my marriage to make sure my children have a bright future,” she said.
Nihal Saleh, a Saudi woman who is married to a Jordanian, said she refuses to allow her husband to marry a second time, saying allowing him to do so would mean there is something wrong with her.
“I find it very difficult to accept this. Jealousy is not the only thing; there are many other feelings that make it difficult for me to accept such a marriage. If my husband is looking for a second wife, then that means there's something wrong with me. This is something I can't get out of my mind. This is really painful. I can’t imagine my husband being fed up with me and thinking of getting married again," said Saleh.
Omnia, a Saudi woman and mother of four who requested her surname not published, said her husband's second marriage has hurt her deeply. “In the beginning, I refused to allow him to marry. I always felt he would lose interest in me and my children. This is exactly what happened when he married a divorcee who already has a daughter from her first marriage," she said.
"This woman is very different in her way of speaking, clothing and lifestyle. My husband spends all his time with her. He looks after her daughter more than he does ours. On Eid and other special occasions, he spends more money on them than us," she said.
“Things then became so bad that he hardly comes to visit me. He came a few times a month to give me money. Our marital relations came to a stop and I spoke to him about this several times. I mentioned the importance of maintaining relations, but he just ignored me," she said.
"This treatment forced me to cheat on him. I'm in mental torment because of this. I also can't bring myself to divorce him, because of the way people will look at me. I also worry what will happen to my children," she added.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Hamed, head of the Department of Psychology at Bakhsh Hospital in Jeddah, said women in Saudi society are more receptive to polygamy than women in other Arab countries.
“Saudi women don’t view their husbands as their personal property. They accept polygamy because this has been a way of life. Old traditions relating to marriage still exist in Saudi society,” he said.
“I've seen a large number of women who are in much pain because of their husbands taking on second wives. However, these women have kept their pain a secret fearing what society would think. They prefer to keep their husbands and children instead of asking for divorces,” he added.
Al-Hamed believes men who marry second wives are often unfair to their first wives and it is this that causes women to become mentally disturbed. He added that in spite of the practice being quite common in traditional families, women of today do not accept it the way their mothers did.

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