IS POLYGAMY REALLY BAD?
For the purpose of this post, let me define polygamy in its simplicity as a marriage practice in which a husband marries more than one wife. But in modern (western) civilization, the ideally accepted system of marriage is monogamy whereby a husband marries only one wife. However, in olden traditions and even up to this moment, in some parts of the world, it was normal to see a man marry two or more wives which is polygamy, or even a situation where a woman marries more than one husband which is called polyandry. When a husband marries only two wives, this is called bigamy. Presently, in some parts of Europe, bigamy is a criminal offence. Whichever type of marriage one chooses has its peculiar attractions or demerits. Having interacted with very many people from polygamous homes, my humble self also being a product of polygamy, that very question that forms the title of this post must be answered in all frankness but before answering the question, the first question to ask and answer is, why do people really decide to marry more than one wife? Many reasons have been given by various experts but from my own investigations, the following few points prevail, especially in Africa. Just read and enjoy yourself.
- Religion: One of the reasons why some men marry more than one wife is religion-based. While some Christians see nothing wrong with the practice, citing Jacob, King Solomon and others in the bible, Muslims believe that a man is free to marry up to four wives, based on their understanding of their religious teachings.
- Traditions: By tradition, particularly in most parts of Africa, some men marry more than one wife by virtue of their position. For example, in the western part of Nigeria, the traditional rulers normally marry more than one wife. Indeed, one such traditional ruler domiciled in the United States recently boasted that he had six wives, as he is the traditional ruler of the Yoruba community in that part of America. Also, in the eastern part of Nigeria, a man taking the Igbo traditional Ozo title usually has two or more wives.
- Status symbol: In some parts of Africa, taking two or more wives shows a man’s financial capability or expression of wealth. As a matter of fact, it is part of ostentatious way of life for some of our men.
- Family support: In most parts of Nigeria in the olden days, men were encouraged to marry two or more wives so that together with their children, there would be enough hands to work on the farm for increased productivity for the family.
- Marital issues: Some men are known to have indulged in getting a second wife when there are marital problems with the first wife, even when the first wife is still around, and has not given her consent for the second wife to come in.
- Lack of children: In a typical African society, when the wife fails to give birth to children, the husband usually shows propensity for a second wife and this was actually what led to my father getting a second wife, my mother. Incidentally, shortly after my mother gave birth to her first child, my father’s first wife also became pregnant. As a matter of fact, at the end of the day, the two wives eventually ended up having six children each, that is twelve in total, my humble self being the seventh child. Now getting a second wife because the first one did not give birth is a crude gamble in Africa. This is because if no medical report confirms that the problem of not conceiving is from the first wife, what is the guarantee that the second wife would conceive. Indeed, my father was really lucky because in the course of writing my book, ‘How to Enjoy Happy Family’, I came into contact with a man who was not as lucky. The man’s second wife also could not conceive. But seriously, when the third wife also failed to conceive, tongues began to wag because the second wife actually got pregnant through one of the relations of the man. Though this is a taboo, it confirmed that the man was impotent. The very lesson to learn from this is that both husband and wife need to undergo medical tests to ascertain their reproductive health as opposed to popular practice of always blaming the wife for childlessness as we find in our African society.
- Lack of male child: Much related to (6) above, a typical African man, places great importance more on the male child than on the female child. And so, when he fails to get male child from the first wife, the usual tendency is to go for a second wife. Again, I totally disagree with this practice because what, for example, is the assurance that this second wife will give birth to a male child, bearing in mind the genetic process that leads to the formation of a male or female child in the womb? This is why I have always encouraged people to fully embrace their God-given child no matter the sex of that child. With these reasons at the background, go to the next paragraph.
Now, let’s be honest, is polygamy really bad? In broad terms, based on my findings, polygamy can be described as bad to some people while to some others, it is good to go. Put the other way round, while some people may condemn the practice of polygamy, others may approve of it. But it majorly appears to me that only men so involved in it say that it is a good practice despite all the challenges visible to everyone. For example, consider this young man married to two wives, living in a two bedroom apartment with five children. Meanwhile the house was a rented one with a single toilet, single kitchen and single bathroom. The man, just like most polygamous men, was always trying hard to force some level of unity on the two women by insisting that they cooked and ate in one pot. Unfortunately, several times, neighbors would be called in to settle quarrels between the two women especially in absence of the man while he was away at work.
From this short story of this polygamous family above, it is quite evident that they were never happy. As a matter of fact, I really found out that for the most part the marriage lasted, it was chaos all the way till one of the wives eventually walked out of the marriage. For such a man, polygamy should never have been a good choice. And truly, he eventually admitted that he would have enjoyed a happier marriage and family if he had married just one wife.
It may well be argued that the polygamous family just described above was managed by a poor man and that was why the marriage was in a mess. Consider another polygamous marriage where this rich man had three wives, all living with their respective children in their own separate apartments built by the man. On the man’s death, sharing his wealth among the three women and their respective children by executing his will by his lawyer left the family permanently disintegrated. From this, common sense shows that if he had married one wife, the family would have at least remained peaceful and intact even after his death and they would enjoy his wealth.
Now, let us consider this one. This man had two wives for whom he rented apartments, one in Mushin area of Lagos State here in Nigeria and the other one in Iwo area of Osun State also here in Nigeria. This is a distance of more than one hundred and fifty kilometers apart. Although he confessed that it was really not easy shuttling between the two locations, he was still okay. But everything later changed, even drastically, when he began to suspect the both wives of infidelity. Being self employed, (he was a successful man in his tire business), he had the freedom to stay away from Lagos for some days just to stay with his other wife in Iwo. Also, he would sometimes spend some days with the Lagos wife. And true to his suspicion, an evidence eventually emerged how adulterous his Lagos wife had been. What brought his marriage to the Iwo wife to an end was even more dramatic. According to him, she told him in plain language right in his face that it was not possible to keep her alone in Iwo. As at the time I met him, even though he had not divorced the Lagos wife, complete frustration and disillusionment could be seen written all over him. And so, it is obvious that this particular polygamous marriage was another failure. Again, I personally believe that the man would have been much better off if he had taken just one wife.
If you have or have not learned anything from those three polygamous marriages just discussed above, you are bound to learn something from this particular one. When this young and beautiful lady from Gboko town in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria got married, she was very much at peace and happy in her marriage as things just went on smoothly. Good relationships with her husband, in-laws and other friends and relations of her husband were fantastic Unfortunately, this was not to continue for a long time. Just about five years into the marriage, after the birth of their second child that now made it two daughters, the man decided to marry a second wife. That decision was really the genesis of the events that culminated into the disaster that the marriage eventually turned out to be. The following paragraph tells what really happened.
When the man’s decision eventually became a reality, the hitherto perpetually happy woman eventually became a perpetually sad woman. This is because just about eleven months after marrying the second wife, she (the second wife) gave birth to a baby boy who was very much a carbon copy of the man. Following the birth, the attitude of the man and the second wife towards the first wife was nothing short of derogation, intimidation, humiliation and rejection. Indeed, according to neighbors, the first wife just endured an immeasurable level of psychological trauma. Unbelievably, and to the bewilderment of the entire community, the new baby mysteriously died on the day of his first birthday anniversary. To some people, it appeared like a dream or a fairy tale. But the reality on ground was that the baby had died. As Africans, it was eventually ‘discovered’ that the first wife ‘had a hand’ in the death of the child. This engendered an unprecedented family feud that was yet to be resolved ten years after. Now, the very truth is that no matter the level of adjudication or peace meetings that can be held on this, the same peace and happiness enjoyed by the man and his first wife had been permanently terminated. What a sad and unfortunate incident!, just because of going into polygamy.
Putting down these four instances on this post is not to totally condemn polygamy. As a matter of fact, some monogamous marriages are also known to have plunged into a mess, just like some polygamous marriages like the one I was born into, have also been successful. But I can confidently and authoritatively state here that women involved in monogamous marriages are much more likely to be happier than women in polygamous marriages. Again, hearing from the grown up children from most polygamous families paints a very nasty picture of ill treatment which can include beating, starvation and deprivation. Envy and diabolical acts are also most times an embodiment of polygamous homes. Indeed, no matter how much the man tries to keep the two or three women and their children united, the feeling of disunity will always crop up in their minds. And truly, each wife will always like to gather her own children to herself. Doing otherwise will only amount to hypocrisy and pretense.
Another bad aspect of polygamy is that the woman never gets enough sexual satisfaction from her husband. And to make up for this, she must involve herself in adultery as clearly shown by the two wives of the tire businessman discussed earlier. Also, speaking biologically, any man that tries to sexually satisfy his two or three wives is just digging his own grave much earlier than scheduled.
Now, everyone reading this post will be in a good position to answer this question: Is polygamy really bad?
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Please do enjoy your family and marriage.