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The Joy of Polygamy

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My parents were both born into polygamous homes, different types I must add. My paternal grandfather, Papa, had 19 (acknowledged) biological children. I didn’t even know this until I read a preserved copy of his obituary. Up until my late childhood years, I thought the 19 children were all born of my feisty grandmother’s womb. They were an eccentric bunch packed with a bizarre degree of domestic flaws. For the most part, they are still that way. As far as I recall Papa’s obituary didn’t make mention of any wife. I assumed my extended family unanimously agreed to that as a way of stripping Papa’s wives and concubines of any property claims. I was just glad I could actually picture them agreeing to something, however petty.

So you might understand why, during one of my wedding website prowls, a certain bride came off to me as unrealistic and in denial. On her wedding website she introduced herself as a product of the “best polygamous family”. She wrote:

“…Between my biological parents, I have 5 siblings, but growing up in the best polygamous family I have 23 siblings…”

Needless to say, I didn’t have a clue as to what she was talking about. My mental images of polygamous homes are structured like war zones where each wife barricades her food and other allocated resources from the reach of ‘the others’. In fact, I think ‘Fuji House of Commotion’ might have been one of my untapped imaginary masterpieces. To me, ‘Polygamy’ and ‘Joy’ are well known arch-enemies.

I know our society has a few shining examples of ‘happy’ polygamous homes, but I have always disputed their claims, even if from now till eternity, they all wear the same aso-ebi to every event. I am convinced it is all a “show” to entertain ready spectators. I just cannot imagine a woman sincerely approving another woman’s free pass to her husband’s inner chamber. Tufiakwa! Chukwu gbopulu anyi ajo ife ……God keep such evil away from us.

It doesn’t even help that 13 years later, I still remember that look on Nedu’s face; that look of pure irritation. She always knew her father was a “runs” man, but she fumed when the man selling gas cylinders asked her to greet her mum, adding that he saw Nedu’s mum drive by the day before. Na so. The day before indeed! We were visiting her dad in Abuja where he worked and Nedu’s mum lived in Lagos full-time.

I cannot but mention the Gbadebos*. We grew up together, but just when I got used to describing Jibola as the baby of the house, their “visiting cousins” suddenly became half-brothers and sisters. Apparently their father had secretly started a family with another woman and built her a home elsewhere. All hell broke loose when Jibola’s mum found out. It took her many years to accept them as her husband’s children, talk less of allowing them into her matrimonial home. What can I say? At least she didn’t find out about them at his funeral. Some women have had to swallow that much deceit.

So amidst the norm that proves the absence of joy in polygamy, I have been searching for reasons to believe otherwise. This feminist era hasn’t helped my search at all as it seems today’s woman would rather escape such matrimonial misfortune than share cooking schedules. A friend of mine from a (small) polygamous family blurted out an absolute “NO!” to the assumption that there’s joy in such mayhem. She said there might be more peace than usual in cases where the first wife could not have children and approved the marriage to the second wife. But I’m still dissatisfied with that reason. In fact my frame of mind has been further polluted with unfounded worries that another friend’s husband could possibly surprise her with a junior wife as their religion allows. Then all her fervent claims of having the modern Muslim man will evaporate into thin air and she will join the other modern-women-escapees. You can see my pain with polygamy is multi-faceted. I even think there is a new-age type of polygamy in our society!

Where in Nigeria is that website bride from??? I hope she reads this and answers my question. What joy is there in polygamy that could possibly make her describe hers as the “best…..”? All I truly know are the sad memories engraved in the lives affected and the never-ending accusations of household wickedness.

As children from polygamous families mature, the conflict lines may wear off as they gradually accept the circumstances as they have always known them to be. Some get closer, others grow further apart. But only the primary parties involved can truthfully tell you the bitter tales that destroyed what once was. They can pull a solid front to fool you and me, but I strongly believe that EVERY polygamous home, “best” or otherwise, is rooted in the carcass of at least one broken heart.

To my future husband:
In matters even remotely similar to polygamy, I, your gentle dove, will become nothing less than the outcome of a genetic transmutation between an unforgiving goose and a raging lioness. So let’s not even go there.
With love,
Enkay

photo credit: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images

50 Comments

  1. lola

    July 29, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    [email protected] closing line

  2. miss moe

    July 29, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Very nice article! i love the last piece, your letter to you future husband..lol. I don’t think its a happy place to be in and would never condone such rubbish.

  3. Ms. ATL

    July 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    *dead* @ the note to your future husband

  4. ibinike

    July 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Nice article and well written too. I agree with you that no matter how we paint polygamy, it is never without the acrimony and jealousy often fueled by the women involved. In these arrangements, only the man seems to benefit; the children and the wives are forever in competition, often times turning diabolical and wicked.

  5. Cynthia

    July 29, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    LOL @ the last sentence to the future husband. That was funny. Interesting read, I liked it.

  6. D.O.T.M.H.

    July 29, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    hahaha! to be fore warned is to be fore armed. nice piece!

  7. Labby

    July 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Polygamy is nothing but TROUBLE….sometimes i am positive that even
    the men who go into it have secret regrets!…who needs all that competition
    and heartache?Abeggg…nice piece, well written!lol at the closing remark!

  8. jen

    July 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE! HOW COULD POLYGAMY BE OK, IN WHICH DECENT SOCIETY WILL POLYGAMY BE OK? HOW COULD I SHARE MY HUSBAND, MY HOME, MY RESOURCES AND THEN PRETEND EVERYTHING’S OK!

    POLYGAMY IS ONLY FOR MEN WHO CANNOT CONTROL THEMSELVES. THE WOMEN THEY MARRIED ARE UNEDUCATED AND HASN’T BEEN ANYWHERE!

    I WILL NEVER ACCEPT THAT NONSENSE IN MY LIFE..NEVER EVER EVER EVER!
    DO YOU REALLY THINK ANY MAN WANTS MULTIPLE WIVES AND OVER 20 CHILDREN COME ON

    1
  9. Pat Pat

    July 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Well written Enkay!!!!!Last sentence,very splendid.

  10. Unknown

    July 29, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    First, you could have written your post without calling out the lady expressing that her polygamous home is joyous on her wedding website. Second, you have “unfounded worries” about your friend married to a muslim man that he may turn out to be a polygamous man “as their religion allows” Lady, have you read what is written in the Quran? This would have been a good article without slamming people and unfounded statements.

  11. missB

    July 29, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    polygamy is nothing but trouble. what I don’t get is how a woman can share her husband with another woman. reminds me of when one of my uncle’s wifes kept complaining about how her husband spends more nights with the new wife…. eww just gross. yet the husband has a mistress

  12. jen

    July 29, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    POLYGAMY=NASTY DIRTY SEX..UNPLANNED PREGNANCIES, AND A HELL OF A MISERABLE CHILDHOOD!

  13. Me

    July 29, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    @Jen you are wrong. Educated women go into polygamous arrangements too. Check out MKO Abiola’s family.

  14. Ola Davis

    July 29, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I believe women that go into polygamous marriages do so mainly for economic reasons. They tend not to forsee the consequences, effects on their children and their mental well – being.
    Marriage is a good thing if couples go about it the way God intended, anything else does not work. I don’t see anything wrong with being single at any age. In these days marriage is very discouraging.

  15. ATS

    July 29, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Funny thing is I don’t find this article very intelligent, just opinionated. If it was someone who grow up in a polygamous home, then maybe I’ll be more open to this article. But this is an outsiders view on the world of polygamy. I would have preferred an article by someone who grow up with half siblings and what not

  16. miss b

    July 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Excellently written and oh so true! polygamy is like a big joke where no 1 is laughing!

  17. irene okwuosa

    July 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I’d like to address something that really bothers me. It’s amazing how the ones who always have something negative to say have the balls to say the negative stuff, but are not ballsy enough to show their names. Pisses me off. Now that that’s off my chest.

    Great article. Coming from a polygamous family, once removed (my grandfather had 4 wives), this article was refreshing in that it highlighted the truth about polygamy. And that last line, letter to future hubby, had my almost on the floor. Classic.

  18. Ed110

    July 29, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Erm…I love my half siblings? we all love each other in my family and I think I’ve had an awesome life so far.

    so yeah…i guess it just depends on the family.

  19. Molicious

    July 30, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I think it’s a little harsh for us to judge what we don’t know, for those who haven’t experienced growing up in polygamy first hand.
    Concerning what the bride said about her polygamous home being the best, life is what you make it; she made the best of her situation and got the best out of it, it may not seem like that to the world but that’s her reality and it’s valid regardless of our opinions and thoughts.
    Chimamanda Adichie said it best in the danger of a single story. Just because drama is all we hear about polygamous homes doesn’t mean that’s all they are. And just because monogamous homes are the “right type” of family does not mean that some are not “rooted in the carcass of at least one broken heart.”
    Personally polygamy is not for me. The point is all opinions are valid in the varying realities of individuals.

  20. sola

    July 30, 2010 at 1:14 am

    A decade ago, i would have agreed 100% with you but you know what as you grow older, you will realize at times its best to be in a polygamous home as second or third wife than being a miserable only estranged wife.Good men are hard to find, a lot are married to wrong women and only get to realize it later and what do they then next-?abandone the mother of their children or ?be condemned to eternal sorrow, no they move on and marry the second wife which could have been first and only in the first place.The cause of chaos in polygamous home is always from the husband who is not truthful to both wives and then result to resentments, hatred etc.Men should learn to be truthful no matter what.My dear sister,pls get real the ratio of good men to women is abt 1:4 so would then be single and childless for the rest of your life because of so called hatred for polygamy.Pls wake up to reality and enjoy life,you only live once!!!

    • rizzle

      February 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      Oh wow, someone is suffering from low self esteem! Are you serious? You have no problem at all being someone’s option while you make them your priority??? 1 word:COUNSELING

  21. Chika*

    July 30, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Lol at Sola. Sola, tell us are you the second or third wife? And how are you loving it so far?

  22. Juniorandpretty

    July 30, 2010 at 5:22 am

    @ the writer:For someone who is on the outside looking in,this article is a tad bit too jaundiced and biased.

    I didnt grow up in a polygamous family and none of my parents did. Polygamy is not something i want for myself and i personally frown at it.Even if i grew up in a polygamous family, it still would not make me an expert or a mouth piece for ALL polygamous families.Polygamy just like everything else in life, depends on the the people invloved. You cannot write off that bride or disregard her emotions because she does not have society’s perceived experience.Her experience is her reality and her emotions are not less valid because she did not lived up to your stereotype.

  23. tally babe

    July 30, 2010 at 8:32 am

    @ Sola, its very obvious that ure settling for something that is the least. you said its better to be a 2nd or 3rd what? i beg ur pardon, no matter how old, i dont think u really xperienced the true definition of polygamy. A lady would rather be single than watch her life sapped away day by day without being able to do nothing

  24. sweetie

    July 30, 2010 at 9:55 am

    ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111 love the closing statement…..the article is soooo
    very true…

  25. DUDU

    July 30, 2010 at 10:14 am

    @ Molicious very well said. @ Sola, Chika took the words right out of my mouth.
    Why settle for less when you can have the best. Even if the ratio of Good men to
    women is 1,000,000:1 you should be confident enough that you will still get the best. God is not
    a fool. He has ordained one man to one wife so there’s definitely a provision of 1:1

  26. JPrat

    July 30, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Hahahahhaha…Sola is a delusional chic i can tell. She is sitting here justifying and rationalizing Homewreckers Incorporated. What kind of self-pride having woman would make such utterance?
    You are not only settling, you are also setting your children up for 2nd rate treatment. Wow! I guess we should all set out to wreck peacful homes all in the name of finding a good man right? A supposed good man who has no respect for your body nor the marriage he vowed for better for worse, till death do us part. Women, beware the kind of girls you raise into becoming women later.

  27. honey

    July 30, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I am so in love wiv dis article…I just wanna eat it!lol!
    The closing statement just ‘killed’ it man….spot on!
    All I just want to say is that HIV dey town o. in dis day and age, please just stick to one person, even dat one person sef gan, e get as e be!(thank God for trust). One man for one woman, life is much more easier n safer that way. my opinion!

  28. Cynthia

    July 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Well written Enkay and the closing line is just too funny!! I am from a polygamous home (not directly) and I have to say I totally agree with you Enkay. Though it may be a “great” experience to some people in my opinion in the majority of cases it brings trouble rather than peaceful and I see no need for it.
    I will never accept it and though I am in my young age, I always say that I would rather be single than share my home, my space, my husband with anyone. I don’t need no wahala.

  29. Matsie Uzorka

    July 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    To my future husband:
    In matters even remotely similar to polygamy, I, your gentle dove, will become nothing less than the outcome of a genetic transmutation between an unforgiving goose and a raging lioness. So let’s not even go there.
    With love,
    Enkay…
    That has made my weekend completely …..Love it!!!! hehehehehe

  30. glory

    July 30, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Its a terrible situation for any woman. Women should nt accept to be second wives becos of money. U can survive if u try

  31. nonye

    July 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Picture very well painted!!! truth laid out as it is!

  32. Myne Whitman

    July 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    You should read The Secret Lives of Babba Segis wives. Classic polygamy tale.

  33. Ngozi

    July 30, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    This “Sola” sounds really pathetic!! Sola is either a guy with an over-blown ego or a chic with no self esteem whatsoever!! Haba…na so ur take bad reach??!! Na wa o!!

  34. Oshokeme

    July 30, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I have to kind of agree. Both of my parents were from polygamous homes and it was wrought with numerous problems. My mum’s older brother was actually murdered by her stepmother before she ran off and abandoned the family. *sigh*

  35. Elizabeth

    July 31, 2010 at 8:23 am

    People’s comment focused on the effects of the wives and children but failed to talk about the effects on the grandchildren. My father and my mother came from polygamous families; as we all know lack of money and attention and care from parents. My mother lived with an aunt and my father was so poor that it was difficult for him to go to school. Thank God for a scholarship or my father’s considerable talents would have wasted; my father is a world renowned author and educator, diplomant and active Philanthropist. I am not boasting, i am just pointing out how the world would have lost another brilliant person that could contribute to the betterment of our world. Due to the lack of attention my mother received she suffered alot of mental problems and never matured emotionally. I did not understand that my mother’s problems stemed from her childhood until i started listing my mother’s behavior. Due to the absence of parenting in my mother’s life, she could never be a mother to us and we always had to take care of her.
    My father also suffered because he is emotionally distant; i always thought my father was cruel and cold hearted until my therapist invited by father to my session and i was able to tell him about my problems and his lack of caring. He was surprised, he said that if i had told him that he would have helped. He thought his role as a father was to provide for his children financially and that was it. Because his father never paid attention to him or encourage him, he did not know that he had to do that. After that discussion, i was really sad for my father. Polygamy’s effects are sometimes far reaching.

  36. Gina

    July 31, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Tell me about it. I never imagined I would have issues with polygamy as while my parents may not have had the best marriage, we never had issues with outside women or men (lol!!) or children – thank God.
    All that changed for me after marriage! I married a man with a step mother and half siblings. My husbands step mother is the only wife now and has been for over 30 years but….she clearly has issues with self esteem and a serious inferiority complex! She is jealous of my husbands relationship with his father, my relationship with my father-in-law, the grandchildren etc… To maintain peace we try to keep our distance from them, which is sad for my father-in-law as he loves his grandchildren…..the other children have children of their own too…but it is a very stressful situation! She is suspicious, unhappy when my children who happen to be very well behaved make her children’s children look like badly behaved and uncouth. What is a woman to do? Yes there are a lot of good times, but when the madness begins you cannot help but wonder, “what the crap?”

    Polygamy is a form of bondage. It affects everybody that is involved, negatively.

  37. Isoken Mayor

    July 31, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Polygamy is a horrible horrible thing, i grew up in two diff polygamous homes and while
    i have a wonderful relationship with all my step/half siblings we are ALL terribly scared by
    our diff experiences. Every parent should consider that its not just immediate happiness
    that counts, your choices affect generations

  38. chizy

    August 1, 2010 at 12:54 am

    haha… the closing lines were so cheesy
    love it

  39. BEE

    August 2, 2010 at 12:41 am

    I think polygamy distracts people from their full potential. The hours, tears, drama and all the confusion that goes into coming from a polygamous family is absolutely ridiculous. Unfortunately we have no respect for mental health which makes it difficult to see the extent of the damage it causes to children’s life. 99% of women can never take care of another woman’s child like they would their own so why put an innocent person through all the stress.

  40. chika

    August 2, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Everyone blames their misfortunes,sorrow on polygamy.Polygamy or no polygamy,women shoukd empower themselves,get a propper job with their degrees and stop relying on men 100% to feed them.Be a happy person and continue to pray for the best.Afterall majority of our forefathers were polygamist and we are all decendants, some of us enjoyed from it some are suffering due to emotional and finacial neediness.Nobody has the right to jugde others,there is no silver bullet to marriage, so are happily married and some are not and that is life, it has nothing to do with polygamy.Go get a JOB!!!

  41. 'Manuela

    August 2, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    @ Chika.. your comment is quite off topic. The article/comments mainly discuss the emotional woes polygamy invites, not on unempowered women without proper jobs, “relying 100% on men”. Abeg stick to the topic or at least draw a better correlation. You cannot compare current times with the times of our forefathers. If you think we should all be ok with polygamy bcos we are all somehow decendants of such practices, that’s completely wrong. So I guess we should accept the other degrading practices that came along with those times.

    On another note, unlike 1 or 2 folks here, I think this article is intelligent and unbiased. How do you know the author does not have firsthand experience in a polygamous setting??? She didn’t make any reference to whether or not, so it is actually unintelligent and biased for anyone to make that “unfounded” deductive reasoning. I say so because I have half siblings yet NONE of my friends or neighbors I grew up with ever knew, just close relatives! Others might have suspected but till today they can never say for sure. My half-siblings always lived in a seperate home and the one time my father tried to merge both families under one roof, see drama! We always refered to them as cousins too!! LOL. We don’t relate much any more, not like I really can be bothered but I stay away from them in respect to my mother’s feelings. I just wonder where all those stupid home wreckers were when these men like my father had nothing.

  42. adagurl

    August 4, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    @ ‘manuela…. the author should have stated her ‘credibility’ or whatever they teach you to do in public speaking/presentation… why should we listen to you on the topic? What experience do you have?…

    I personally am not a fan of any outsider judging any other culture/religion/practice… There are good examples of polygamous families, and there are bad… There are also tons of children born out of wedlock all over the place… is it better to have bastard children and one legally wed wife than legitimate children and multiple wives?

    The article is indeed very biased and that’s allowed, but don’t put any other religion down. Definitely don’t put anyone else down because they had a good experience in a situation that you think should be horrid…

  43. Wande

    August 7, 2010 at 2:39 am

    Adagurl….which experience? that’s like saying you have to have HIV/AIDS before you can give a lecture on its vices. We all build opinions on situations based on direct or indirect experiences so this is one person’s perspective (which I agree with by the way) and the author is allowed.It’s opinioned,yes, but definitely not judgemental. Join another ‘fan’ club.

    I was hoping to read a comment from someone who can sincerely explain the joy in ploygamy but lo and behold….none. No second wives or legally “kept” ladies in the house?

    Enkay that letter to your husband is for keeps men!lmao. Nice finish!

  44. lizzy

    October 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    lovely article!!! i remember her writing that she experienced it young cos her grand pa was a polygamists and she still remembers the squabbles et al 13 years after. selective rememberance will not get anyone anywhere. The article is timely for those who care enough to listen. As for d odas who think experience is the best teacher, go rite ahead and make sure u share your experiences later in life. @ Gina, Honey and Manuela, i must say i took away a thing or two from your comments. @ Enkay, once again, lovely write up. the letter to ur future hubby really cracked me up especially d part on genetic transmutation….lol.

  45. lizzy

    October 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    sorry pple, her grandpa was a polygamist not polygamists. twas an error pls.

  46. moi

    November 3, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    abeg, some are living miserably as single wives while some r living happily with oter women as co-wives. life is not a bed of roses, so you dont expect to have it good all the time. besides there is no hard and fast rule about these thns. do wat suits you and dont condemn others decision

  47. JumJum

    May 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I love your ending comment. lol!!!

  48. fromexperience

    September 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Polygamy is one thing you shouldn’t wish for anyone, not even your enemy.

  49. nana

    February 27, 2012 at 10:48 am

    i am a product of a polygamous family,my parents are from polygamous families too.growing up was horrible my mum who is d first n legal wife had a mate when she was 28,she never enjoyed her marriage,my dad was a chronic womaniser,so even wit d 2nd wife it didn’t stop him,there was always fights everyday,i can never wish polygamy for my enemy,at a point cos of his 2nd wife he sent my mum n we his children out of the house didn’t contact us again,my mum single handedly trained us wit her teacher salary.but the experience made me stronger but am trying to work on my self cos of the emotional trauma,i hav difficulty in trusting men.The situation now is dat his 2nd wife left him whn his moni is finished,n he is looking for us his successful children.My point is polygamy is wickedness period

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