Polygamy with equality is ‘impossible’, says Emirati spouse

Marriages amplify love and money worries, says study by Zayed University student.

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ABU DHABI // Samia Saeed is a second wife. She has been married for seven years and has three children.

When Mrs Saeed, 38, married her husband, he and his first wife had been wed for 10 years and had four children.

“It’s a difficult life, and no man or woman who is in a polygamous relationship will say that they are fine with the situation,” said the Emirati.

“All men in the beginning think it’s exciting to have a second wife, and many women don’t mind at the start. As soon as the marriage happens, the woman starts making demands and wanting her husband to treat both wives equally.”

The demands for equality spelt out in the Quran are almost impossible to meet, Mrs Saeed said.

“As hurt as I am, I feel sorry for my husband and I see the huge burden on him. He’s become a lost man with no life. If he takes me out one day then his first wife will want to go out the next.”

Zayed University student Mariam Al Zaabi spoke to 70 men and 130 women and found that about four fifths of them from Abu Dhabi and two thirds in Dubai said they agreed with the concept of polygamy, compared with fewer than half from the Northern Emirates.

But those involved in such marriages say it is not that simple.

While Mrs Saeed’s husband is able to sustain two marriages for so long, others cannot.

Ahmed M, a 30-year-old Emirati from Dubai, said: “I divorced my second wife. I couldn’t do it.”

Ahmed’s second wife was a few years younger than him. He thought life would be exciting.

It began by her asking to have a house of her own like his first wife and not live in a rented apartment. Ahmed is a government employee and could not afford another house.

His first wife also started making more demands and was hurt that he had married again.

“She always made me feel guilty and I was always trying to please her,” Ahmed said. “The more I did that, the more my second wife got angry.”

He divorced his second wife a year after the birth of their first child and advises his friends to remain monogamous.

H S, 31, said polygamous marriages are not for everyone.

“You cannot generalise such a thing,” she said. “Rich men can afford such a relationship, but with all the expenses and high cost of living it’s impossible for an average Emirati to be able to maintain two houses.”

The trend in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is to have a second wife purely for pleasure, H S said.

She met her husband when he was separated from his wife.

“After my first week of marriage I demanded that he divorce her and that was settled. I told him that I wanted him for myself. I’m not going through that whole sharing thing.”

When the couple argues, he sometimes says he will find another wife.

But “I’m not crazy,” he said. “I can’t handle the one.”

salnuwais@thenational.ae