9 November 2013

Polygamy: Problems, practicality and relationships

While waiting to board my flight home from Penang a few days ago, feeling sleepy from a combination of poor slumber the previous night and two too many cheese and mushroom omelettes for breakfast, a gentleman seated to my right proudly declared to an acquaintance, "This is my third wife, that's my first... and the one over there with the blue tudung (or 'hood')  is my second".  The latter two were unsmiling; the second wife especially deadpan.

Amazing, I thought to myself.  Here was a man (and I'm going to be crudely - maybe even unfairly - judgmental here) obviously of no substantial means, neither overly-learned nor with the looks that'll ever grace the cover of GQ magazine with three wives.  Three!  I was baffled.  Why on earth did he have to marry three women?  Primal urges aside, was it simply because he can?  Immediately, questions of how far a man's man-management (or more testingly, woman-management) skills can be challenged sprang to mind.  Fool, I thought.  I couldn't help but laugh - inwardly and unenviously - at the intricate matrimonial web he's gotten himself into.

Complex (and might I add, stifling) as polygamous relationships can be, it's something that's practised - embraced even - by millions around the world.  In fact, for all the human virtues and divine goodness they try to impart, (incredibly) there are religions that actually condone polygamy.  And in some societies, the practice is even allowed by statute!

But my question is this: should polygamy be practised, let alone legalised?  To me, the answer has to be a resounding "No".  Of course not.  And not because of moral issues; it's simply a matter of practicality.  Or should I say, im-practicality.  I mean, seriously, do you know of a polygamous relationship where every participant was genuinely and unreservedly at ease and happy?

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not saying polygamy per se is immoral, and neither am I about to venture into the realm of moral values (I'm neither foolish nor holier-than-thou enough to go there).  As long as all parties involved are willing, consenting adults, there's nothing actually wrong with polygamy in the strictest sense of the word.  But in reality, many (if not most) will share my opinion that such relationships inevitably call for unimaginable amounts of energy and mastery - never mind financial muscle - to maintain.  At the end of the day, because one can only give so much, invariably someone (or someones) is going to be left out in the cold feeling unhappy, unvalued, unneeded, unloved, or worse, unrespected.  Surely that won't contribute positively to a relationship (never mind a polygamous one), would it?

We homosapiens are a selfish and possessive lot, especially when it comes to love and affection, and very few of us are willing to share our loved ones with other people - even under the pretense that we receive love from the other person.  This is especially true if the polygamous relationship is between one male and multiple females.  One will inevitably become the favourite and the other (or others) will eventually become resentful, vindictive and depressed.  Remember the impassive second and third wives at the airport?

My point is, why - consciously or otherwise - cause misery and despondency to others when every human being has the right (yes, it's a right) to lead a happy, fulfilled life?  Mind you, it's humans we're talking about here - not sheep.

An ideal situation which at least one polygamous relationship I know of is trying to achieve is to create a "web" or "matrix" of love, so to speak.  For instance, in a relationship comprising one man and three women, if the love exists only between the man and each woman, that's hardly going to be the recipe for a successful multi-partite union.  For the matrix to work, the love must exist between man and woman and woman and woman.  Know what I mean?  In the same way the husband must love wives No. 1, 2 and 3 equally and unequivocally, all three wives must also love the husband and each other equally and unequivocally.  What's that term they use?  Sister-wives?  In other words, everyone has to love everyone.  Having said that, let me now ask you this: isn't this kind of relationship unrealistic - utopic even - and impossible to achieve?

Personally, I think the chances of Julian Assange turning himself in next Tuesday are miles higher than that of successfully creating a genuinely happy, loving relationship between all parties in a polygamous union.  I think polygamy is unfair (especially to women), I think it should not be practised and, above all, I think it should not be legalised.  Anywhere.  Approving polygamy equates opposing women and undermining their rights.  And laws that oppose women or undermine their rights insult both men and women.

Have a good day, everyone.

Are you in a polygamous relationship?  If so, please share with us your experiences.
What are your thoughts about polygamy?  Do you approve of it?


  1. I agree with Kay. A poignant piece on a difficult topic to write about.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Alister. It's something I wouldn't have written about had it not been for the gentleman at the airport who gave me the inspiration; it all came flowing to me after that.

      Say no to polygamy!

  2. Well written and very generous in term of describing about relationship in polygamy. As my social observation lot of gentlemen are having complex relationship and they enjoy and pround with their lies. Don't understand why some women accept and allow to be a part of this society. As being a famale we must say NO for polygamy and don't fall the trap with someone who isn't gentleman and always talks behind his wife or partner. Please don't get me wrong that I anti-men. Completely support your writing 'No polygamy'.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Kathy. Polygamy is a mindset and cultural thing which sadly is practised worldwide. I do not view polygamy positively myself. We can change mindsets but I can't say the same about culture. I find it astounding that the practice is even allowed by law in some places.