When the polygamy first began, it was immensely difficult for me. From the very beginning, I felt traumatized. I couldn’t sleep more than a couple hours. I could barely eat, and in a matter of weeks I lost several pounds. My mind kept replaying the events that led to how it all started over and over, and every time I had to face the pain of the situation it felt like someone was dunking my head under water and holding it there. It was suffocating and frightening, and I felt there was no escape from the way everything made me feel. I began calling in sick from work almost every week, as well as making up excuses to ask to work from home. On the days I did go in, I was going in several hours late. I had truly become a non-functional mess…I couldn’t even bring myself to distraction by going online to blog or look at Facebook. The agony consumed me.
A lot of people might think that the cause of my feelings was because of having to share my husband with another woman, but really that wasn’t it at all. If that had been my only concern, it would have been a cake walk. No, the thing that made this whole situation so tremendously heart wrenching was that it peeled back and kept exposed, like raw nerves, my deepest and most troublesome insecurities.
All of my life I have struggled with a sense of belonging. I have wrestled with a disconnect of feeling wanted by others. I know the experiences I went through in my infancy and childhood lent to those issues, and I grew up with some baggage of being pretty needy, very insecure, and extremely afraid of being abandoned. I’ve spent most of my life compensating for those things in both healthy and unhealthy ways, but I know deep down there will be a part of me that won’t quite be whole because it just missed that chance at the appointed time in my development.
Since I came into the polygamy after Bashir had married Coco, I felt all of these things much more profoundly than I have in years. I couldn’t really find where I belonged, because I knew that he had already begun a life with her under the idea that I was not going to be a part of his life. I wasn’t sure if he even really wanted to be with me again, or if he was doing it because he felt that’s what his religious teachers wanted. I couldn’t escape the exposure to his new love for her, and the attention he would give her through constant texts and phone calls, and I felt overwhelmed with the pull to have my own emotional needs for attention met. I found it hard to find any grounding or security to stand on, and I was constantly afraid he would decided he was more satisfied with her than I and cut me loose again.
So I worked really hard to be the ideal wife, but no matter what I did right the emotions overtook me time and again. Every time she came down for a visit (as she lived out of town), it was like another tsunami overtaking me. I tried to keep everything to myself, but I had become so sensitive and vulnerable it had become impossible to hide. Eventually, the very deepest fears I had began to come true because I was driving Bashir away with the never ending emotional crises. I became the wife with “all the issues and drama”, while Coco, who was already a seasoned polygamist, spent her time with him just trying to start their relationship.
I remember the first weekend after the polygamy started, I took a trip out of town for a Quranic conference. The whole ride there I felt like I was living in another world. There were no love songs that described my life as it was now. There were no nice romantic comedies I could relate to anymore. It seemed like everyone was in one world- the world of monogamy- and I was stuck in another….alone, and with no coping skills or guide to help me find my way through it.
Things got so difficult at one point I wrestled with my darkest thoughts in a way I haven’t dealt with in years. I have been struggling with certain thoughts to hurt myself since I was a teenager, and they always are triggered when I feel I truly have no place or am causing more harm than good to others. Those struggles broke wide open at one point when Bashir was visiting with Coco, and I feared that this situation was so extreme that I might not be able to ride it out this time. I seriously considered checking myself into the local behavioral hospital, but in the end things went another way and another day passed.
Bashir was naturally concerned about how all this was affecting me. Coco on the other hand just saw my “antics” as a nuisance and intrusion into her marriage. She just wanted the problem (me) to disappear so she could go on happily ever after. I just wanted someone to walk me through my darkness until I came out the other side. In the end, Bashir became overwhelmed with his own duties as a polygamous husband and was finding himself becoming more and more stressed by trying to keep the balancing act going. He felt stuck too because he knew the commitment he made in marriage to her was not one he could just easily shrug off now.
The turning point came slowly. It began when Coco, who had her tubes tied several years ago, decided she wanted to get a reversal so she could have a baby with Bashir. Bashir and Coco, however, had agreed before marriage that they were not going to have children. Bashir felt scared and betrayed when this was brought up, because he didn’t want to have children with her. However, it was open fact that I was not under the same standard because for one, my tubes weren’t tied and for two; I never stipulated anything like that with him. Coco decided to continue with Bashir in spite of the fact that it meant giving up her right to have more children- a right I still retained. Even though she agreed to that, I think Bashir’s trust in her (after all, he had only known her a matter of weeks by then) was permanently shaken.
It was quite ironic that only 2 weeks after that incident I found out I was pregnant at my annual checkup. I have been infertile for several years, and I never imagined I would get pregnant on my own before I had even discussed with Bashir how such a thing would fit into our newly polygamous lifestyle. My pregnancy ended up magnifying all of the issues that had been going on with me personally, as well as all three of us, to the point where Bashir really needed to think about what was best for everyone.
In the end, Bashir ended up divorcing Coco after they had only been married 6 weeks. It had nothing to do with me or the pregnancy, but personal issues they were having with each other. He gave her opportunities to return to him since then, but she has rejected them. Bashir and I have been living monogamously for the past nearly 4 weeks.
I am eating again, and sleeping too (probably a little too much). My sense of normalcy has returned, and I’m no longer “drowning” or reliving the weekend my life changed over and over. I am going to work the way I need to, and not having emotional breakdowns every other day. So in those senses, I know I am healing.
But there are parts of me that still feel damaged. I feel like I’ve lost passion and fire I used to have. In one sense it’s a good thing because I no longer tend to be defensive, argumentative, controlling or nagging. In another sense I’m left feeling empty and apathetic, because there’s a part of me that knows all too well that if a painful thing comes my way I won’t be able to stop it or even necessarily control how it affects me. I am at the mercy of Allah’s will, so if He wills tests for me I almost feel defeated to them….and I miss that part of me that lived on hope and dreams.