Dear Ms. Anon Advice,
I’ve been reading your column and I think you’re the right person to guide me because my friends and family don’t understand.
I got married almost two years ago, to a great gentleman. It was an arranged marriage. Everything is fine, except that in the beginning of marriage I had been very clear to my husband that I don’t want to have kids.
Apparently, it wasn’t clear enough because now that it’s been long enough to our marriage, he is shocked that I am still sticking to it. He says he thought I would change over time or I just wanted to enjoy time as a couple first. He is very clear that he does intend to have a family of his own, and is trying to convince me a lot. I am equally clear that I can’t see myself birthing and raising kids, not in the next couple years, not in the next decade. Parting our ways is not an option, we love each other and still want to spend the rest of our lives together.
I am very much a heterosexual, by the way, our sex life is great, and we are both fertile.
Under these circumstances, should I allow him to get married a second time for the purpose of procreating? I think it is better than cheating on me and leading a double life, with a second family hidden from me. But I hesitate because what if the second wife doesn’t ever conceive?
Dear Daring wife,
Frankly speaking, even the best of advisers are not the best or only people who can decide for you. The final decision has to be yours. I can, however, try to help you think through it.
First off, however, did you not discuss these things before getting married!? Arranged or not, a marriage is a long term contract and people generally tend to enter such a contract after being very clear about their lives, and therefore both parties of the contract not only have complete right to discuss and weigh all aspects, but it is also your duty. To yourself as well as the other person. I’m sorry to say but marriage is not something someone else decides for you, even if they arrange it for you. It is also not a means to have halal sex or to reproduce only. It is, in fact, a companionship, a journey both want to embark on together and make compatible, if not same choices.
Anyway, what’s done is done. For your current issue, I can only help you check off most major aspects that you should have considered. If you have confirmed and doubtless answers to these questions, nothing else should be stopping you from taking a decision.
Is it that you don’t want to go through pregnancy and the tough early years of raising a child? Or do you absolutely not want to reproduce ever?
Have you considered adoption? That could be a good middle ground for both of you. Plus, you both will change an underprivileged person’s life forever.
Now on to the second wife scenario:
Have you envisioned what life would be like with a third person added to the party? A third family added to your extended family? Let me paint a picture for you. As long as your husband and the second wife are merely a couple, things might still seem bearable, assuming that your husband does justice to you both in terms of looking after you. Let’s assume he still loves and prefers you more and the second wife understands that and is totally okay with it. However, it’s not just about you allowing your husband to get married a second time for the purpose of having kids.
When she gets pregnant, your husband will need to be there for her more than you will need him by your side. Can you give this to other woman and your husband that kind of time and space? Without feeling jealous or regretful. When the baby does come along, again, your husband’s responsibilities will increase. His time will be demanded more by the second wife, the mother of his children. Will you be able to comfortably live with that? Even if they involve you in the new child’s life as bari ammi, or whatever, would you be grateful for the inclusion without much responsibility, or would you feel like you’re being used, to babysit the child while the husband and second wife go shopping for the kid(s), or go to a parent-teacher meeting, or catch a much needed nap? Can you promise complete affection for your husband’s child? Can you honestly not pry into their lives, feeling like they owe you something for your permission?
I can see why you would think that this is better than the risk of a man cheating on his first wife, hiding a family from her. But a man (or woman) who has to cheat will cheat. It doesn’t seem like your husband is the kind of person who would make such an important decision of a life that the two of you are sharing, without your consent. Shocked as he may be, it doesn’t seem like he would force anything on you. But it might very well take a toll on him, regardless.
And then there is the possibility that when you see your husband busy with a family, doting on another woman’s kids, you might think back to the time when you could have had your own family with the love of your life, even if by means of adoption. Can you be absolutely sure that you won’t hate those kids for your husband’s divided time, attention and love? Can you be absolutely sure that you won’t regret this decision or step then?
Because if you do regret it, at any later point in life, you need to realise that you could potentially ruin someone else’s life – an entire family’s life, not to mention your own too. Because even if you hurt them, intentionally or unintentionally, you yourself will never be at peace.
I have detailed so many perspectives because your query has a huge cloud of doubt over it – the last line. I’m sure if you are progressive enough to consider a second marriage of your own husband, you’re likely privy to the fact that you can almost certainly find out if a person is fertile or not before marriage. Such a thought only points int he direction of potential regret on your part that you allowed a second woman in your husband’s life when she doesn’t meet the need that the two of you set out to meet.
I can’t decide for you, my friend. No one can. I can only help you realise that marriage is a huge responsibility, and starting a family is an even larger one. If you feel you jumped into marriage with the wrong person such that your life goals don’t match or compliment each others’, then think very hard and long before deciding to have kids with your husband or allowing him to have a second wife.
Perhaps what you could do is, give yourself a timeline, at the end of which if you both still strongly feel the same about having kids, that is when you should take such a huge step. In the meantime, use that time to travel, explore yourself, gather exposure and insight on life from multiple angles, explore and discover yourselves. And who knows, one of you might bend in the other’s direction, and you won’t need to overthink way ahead of time, about tough steps.
Whatever you do, just remember that it isn’t about two lives, but at least four if not more.
All the best!