Wife number two? That is no big deal

A happy Robert Chauke (50) with his 6 wives and some of his children at his home PHOTO | ALEXANDER JOE | AFP
A happy Robert Chauke (50) with his 6 wives and some of his children at his home PHOTO | ALEXANDER JOE | AFP  

I have recently discovered that I am the second wife to my husband even though he made me believe I was the first and the only one. How do I deal with this disappointment even though my mother and the husband’s family think there is no big deal?


Without knowing how old you are, or even how long you have been married to this man, it is difficult to answer your question specifically, but will give you some general thoughts that you might find helpful even as you ponder over the possibility that “there is no big deal” as believed by your own mother as well as your in laws.

If, for example, you and your husband profess Islam as your faith, then chances are real that you are one of four, not just two wives. In this case, your husband might be the one who told you recently that he indeed does have another family in Eldoret and that should settle the matter.

At private members’ club a few years ago, I met a young lawyer who was seated with three young women and from where I sat I could tell they were having a great evening out.

When he invited me to “his people”, I was barely able to hide my surprise. The young man had taken his three wives out for a drink, while the fourth stayed at home, cooking for the entire family.

One of the ladies was a lawyer, the second an engineer and the third a social worker. In the short time we spent together, I was left in no doubt that this type of marriage has a place in modern society and has its own stability. All are happy in this union.

At the other end of the spectrum, we came across a rather difficult real life situation in a hospital setting.

A 75-year-old man was clearly (in our view) on his deathbed. His wife (only wife we all thought) and her children were clear and unanimous in accepting the decision of the doctors, not to resuscitate the patient in the event of a cardiac arrest. Having been with the doctors in the past two years that the man had been ailing, the decision of this family was as simple as it was clear.

No sooner had this decision been made than a young woman appeared with her five-year-old daughter claiming the full rights of a wife. Her arguments, backed by a court order was that they had a right to an opinion on matters affecting her husband, and father of her child.

The first wife had been married 50 years earlier, and their traditional marriage had been blessed with five now adult children with their own homes, some of who lived in the USA.

It was indeed during the wife’s prolonged period of absence on a trip to the USA that the old man (as he put it to a friend), felt cold, and the young woman who had been left to cook for him just happened to be there. As one thing led to another, the old man became warm, and the young woman became pregnant.

Before the return of his wife, the old man took the young woman back to her parents. To be on the safe side, he took two friends and some goats and confirmed in the presence of elders that the girl became pregnant in his bed.

He promised to return when the baby was born, but his wife came back too soon. The girl’s family took the goats as the first instalment of dowry. She and her family were happy that marriage had taken place traditionally. He fell ill before he could confess to the wife what had happened while she was away.

DNA studies confirmed that the dying man was the father of the child.

Eventually, the man died, and the truth was that he was the husband of both wives.

These two stories are intended to show you the complex nature of the subject of marriage because of the many types and permutations that are possible, depending on whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, African or none of the above!
From your question, it seems as though your mother and in-laws have a point that might be worthwhile for you to ponder!