‘polygamy’ is Googled approximately 300,000 times per month globally.
My first few months in Yaoundé were a lot like my first few months at the Academy. I was totally unfamiliar with the culture of the city and my social learning curve made it difficult to initially make friends or gain the support of my extended family. My uncle refused to let me stay with him because his house was already too full. Instead I was directed to go and live with one of his wives who would supposedly be able to take better care of me since she would already be cooking for her children and caring for them. I would just be an extra mouth to feed and according to my uncle, it would make no real difference for her to fill one more plate. She had no say in the matter as my uncle was the one supporting her financially. But she did determine how I would be treated in her house. She set the tone for her children to treat me as their personal bus boy, cleaning their clothes, serving their food and just performing any other task they deemed necessary in order for me to pull my weight as an intruder in their home.
While it is common knowledge that having multiple wives is the norm in most African cultures, there are several details that make the defined tradition of polygamy very similar to the undefined faux pas of marital infidelity in the west. It seems that in America, adultery happens in the shadows and is initially denied, should evidence surface that would incriminate the guilty party. Polygamy isn’t a game of guesswork, because everyone knows they aren’t the only one and never assumes otherwise. This doesn’t mean each party is at peace with the divided loyalty that defines their day to day existence. In fact, the same jealousy and uncertainty that is characteristic of the unknown in relationships where adultery is commonplace, also plagues the relationship of a polygamist who must deal with the repercussions of trying to juggle the emotions of several women constantly vying for his undivided attention. Both adultery and polygamy are compromises of the human soul, each party wanting what they don’t have, instead only getting what they don’t want.
My uncle, a Christian man, did not live the traditional life of an African man guided by a sense of entitlement to the usual allotment of wives. His acquisition of several women with whom he reproduced was for him a natural progression that is typically referred to in the west as falling in and out of love, divorcing the latest disappointment in hopes of a better match. The major difference between the two lifestyles is that polygamy doesn’t formalize a physical separation into terms of divorce. The former wife typically referred to as the “ex” would in a polygamist relationship almost always retain an important role in the life of her husband.
- Marriage Equality: Polygamists Unite! (a satire) (ehyde.wordpress.com)
- But What If Three People Love Each Other? Ctd (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- Religion and Human Rights (31): Polygamy, Right or Rights Violation? (filipspagnoli.wordpress.com)
- But What If Three People Love Each Other? (dish.andrewsullivan.com)