Sharing your hubby with other wives

THE FIRST LADIES: President Jacob Zuma's three wives, from left, Pumelelo Ntuli, Sizakele Khumalo and
Thobeka Mabhija dance at a function. Pic: Simphiwe Nkwali. 06/06/2009. © Sunday Times.
THE FIRST LADIES: President Jacob Zuma's three wives, from left, Pumelelo Ntuli, Sizakele Khumalo and Thobeka Mabhija dance at a function. Pic: Simphiwe Nkwali. 06/06/2009. © Sunday Times.

THE thought of being a second or even a third wife in the 21st century may seem like the coolest thing to do if the "united front" projected by President Jacob Zuma's three wives recently is anything to go by.

THE thought of being a second or even a third wife in the 21st century may seem like the coolest thing to do if the "united front" projected by President Jacob Zuma's three wives recently is anything to go by.

While the president has been largely criticised by mostly feminists for his practice, no one has said anything about the women's feelings.

Paulina Molaoa, a senior social worker at Family Life Centre, says while most women in polygamous marriages have done so willingly, most are not entirely happy with their decision.

Reasons for getting into such marriages vary, says Molaoa.

"Some may say they did it because they loved and adored their husband because he was probably everything they may have been yearning for in a man. The decision is often a tough one to make," she says.

"You find yourself debating about whether you want to be a mistress for the rest of your life or formalise the union by becoming a second wife," says one woman in a polygamous marriage.

Molaoa says most women in polygamous marriages are usually torn between being a second or third wife or risk losing their "ideal" man.

"The truth is that most of these women do not want to be in polygamous relationships."

Molaoa says many women may be comforted by the fact that they are equally taken care of and are treated with respect.

But polygamy can also have detrimental psychological consequences for individuals involved in such relationships.

"Once the husband brings home another wife, the entire family becomes dysfunctional and that's when basic principles such as honesty, respect and open communication are affected," says Molaoa.

Family law expert Nthabiseng Monareng agrees.

"The first wife is usually the most affected as she competes for her husband's affection. Things are worse if she was not consulted about the second wife."

Monareng says disputes over unequal distribution of resources usually becomes the main source of conflict among the women.

"What most men and women are not aware of is that for the man to take a second or third wife, he has to first obtain a court order which allows him to marry again. Without the court order, that marriage is not legal."

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