Is Polygamy the solution to Infidelity?

When this question was asked by Citizen Tv during prime time news, I frowned in puzzlement. How could they ask such a question?  Polygamy is infidelity! Isn’t it?

The question followed a story that had been highlighted about a Pastor from Kisumu who has four wives. “My 4 wives and I” – the news segment was called. The party of five seemed to have it all figured out. The man, in all fairness, built four identical houses, one for each wife, complete with identical furniture.

It appeared that they were living their ‘happily-ever-after’. They all cooked and brought the food to their husband’s house where they ate like one big happy polygamous family! The wives got along just fine. Now, isn’t that the life!

 Is polygamy the way to go in order to curb infidelity? Are we saying that men are totally incapable of being in a monogamous marriage? Helplessly unable to be faithful? Are we maybe, just maybe, asking too much of them?

Our forefathers by majority were polygamous. We shun polygamy now and look what happens; we have the Mpango wa Kando phenomenon glaring at us unblinkingly. Broken families abound. The spread of HIV is not only prevalent, but also persists among the married folk. What gives?

If the views I got from two guys are anything to go by, it is safe to say that men can indeed commit and be faithful to one woman. Monogamy is a possibility and so the myth that all men cheat is just that, a myth. Men are also familiar with the equation; more wives = more responsibility (financial and otherwise). Most men who have affairs want nothing more than an affair. To assume that polygamy is a solution to infidelity is to wrongly assume that all unfaithful men are itching to take on more responsibilities by marrying their mistresses. Furthermore, a man who marries his mistress creates a vacancy, doesn’t he?

If it is a man’s world, does it follow that infidelity is a man’s disease? Does offering a prescription for the husband alone heal a marriage? As long as the man is ok, the woman is ok? We want to believe that taking care of an unfaithful man by legitimizing his infidelity will make marriages last and everyone will be happy. But is that the case?

Our African society refuses to acknowledge that women do cheat on their husbands too. Mrs.Tuju, anyone?  Too soon? We might never see the day that a bill in parliament will be passed to allow women to marry another man, with her first husband’s blessings to boot.  

We should however understand that it takes a special kind of woman to make a polygamous arrangement work perfectly. To enjoy the kind of life that the man from Nyanza seems to enjoy with his four wives is no mean feat. Those four women are not your regular kind of women.

Polygamy was perfect in the 19th century because a woman lived for her husband. She spent every waking minute attending to him and his children and nothing else mattered. She was content with having nothing to her name. Zilch. She was happy in her cocoon where her imagination never wandered too far from her husband and their homestead. She was ok with cooking and feeding her children and attending to her ‘master’s’ needs. She had what her husband told her she could have, and she was what her husband said she was.

She was prepared early in life to fit into her role as a wife. Not just any wife, a good wife. She was taught how to cook for her husband, how to keep her house clean, how to please her husband in bed courtesy of the sex aunties at the time. She was even taken through pregnancy and childbirth by a mid wife who gave her tips on how to care for her children.

This woman was uneducated, people. She had never stepped into a classroom. Her husband was her life and her life was her husband.  And that is the woman who would make polygamy flourish: the one who believed that marriage is the be all and end all.

Now where will our good men find that woman?

Maybe if their stars align themselves perfectly, they will find this woman tucked away in some hidden island or forest somewhere, away from civilized ‘corrupted’ minds. As long as she is kept in that unadulterated environment, she will make polygamous marriages stand the test of time like the women of yore did.

Take the “My 4 wives and I” guy from Nyanza for example. His wives are like peas in a pod. They wore long flowing dresses and donned headscarves on their heads as they made their way to church walking proudly beside their man. It was clear that they held their husband in awe. They congregated outside their houses to discuss what they should cook for him as he sat on a chair outside his house, possibly marveling at how lucky a man could get! When food was brought to him, he made sure not to deny any of his wives the privilege of taking a bite from all the assortments laid down before him. And that food was a lot!

I am not worried that polygamous marriages will gain traction any time soon. Not in this day and age. A woman in the 21st century has so much going for her. She is educated and she knows no limits to what she can achieve. She sees the world with a whole new pair of eyes now and has no qualms going for what she wants.

There can only be two reasons why a modern woman would agree to a polygamous arrangement: Either she is yet to evolve or it could be all about the Benjamins – in which case, just remember that when she leaves, she leaves with half.

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