Saturday, December 15, 2007

Al Assab

I have been meaning to do this piece for quite sometime. Assab is defined by Al-Krenawi as a nervous state including anxiety and tension.

Al-Krenawi, Alean, Graham, John R., Al-Krenawi, Salem
Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal; Dec97, Vol. 14 Issue 6, p445-458, 14p
Social Work Practice with Polygamous Families.
Al-Krenawi and other social workers/ psychologist also state that somitatization, poor appetite and low self-esteem are also typical accompaniments to polygamy.

I want to speak on this anxiety and tension thing which I believe is unilaterally tied into the low self-esteem issue. My wife and I have went around the polygamy tree twice now and both times were rent with inner turmoil and strife and I have made some observations and deductions on what are the inner problems emotionally for women with polygamy. The obvious argument would be for men to see how it would be if the shoe were on the other foot however Allah didn't work it out that way so it is something that you would have to take up with Him.

The first time around the polygamy bush the major emotional issues for my wife were exclusion, being left outside of the inner part of me to the loss of someone else. The second time there were the same fears however more intense. There was an intense fear of loss of those things that are deeply rooted in our relationship that we hold dear. Things like pet names, phrases, family rituals. She was continually threatened by the encroachment of things that we call our own. The personal stuff. This may have been exacerbated by the model we chose where all wives live together and there was a mutual communal effort dedicated to building a stronger family.

However the anxiety I noticed was formed in a threat or perceived threat of losing ones place. This I have noted in Aiesha (RAH) the mother of the believers and my otherwise very confident wife. The connection and strength of our marriage was no match to the fears of losing place and being thrust into a constant state of competition to be the favorite. To be the alpha, secure and superior one. This isn't the way men do it, because men probably more naturally resort to violence which is probably in Allah's wisdom to make this arrangement one way instead of a unilateral type of marriage arrangement.

Women will apparently go into this state of constantly vying for the number one position which in turn leads to the psychosomatic problems that were listed at the beginning of this post. Now on my blog I really don't try to claim that I know what is going on in women's heads, that would be stupid instead I try to give a masculine perspective on men women relationships so that women who read my blog can have some kind of clue to what may be going on in the heads of their mates. Furthermore since most women do not, or probably not have close communication relationships with men, I feel that my point of view may be of vital importance for them putting it all together.

My quest for polygamy has passed, I have fully come to the conclusion that I would never be able to be fair because I love my wife way too much. So it would be pointless to put them both through such grief unnecessarily. I did want to let you all know though for me it was never an issue of my first wife losing her position to the second. It wasn't a replacement of one for the other. It was just different, and I believe that this is the way that men (I can only specifically speak for myself) categorize relationships. Each relationship is based on its own merit. Especially where women are concerned. Each relationship is placed into its own tiny box and compartmentalized as relationship A, relationship B etc. The relationships do not affect each other except in the terms of material resources that they use. Men are single tracked, goal oriented, point to point beings. One activity does not automatically blend with the next. Each activity is its own entity. When you are at work all of your focus is at work, when you are at home all of your focus is at home, or should be. When you are watching the game or a movie that is where all of your focus is as a man. This isn't the same for women. Women's activities blend into several multitasking situations. They watch TV while cooking dinner and talking on the phone. I can't do that. Either I'm on the phone, watching TV or cooking dinner and don't ask me to "multi-task" while doing a single activity. This leads to frustration.

So in this plural marriage thing whatever wife A does for the man is viewed completely independent of wife B, because men can only process one relationship at a time and the most significant is what was the last significant memorable event. Why because this is how men's memories work. whenever I get into an argument with my wife and she recalls something from the past I have to say if that is how you remember it that is the way it is, but I am not going to argue on that point I can only argue on what is present in front of me right now. Because frankly 9 times out of 10 I won't remember what you were wearing on that day or what I said three months ago on this day.

The problem with coping with polygamy aside from men not doing it right is viewing the relationship like a woman or at least your husbands side of the relationship because he doesn't see it the same way as you do, or at least I wouldn't. When I started working on this post I began to think about what are the points of binding for men that make a relationship what it is. I can say unilaterally that it is not sex. Although sex is very important for men in a relationship it is not what binds a man in a relationship, and it is not held as personal and special by a man as it is by women. There have been studies that show that perfectly loving husbands can sleep with women other than their wives and then go back to them as nothing has ever happened. There are also relationships where there is something very wrong with the relationship that this happens in also and I am not trying to rule that out or make an excuse for this behavior but what I am saying is sex isn't the magic key when it comes to men. For me the binding of the relationship is first the commitment to the relationship. Love doesn't come until sometime thereafter even if there is a strong personal attraction. Beauty, sex, wealth, nor Deen is the magic glue that is the relationship for a man. It is something deeper than that. It comes somewhere between sacrifice and deep trust and respect. In relationships where these are absent or there are significant communications issues then the reality of the true relationship can become skewed. It is probably during this time that many impatient men do something stupid.

I don't think that the anxiety of being in a polygamous relationship will ever really fully pass, and I believe that the ease of coping with it depends entirely on the man. I think that over time it decreases, as the reality of knowing that your husband is happy with what he has with you and with what he has with her becomes more manifest assuming he makes it this pleasant. I think that if you are in a relationship of this type there are a few key things to remember. Your husband's happiness is directly linked to his last pleasurable memory, your husband's relationship with another woman in his mind is completely separate from your relationship and in his mind chances are you are not in a contest, his love for you hasn't changed. Possibly only his behavior because of the stresses that each wife places on him and are probably primarily materially based.


  1. Thank you for the insight.
    It makes sense and therefore helps.

  2. You said so well right here:

    "For me the binding of the relationship is first the commitment to the relationship. Love doesn't come until sometime thereafter even if there is a strong personal attraction. Beauty, sex, wealth, nor Deen is the magic glue that is the relationship for a man. It is something deeper than that. It comes somewhere between sacrifice and deep trust and respect."

    And yes, from my short time in this, I can say yes, yes as time goes on the anxiety does decrease. And the more it decreases the better it all gets. I guess, especially in a case like mine where I had never heard of such, much less imagined I would ever be living this sort of life, the longer I'm in it, the more secure I feel and the anxiety decreases. You just have to be patient, it's all new to both of you no matter what your age or situation. Just as in a monogamous marriage, you have some things to learn about each other before you can truly know what you need and know what you need to give back.

    This is a very interesting piece Muhammad. You did good. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the masculine mind (and heart).