We had been working together for three years when he first asked me to marry him. He was kind and decent, but if I had to find fault in him, i’d say maybe he seemed a little boring. I declined his proposal. I liked my life as it was at the time. He persisted, proposing a second and a third time over the course of the next year. Again, I declined both offers. We remained good friends and less than a year later he told me he had decided to have an arranged marriage to one of his cousins. Nothing changed between us during this period and we remained good friends.
It was a few weeks after his wedding that I started to feel differently. I slowly realized that I did want to marry him, but only as a second wife. Looking back at my decision now, with twenty years of maturity and clarity, I think that I always wanted to marry him but that the idea of the commitment of a full time marriage didn’t appeal to me. We don’t talk like this in Kuwait, certainly not twenty years ago. We were expected to want marriage desperately and be thankful at any opportunity we got to be a wife.
When he returned from his honeymoon I told him about how I felt. We got married and I became his second wife the same year he married his cousin. I heard she was devestated and that she threatened to leave him. He told me that he told her she had every right to, but that she was family and should she choose to stay, she would be treated with love and respect and that he would make sure that neither one of us got treated better than the other.
She decided to stay. The decision probably had nothing to do with her love for him or her wanting to be married to him. If she left she would be given the shameful (to some families) title of ‘divorced’, she wasn’t a virgin anymore, she would be humiliated in front of her entire family for seemingly being dumped only months after her wedding and she would undoubtedly struggle to get remarried.
I regret the position I put her in but I also try not to think about it. Instead, I make sure to stay out of her way. In fact, it’s been twenty years and I still don’t know what she looks like.
You see it matters for me that their marriage succeeds because without her I didn’t want him. I like having a husband only half the time. I enjoy the week he spends with me and my children just as much as I enjoy the week where he’s with her; where I get to enjoy my freedom in my own house. I enjoy the single yearly trip we take just as much as I love being left the rest of the year to travel on my own.