Dear Nadine Khan,
I am a 26-year-old married woman. I got married when I was 24, and my marriage was a rushed affair. When my parents accepted the proposal, my parents-in-law said that their son had come from Saudi Arab on his yearly vacation, and they wanted him to get married before his vacation finished. My parents were understandably worried, as we had less than a month to get things lined up. Then my parents-in-law called and insisted on a certain date, and said that their ‘pir’ had told them that this date would be lucky for the marriage. It was a real problem for us to get a hall, with the wedding date just 15 days away but somehow, we managed and everything went well.
My husband went back after a week, and said he would call me soon. He told me to stay with his parents, and to visit my parents once a week. After he went away, I tried to settle down with my in-laws. It wasn’t bad, but a bit boring as I was from a big family and my husband had just one sister who was also married. My parents-in-law were all right with me but not warm. I didn’t give much thought to their behaviour as I was a happy newly-wed bride, in love with my husband. One day, I was alone at home as my in-laws had gone out somewhere. My father-in-law’s sister came to visit and I welcomed her warmly. During the course of conversation, she let out that my husband was supposed to get married to someone else on the day but got married to me. She said that even the cards had gone out and my husband had come home from Saudi Arabia when the girl’s family backed out. According to my husband’s aunt, the whole family was surprised when the wedding and valima were held on the same dates. Nadine, I was shocked at this deception. My in-laws had not told us about all this, and even my husband’s aunt didn’t know why the girl’s family did that. When my parents-in-law came back, they were not happy to see my husband’s aunt and after she left they asked me what we had talked about. By that time I had become really upset and I asked them why they had hidden all this. My mother-in-law started shouting at me and said what happened before the wedding was none of my business. I called my husband and asked him about this deception. He said that his ex fiancé had become interested in some other guy and called the wedding off at the last moment and his parents had decided to marry him on the same dates to show the girl’s family that it was their loss. He said he thought his parents had told my parents. Then I called my parents and asked them if they knew about it and they said they were not informed about it. Anyway, there was nothing we could do, as my fate was already sealed. After this incident, the behaviour of my parents-in-law changed with me. Instead of feeling guilty, they became aggressive. I complained to my husband and he told me to just be patient as he would call me as soon as possible. After about eight months, my husband finally called me. I was happy but learned that my parents-in-law would also join us in Saudi Arabia after few months. The five months that I spent with my husband were the happiest period of my life. After that, my parents-in-law came and things become a little stressed as they had still not ‘forgiven’ me for questioning them! They were very hostile, even in front of my husband, but he did nothing! Then, my husband learnt that his ex was single again, as her husband divorced her only three months after their marriage. I discerned a change in my husband’s behaviour after that. I saw him talking quietly on his cell, and he became distant towards me. This hurt me a lot because I was alone, pregnant and miserable at the attitude of my husband and in-laws. Even the birth of our son did nothing to improve the situation. After a year, we came back to Karachi for a month. Then my husband said that he wanted me to stay here with his parents, as he was about to change his job and did not want any distraction. He went away leaving me and our son, and after that I found out from some relatives that he had secretly married his ex, with the full knowledge of my parents-in-law. He did not divorce me because of our son but he didn’t want me anymore. Officially, I don’t know about this. I told my parents and they said to remain quiet because he might divorce me if I questioned him. Now, I don’t have the support of my parents, but I am an educated woman and can get a job and support myself. I don’t want to share my husband with another woman and want a divorce. Nadine, this may sound callous to you, but I feel that my son is his father’s responsibility too and if he wants his son to have both parents, he should divorce his ex. If not, I want out! Now, my parents and siblings are against it and they say I am being emotional, but I am fed-up of living this fraud of a life where I am a useless person, not divorced because of my son. My father says they will take away my son. I don’t think so, because who will look after him? But you know what, even if they make it a condition, I want what I want. I have thought it through and I still want either my husband to divorce his second wife, or me. I am still young and beautiful and may find someone else. What do you think?
Dear Desperate W,
I understand your pain and hurt, and your reason for wanting to either get a divorce from your husband or have him divorce his second wife. They really played you and your family, but your parents and siblings are typical products of our society that expects women to take everything that is dished out to them, without even a whimper, so you don’t have any family support. Your parents should have investigated why your-in-laws were in such indecent haste for the marriage. Nowadays, when people buy furniture or some small thing, they first research. Your parents acted without prudence, and now they want you to face the consequences! Typical Pakistani mentality! Your situation is complicated because of an innocent person who is totally dependent on you: your son. You seem willing to give him up if your husband doesn’t divorce his second wife, but are you sure you are not being emotional? Are you sure you will not regret giving up your son?
If your son had not been in the picture, I would have said that since you don’t want this farce to continue, you should ask your husband to make a decision one way or another. But, for the sake of your son, you need to consider everything. They deceived you twice, so you have the right to decide what to do, but don’t think it would be easy.
If you still don’t know officially that your husband has married his ex, first of all talk to him and ask him how things stand. If you cannot find a middle ground, you have the right to get a divorce. As you said yourself, you are still young and can find someone else, but don’t be hasty. Take your time to think things through and then arrive at a decision. The law is on your side because the second marriage was contracted without your knowledge or consent, and getting a divorce or khula would not be a problem. Only you can know if you will be able to live without your son or not, so consider everything logically before you act. Good luck!