Marital interactions and experiences of women living in polygamy: An exploratory study

Mirit Sinai, Ora Peleg
Published Online:
11 Nov 2020
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 56 Issue 3

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The study examines interactions and experiences of Bedouin women living in polygamous households in Israel. A mixed‐method approach was applied in a two‐part study. The quantitative part examined differences in differentiation of self and marital satisfaction between 50 Bedouin women in polygamous marriages and 50 in monogamous marriages. It found that, in polygamous families, women's levels of marital satisfaction were positively related to their I‐position and fusion with others and negatively related to emotional cutoff and number of children at home, whereas among monogamous counterparts, marital satisfaction was only negatively associated with emotional cutoff. Surprisingly, fused relationships with the family of origin predicted higher satisfaction only in women in polygamous marriages. The qualitative part, which yielded deeper understanding of the authentic voices and experiences of 18 senior wives, revealed that they had severe emotional and physiological responses to their husbands' marriage to another woman. For most, particularly those who married young, living in a polygamous family adversely affected their marital satisfaction. Interactions ranged from violent relationships, accompanied by jealousy and anger, to respectful and harmonious relations. Along with the challenges, some women, especially the educated, chose proactive ways of coping. Educated women also preferred cohabitation with the other wife.

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