Today, I tripped across a Muslim woman’s letter, asking for advice on how to deal with the fact that her pious, Muslim husband had cheated on her.
Don’t read it, every instinct told me. Don’t read it. It will only trigger you.
Because I thought that I knew what the answer will be. Some slight bits of sympathy will be tossed this woman’s way by the advice-givers (so as not to seem too harsh)… and then the words of blame would inevitably follow: Hints, perhaps tactfully delivered, that she probably hadn’t been doing her wifely duty “properly.”
That she needed to try harder to dress up for him at home, to cook nice food for him, to keep the house even tidier and the kids even better behaved… and that she needed to make sure that she never, ever denied him sexual access within the limits of Islamic law.
That she needed to look critically at herself in the mirror: Maybe she needed to lose weight? Get her hair done? Join a sisters’ exercise class and tone those flabby arms? Do more crunches and reign in those sagging stomach muscles? Or that maybe the problem was more about her character: She needed to be more feminine, more content, more grateful for everything he does for her, and never let a complaining word cross her lips in her husband’s presence.
Or even, that she needed to just accept that her husband was the sort of man who could not be content with just one woman, so she needed to encourage him to marry another wife rather than committing zina.
I braced myself for some or all of that… and didn’t find it.
I was astounded that the advice given to the woman was actually reasonable and compassionate.
That it didn’t involve trying to cast doubts on whether it might have been “her fault” or excusing the husband in any way because supposedly men can’t help themselves. That the focus of the advice-givers (and the commenters !) was on helping the woman decide how best to proceed. That her right and ability to leave the marriage was not once called into question.
That made my day.
As a polygamy survivor whose polygamous (now-ex) husband also cheated, I am well aware of the sort of “advice” women in these situations tend to receive.
It gave me hope that maybe, possibly, the “mainstream” conservative discourse might manage some day to move beyond a reflexive women-blaming and man-excusing when discussing marriage problems.
May the likes of these advice-givers be multiplied.