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.

, , , , ,

  1. #1 by shepardmary57 on February 22, 2013 - 8:42 am

    In a women’s halaqa I attended several years ago, the question of what to when you suspect your husband of cheating came up, all the things you listed were mentioned. He must have cheated because YOU missed his “signals” which should have told you he was unhappy, and you should have consulted his mother or another trusted relative for ways that would restore his happiness. But of course, the best course of action was not to spy on him (never, ever spy, or investigate, we were told), but to wait patiently like a good Muslim wife should, until his infatuation ends and he comes back to you. And if he decides to marry his paramour, thank Allah for guiding him along the right path.

    Amazing, how men in Islam manage to shake the burden of personal responsibility and culpability so easily. A woman in the same situation would be divorced and lose everything (including her kids, her home, and the respect of her family), if not her life. A man, if he shows repentance, is forgiven. And his wife is strongly admonished to forgive him for the sake of Allah, and her “patience” will be rewarded.

  2. #2 by (°­­–°) on February 22, 2013 - 1:40 pm

    I think things are changing. It is uncommon these days to hear about imams telling women to have “sabr” in the face of various horrible marital situations. The young Muslim women and men I know are conservative, yet unwilling to take the old hideous responses as “Islamic.” I believe this has to do neo-Traditionalist movements realizing they must take these issues seriously (even if they never take seriously that their own thinking creates the problems in the first place) and growing conservative and moderate grassroots educational and intervention organizations working for women and children’s rights to dignity and safety.

  3. #3 by luckyfatima on February 22, 2013 - 5:43 pm

    Wondering if you’ve read the book associated with that blog.

    • #4 by xcwn on February 22, 2013 - 9:21 pm

      Yes, I have, and I really liked it.

      • #5 by (°­­–°) on February 22, 2013 - 9:44 pm

        They had a great letter and set of answers for a young male virgin on his wedding night. I love the book as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: