My Dad Had A Second Wife
I have a memory of my dad from when I was 5 years old. I’d stolen an eraser from a stationery shop. It was bright purple and so pretty. I didn’t have enough pocket money to buy it as I’d spent it all on sweets. My dad spotted it when we returned home, and I confessed my theft. He gently asked how I would feel if someone stole my teddy. He made me return the eraser and apologise. I never stole again.
My father was my moral code. He taught me right from wrong and whenever I was in doubt, I would ask, “What would Daddy do?” He was my hero and I felt proud to have him as my father.
Finding out about his second wife
One day, my sister called me out of the blue to tell me she had bad news. “Dad is doing something stupid,” she said. She sounded scared. She said the rest of our siblings knew about it already but they were afraid to tell me as I was the closest to him and I had a hot temper.
I felt confident that whatever it was, I would be able to fix it. Dad always listened to me. I was the one who resolved most family issues. Back home, I found mum with red eyes, being very quiet, like a hurt little bird. I demanded to know what was going on. She said, “Your dad wants to marry a second wife, but he still loves me. Remember, your father will always love you, please don’t hate him.”
Confronting my dad
I was confused. This is the kind of stuff you hear in other people’s stories. We are a modern family, educated and strongly protective of women’s rights. Why then, was Dad advocating for Mum to receive 50% of his love and attention while she gave 100% back? My parents loved each other, so why was he jeopardising his marriage to someone who had supported him through thick and thin for 30 years?
My dad looked like he had been waiting for me to scream and fight. I decided that displaying my anger at his betrayal wouldn’t help for now, and tried to reason with him. I calmly told him that every marriage has its ups and downs. Mum had supported him and raised the children through his Master’s and Ph.D. Now that he had finally completed his degrees, he was repaying her patience by marrying a second wife?
I told him the right thing to do would be to work things out or be honest with her and let her go, so that she could find someone else who loves and appreciates her completely.
He told me he had met a lady who couldn’t find a husband. She was older than him and she wanted to have children. “It’s my duty to God to help her,” he said. It sounded like bullshit to me. That night, I begged my dad not to do it. He would break the family up and things would forever change for the worse. But he went ahead with the second marriage.
For 3 months, I cried every night in sadness and rage. I cried because my dad didn’t love my mum enough to work on their marriage. I was furious at my mum for not having the courage and strength to leave. Finally, I also realised my dad is no longer my hero. I had to find my own moral code as I don’t believe in his anymore.
The healing journey
I am still going through this journey of discovery; it’s a painful but necessary one. I have started to move away from the faith practised by my father, and I am discovering my own relationship with God. My father spent his whole life teaching us to love his faith and follow its rules, but his selfish decision drove me and my siblings away from it.
I don’t know how we will navigate the next chapter of our lives as a family. I worry about my younger siblings as I can see the damaging effects the second marriage has had on them. My younger sister recently said, “If Mum did all she could for Dad, gave him her all, looked after him, loved him and treasured him, and he still found someone else, what chance have I got?”
I’ve stopped talking to my dad and try to only visit my mum when he isn’t around. The odd times I bump into him, he looks tired and old. I don’t know what the future holds, and how the present situation will be sustainable. At some point, I imagine he will get too tired to keep moving back and forth and he will discard my mum. I get the feeling that my mum will be okay with that, but I would rather she walk away while she is still young, instead of being abandoned at a later age.
Valuable Lessons I Learnt From My Dad Marrying A Second Wife
The experience has taught me two valuable lessons. Firstly, someone who appears to be deeply religious may not make the kindest decisions. If I were a stranger, I would think my dad is a selfish chauvinist for having a second wife. Being his daughter doesn’t change my opinion. So judge someone based on their actions, not faith.
Secondly, you need to be independent before you marry someone. Sometimes I think people stay in bad situations because they are scared or don’t know how to be alone. I think my mum is scared to be alone; my dad was her first boyfriend and first love.
If she had learnt how to be independent before she met my dad, she might have left him by now. As her child, I think she should leave while she is still young. It’s never too late to find love, I know people who have found love at 55 and 65!
I think I would be able to repair my relationship with my dad if I knew my mum was with someone else, being treated fairly and having her love given back equally, instead of shared with someone else.
I can’t control what my parents do or how they live their lives, but this experience has taught me the values I want for my future marriage and children—to revere and respect honesty, fidelity and independence.
Cover illustration by Asher Mak