I told my elder sister one day I was not inclined to marrying a too devoted Muslim man – although I consider myself a devoted Muslim wannabe – because I was afraid he would be too confident with his religiosity, and easily break my heart by engaging in polygamy.
My sister, married to a fairly devoted Muslim (he‘s not polygamous), simply replied, “Either you become a victim of polygamy, or of adultery.”
She was implying that basically men could not stay faithful to one woman only.
OK, that sounds too extreme. I didn’t think men were cruelly divided into those mere two groups. There must remain a lot of men out there who could stay faithful to their wives, neither being polygamous nor having affairs with other women.
Take, for example, my father. He has been married to my mother for more than 30 years, but despite her often excruciating moodiness and some other weaknesses, he has been staying faithful to her through the course of their marriage.
But, a friend of mine, who suspected her father of having almost affairs with some women, pointed out cynically, “Probably it’s only because your father is not as sought after as mine. If he got the opportunity, he’d easily do the same.” Her father is quite a famous academician. Nevertheless she has made my sister’s statement grows deep in my head.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have taken their statements to heart. After all, only one of my 10 uncles or so is polygamous (he‘s a non-practicing Muslim, by the way), with the rest remaining monogamous even after they’ve been married to the same women for 20-30 years. And as far as I know, they’ve been faithful to their wives.
Not to mention the majority of my friends are from intact families, meaning their fathers are mostly faithful to their wives. Then there are also those surveys that show although a large percentage of men have had an affair at least once in their lives, the majority – or over 50 percent – have been loyal to their wives/girlfriends (the percentage of women who have had an affair is much smaller). The surveys were conducted in the US, so I reckon the percentage of faithful men should be even larger in Indonesia.
But most of married men in Indonesia today are of the older generations, meaning they still mostly uphold Indonesia’s traditional marriage values, which include monogamy and faithfulness to spouses.
Polygamy is still concentrated among that group of irresponsible Indonesian men, most of who are low-income and uneducated, and have no sense of responsibility. They leave their homes, abandon their children and wives, and marry other women without informing nor divorcing the first wives. Another group where polygamy is concentrated is the growing fundamentalist Muslim minority.
Adultery, meanwhile, seems to remain largely concentrated among the celebrities, and probably among westernized Indonesians who have spent some time in western countries.
But today, in this era of globalization and Internet, external influences that include Western and Arabic values alike are invading Indonesia. I’m afraid this means more and more Indonesian men will either have affairs with other women or engage in polygamy, making the monogamous, faithful ones an endangered, almost extinct species.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be too worried over this stuff. It’s not like the faithful men can guarantee equality in marriages anyway.
I’ve seen, heard and sensed one too many cases where women’s loves for their husbands seem to be rarely reciprocated at the same level. Take, for example, in the case of Facebook or Twitter profile pictures. How many male acquaintances/friends of yours display pictures of them with their wives in their profile pics, compared with women who proudly do so with their husbands?
And I think many of you have been familiar with the situation where men are so busy with their jobs they barely feel any guilt abandoning the non-financial needs of their children and wives, unlike the case with most women, even if they are career women who also have to work at least five days a week and eight hours a day.
One might say why troubling yourself with the notion of marriage then? Why not just adopting free sex as in the west, where you won’t be subject to all those failed expectations and marriage problems? But who says free sex, casual sex guarantee equality between men and women? Both might enjoy the pleasure, but who are more vulnerable to one-sided emotional attachment again? Yes, it’s the women. I’ve heard too many of these cases as well.
Perhaps a true equality between men and women will forever be an utopia. Perhaps the disparity will remain as evident as the difference in physical strength between men and women.
Perhaps I am wrong. I sincerely hope I am wrong.