A couple of my friends have been kidding around for the last year calling each other Sister Wife. One of my friends is married and started spending a lot of time with one of her husband’s female friends. They hit it off and became quite close. Okay, not *that* kind of close, but great friends. The endearment Sister Wife with them is just that, an endearment, with no meaning beyond being great friends.
I had never heard the term until then and so I Googled it. A Sister Wife describes the polygamous relationship where there is one husband, but several wives. The wives all call each other Sister Wife.
Usually I relate this kind of marriage to the ones you see on television or read about. The wives are usually downtrodden, dowdy, wearing those frumpy monotone dresses, and are often abused. Polygamist marriages are initiated when the female is barely a teenager, etc.There’s a seedy, dark undercurrent ruled by a tyrant of a husband. It brings to mind the terms “sex slaves” and “child molester”. This weekend they had a marathon on of the show Sister Wives and I recorded and watched every episode of Season One. My opinion, while still not accepting, has changed a bit. They refer to their way of life as “the lifestyle”. Indeed, it is a lifestyle.
The show is setup like your standard reality show format. You get a peek into their daily lives with cut-aways to the popular Couch Confessionals. The Couch Confessionals vary from Kody and the three wives to just the three wives and occasionally it’s just one of the wives or just Kody.
The Brown family consists of one husband, Kody, and three wives. Meri is the First Wife. They have been legally married for 20 years. Janelle is wife number two. She used to be married to Meri’s brother, but Meri convinced her to divorce him and marry Kody. They have been “married”, but not legally, for 17 years. Christine is wife number three and she’s pregnant in the first few episodes. She has been “married”, but not legally, to Kody for 16 years. There are twelve children and one on the way. I’m not going to name all of them. There’s even a dog and a fish tank. They all live in a huge house that was built by a polygamist. The house is split into three separate living apartments, so each wife has their own space.
They were very clear that they “Don’t go weird.” Kody sleeps with each wife every three days, however none of those lines ever cross. In other words, the wives do not partake in sexual activities with each other.
Polygamists are very private about their lifestyle mainly because it’s illegal and carries with it a jail term of up to five years. For some reason Kody felt the public needed to know more about their lifestyle and approached TLC about doing a reality show about his family. Since the first episode aired the state of Utah has opened an investigation and will soon arrest and try him for plural marriage. I sure hope the paycheck from TLC covers his legal fees.
One comment the wives make over and over is “It makes us better people.” Really? In what way? How does sharing your spouse with more than one woman make you a better person? It seems the only benefit to this arrangement, other than unlimited sex with three different women on a regular basis and built in babysitters, is breeding. Two of the wives keep pumping out kids like rabbits!
I was surprised that two of the wives worked outside of the household. In fact, they have very career-oriented jobs. This is also not the normal standard in Plyg marriages. Usually the husband is the only bread winner. Kody does work and he also drives around in a sporty Lexus, while the wives all drive mini vans. This was comical to me. Here’s Kody with his long hair and surfer boy good looks cruising around like a big stud, while the little women putt around in their mini vans full of his offspring. How stereotypical can you get?
I was also surprised that these three women all come across as very strong and opinionated women. Not shy, not downtrodden and not dowdy at all. They were very candid about their reasons for joining a plural marriage. That would be my first question…why?
Meri grew up in a Plyg household, so for her this was the normal way to have a family. While she and Kody were courting they talked about having a plural marriage and knew this was what they were going to do. When she struggled to have children, only producing one daughter during her 20 year marriage, it just made sense to her to invite another wife into the household. Meri is also working on her degree in psychology and was working in that profession until the show aired. Since then, the facility she was working for has fired her.
Meri is the only one that expresses normal reactions to sharing her husband. She admits being jealous and insecure. I felt for her as she made these confessions on national television. She is getting older now and I’m sure she’s feeling the pinch of playing second fiddle.
This brings me to the next shocking revelation of the show. Kody was “courting” another woman! And the wives, while putting on a brave front, definitely had their world rocked. The new woman was younger, skinnier and prettier. Her interaction with the wives during her courtship was interesting viewing. She let loose with some insecurities of her own.
In one scene they were all at a bakery sampling wedding cake for the upcoming nuptials between the future wife number four, Robyn and Kody. They decided to do a vote with their eyes closed for their favorite cake. Kody, being the enthusiastic groom, loudly exclaimed his preference as they voted, so Robyn, being the good fourth wife, voted with him. When his cake won, the wives all berated, though jovially, Robyn for doing exactly what Kody wanted. She tried to defend herself saying she had her eyes closed. The wives all poo-pooed her.
That was intriguing. Isn’t the whole idea behind polygamy to please the husband? Why wouldn’t the new wife want to do that? The jealousy during these episodes, where the new woman is introduced into the fray, was palpable. It was one of the few, normal reactions I watched unfold.
The second wife, Janelle was engaging. She did not come from a plural marriage background and had no idea about the lifestyle until she was approached by Meri. She wasn’t afraid to stand her ground with Kody either and let him know just how pissed she was by not taking his calls while he was on his eleven day honeymoon with Robyn. Janelle is the other breadwinner in the household and seems to put in long hours at her job, leaving before the sun is up and returning home after dark. She seemed to have more independence than the others too. I had to wonder why this life suited her. If she ever changed her mind, I think it would be easiest for her to leave and start over somewhere else. This isn’t true for the rest of them.
She is the only wife that is extremely overweight, though she has a beautiful face and could be a knockout. In seeing pictures of her when she first married Kody, she was overweight then too. How much of her insecurity is hidden away beneath those folds of fat? How deep is that feeling that she needed to hide herself in a plural marriage?
Christine is the third wife. She’s third by choice and has all of these cute little sayings about polygamy. Her logic behind wanting to be third made complete sense to me. I applaud her for putting this much thought into her future place in the household. Is this is a hot topic at church?
” I never wanted to be the first wife because I didn’t want the stress of being alone with the husband. The second wife is like the wedge, but the third wife balances everything out.” She also had an opinion on Kody’s emotional behavior as he fell in love for the fourth time with Robyn. She told him he was lovesick and the only cure for that was a marriage. One thing she never understood until Robyn came along was why Meri and Janelle were so jealous of bringing another wife into the household. She soon figured out the reason as she experienced the Green Eyed Monster herself. Meri had been through this process twice before, Janelle once, but Christine had never had to deal with those feelings as she was always the newest wife.
In one scene the three wives go with Robyn to choose her wedding dress. Robyn wanted to include them in her plans as a bonding leading to being a Sister Wife by allowing them to help her choose the right gown. Meri had the whole white wedding extravaganza, but Janelle and Christine’s weddings were small, almost forgettable affairs. I could see the envy in their faces as they reflected on their weddings and their honeymoons. They seem to diminish right before your eyes. Robyn, while trying to be a team player, comes across as the spoiled rotten princess in most of these scenes.
During a Couch Confessional where Kody, the three wives and Robyn are present, Kody drops the “bomb” that he and Robyn had gone back to the bridal shop and that he had chosen her dress, not them. Christine, overwhelmed with disappointment, takes off her mike and leaves the room. She told him that he never even cared what she wore to their wedding. Aha! There it is! Those normal reactions again. I was glad to see it happening. You start to wonder if they’re drinking some kind of wacky kool-aide, then something like this develops.
So Christine, how’s that third place feeling to you now?
Methinks the lady protests too much! Robyn seemed very intent on convincing her viewing audience that she and Kody did not have sex before the marriage. Oh come on! Do you think anyone bought that? Kody does not strike me as a man that would buy a car without first having a test drive. Especially when the car comes with three extra mouths to feed from a previous owner.
Don’t even try bringing God or Jesus into this discussion and how it’s a sin to have sex out of wedlock. Those won’t fly with me. Number one, your religion wasn’t based in the whole God/Jesus dogma.
Mormon Fundamentalists are born out of Brigham Young having a “vision” on a hillside somewhere of a prophet with stone tablets. Hm, sound familiar? From there as Mormon believers grew in numbers, mostly men, they slaughtered anyone that got in their way. Brigham initiated the plural marriage idea and toted this as an incentive for men to come join. Of course, this was a powerful seduction ploy. What man doesn’t want his own personal harem. Take the 911 terrorists, for example. They were promised a bevy of virgins in heaven if they did what they were told and committed suicide along with mass murder.My point is that some men will go to any extreme to feel worshiped and be put into a position of power. I think this is a huge motivation for a man with God complex issues and insecurities to convert to a faith that supports plural marriage. I think it goes without saying that the women involved all suffer from a lack of self worth and see themselves as nothing more than brood mares.
Note: Update as of Feb. 28, 2011
I think it is necessary to add that the Mormon church of today, the Latter Day Saints, does not support nor condone plural marriage since the beginning of the 20th century. LDS and Mormon Fundamentalists are two very different churches.
So, back to sex out of wedlock. According to Kody, his other three “marriages” aren’t even legal, or recognized as marriage anywhere in the USA or abroad. He’s only married to one woman, Meri. So Robyn, you’re still having sex out of wedlock, honey. What’s the diff if you and Kody had a little hanky pank before you saw the preacher or after? It’s all the same song.
Robyn comes into the marriage with three young children from her first marriage. She is also from a plural marriage background, however her first marriage never jumped into the plural pool. I’m not real sure what happened there except she claimed the stress of being in the marriage by herself made her leave. Wtf? The ex-husband is not real thrilled with having his chidrens lives splashed all over national television and I’m sure he’s a bit miffed that his plural-marriage-manhood has been questioned too.
It was comical watching her giggle and be silly with Kody while they were courting. “My cup runneth over” she purred when she and Kody are served hot chocolate on one of their dates. Twice we were subjected to her mascara technique as she talked to the cameras in the mirror while she got ready to go out. She claimed Kody was her soulmate. Imagine my astonishment during the end of the season recap when Kody confessed that he had an “Ick” factor when he first met Robyn.
That was funny! Robyn, seated in the back behind the other wives struggled to explain away this revelation and was loud-talked by everyone else. Kody claimed the ick factor was due to the fact she was divorced and had three children. Well, duh. And she doesn’t work full time and you had to rent a house for her to live in, etc. That had to add to the burden of living this family deals with daily. I kept waiting to see Robyn own her new life by unpacking some boxes and decorating her new house, but even at the end of Season One her house still looked like a mess.
Robyn, I think you’re a shrinking violet and fourth place is definitely your calling. Your engagement ring was a piece of string and how dare you wear a white wedding dress. Here’s a newsflash for you; to claim that Kody Brown is your soul mate implies he has a soul. I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. Try this quote on for size; “I’m caught in a chick flick and I’m loving it!” Gee, he’s a romantic one, isn’t he?
I think there might be a Season Two, though I’m not counting on it. Some events that another season could hold would be Kody going to trial, Kody going to jail, the family dealing with Kody in jail, etc. I did read that Kody had suggested to TLC producers that to boost ratings he could take on a fifth wife. Gee, how many zeroes will TLC add to his paycheck to make that kind of sacrifice?
I’m not even going to discuss the children in my post except to say I don’t think they deserved to have this kind of childhood forced upon them. The secretiveness they grow up with and the innocence they forfeit is beyond cruel.
Like I said, my opinions have changed a bit about plural marriage. I still refuse to accept plural marriage as normal. I think it’s a misogynistic and barbaric practice. I think the men that happily fall into the plural marriage are greedy bastards. The mere thought that Kody wants to add another wife to increase ratings is pathetic. Where is love in all of this mess? I hope they prosecute Kody Brown to the full extent of the law and I hope these smart, beautiful women show some gumption and self respect and move on and away from him.
Oh, and by the way, though they all claim to be practicing a religion, not once did we see them step foot in a church or any kind of worship environment. As far as I could tell, the fourth “marriage” wasn’t even performed in a church. I think calling what they’re doing “religious” might take some of the edge off, for them, of what they’re actually doing, which doesn’t appear to be “religious” to me at all.
Will I watch Season 2? Maybe, maybe not. I think I much prefer my friend’s definition of Sister Wife and all it’s silliness. My friends are healthier and more loving than anyone I observed in this television drama.