There are a few people at my work who know that I am a polygamist, but the majority do not. It isn’t that I’m secretive, it just doesn’t come up, and I don’t go out of my way to bring it up. I generally prefer to keep my work and home lives separate.
That being said, there are occasions, sprinkled thruout my career, where I have had the opportunity to mention my home life, and I always smile when I am talking to someone who isn’t in the know. Over the years when talking about “my wife” I have let them know that:
She has a bachelor degree in Mathematics Education,
A bachelor degree Animal Science (with an emphasis in Veterinary Technology),
Another bachelor in Nursing, and is a board-certified lactation consultant.
She also has a Master’s Degree in Abstract Algebra.
She has been a high school teacher and a college adjunct professor,
A maternity nurse, and worked full-time while homeschooling our children.
She is a musician, plays the trumpet, piano, and shofar, and teaches our children piano.
She has been a choir member, choir pianist and been involved in community bands.
She knits and bakes, makes amazing bread, brownies, and cookies.
She has had 9 children, with one on the way! The youngest is 4 months and the next is due in the beginning of April!
She has been a sign language interpreter and, speaks a little German, Spanish, Latin, and Hebrew.
She makes wine, cheese, sour kraut, yogurt, and sour dough bread.
She raises chickens, quail, ducks, and sheep.
She gardens, and grows tropical plants in our kitchen.
She is an amateur astronomer, and likes to give lectures on naked-eye astronomy.
She has been a birth doula. Six of her own children have been born at home, all of them unmedicated, and two of them unassisted.
She hosts a never-ending stream of social and religious events at our home.
That is a list that would be impressive even if it were split between two women! Yes, I truly have an amazing wife! And we have accomplished a lot together. We are a great team. I pity my coworker’s wives a bit. I imagine what they must think when they hear stories about my amazing wife. Her children rise up and bless her, and I do as well. Strength and honor are her clothing, and her value is far above rubies.
This is a very hard post for me to write. I could not watch the fight, but buried my eyes in my hands while I wept, listened, and re-lived.
Kaleh came to the Clarks extremely damaged. It doesn’t matter how. Trauma is trauma. Any perceived slight to her is taken exponentially. Her baseline is that she is unneeded and unwanted. There is a lifetime of being trashed caught up in the phrase, “bringing the trash home”. Add in the cultural stereotype of being a brainwashed whore/side chick, and the lack of external support for plural marriage. Add in the time, effort, and financial resources needed to support a new wife. She’s well aware that the Clarks don’t need her. They did just fine before she came along; otherwise, there would have been no room for her at all.
She believes she is not worthy of any sacrifices for her. She doesn’t understand how they could love her, because no one ever has. She has been systematically used and abused with her only value being her fuckability, her labor, and/or her bragability. She’s terrified that the Clarks are going to get rid of her. She is not at this moment able to financially provide for herself; thus the jobs. They are critical to her mental survival. She knows that she needs this family more than they need her. She hates herself for that too.
She makes herself hard to love. She is trying to get rid of herself before they get rid of her. That’s all she knows, and that’s the only power she has. The push/pull of wanting to be with them, and undermining the entire relationship by being hard enough to love that they may give up trying. She has to prove that she’s the trash because that’s what she thinks of herself. It’s not her label, it’s her experience. A throwaway. Number 5 plastic.
In all of it, it is the family that pays the price for the damage that bad men created. The men who didn’t and couldn’t love, even though they had someone who loved them fiercely, and was never going to give up on them until they threw her out into the street – like so much garbage.
She truly believes she is expendable. More than expendable – Dead Weight. A drain. A black hole. A sucking wound. Broken. So broken.
It’s going to take years. Maybe a lifetime. It’s a rare man who can walk through fire to gather the pieces and to remold the shattered glass.
In season 3 of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to the Merrifields, Garrick and Dannielle. They have found a potential sister wife with complications. Their potential, Roberta, is Brazilian, and the easiest way for them to get her to the states is to bring her with a fiancé visa and have Garrick marry her (thus getting a license from the government that would allow her to legally stay in the country). The down side to this is that it would require Dannielle and Garrick to get a legal divorce first. Even tho this “divorce” would be in the eyes of the court only, the decision to carry out this plan is obviously filled with emotion, and all the more so because the Merrifields have had marital struggles in the past which had led them nearly to the brink of “true” divorce.
Even tho the Merrifields have a more complicated situation than most (given that Roberta is a foreigner), this decision (to divorce on paper), has been faced by many polygamists over the years. Besides obtaining citizenship for a foreign spouse, there are several reasons for contemplating this plan. The reasons may include extending insurance benefits to children or adopting children (as Kody Brown did with Robyn), or extending security or benefits to the new wife.
In any case, there are all sorts of doubts that will begin to play upon the minds of those involved (this is a continuing theme for Dannielle in several of the first episodes of season 3). The wife especially will be worried about being abandoned, and Dannielle is no exception. Of course it doesn’t help matters that her family members are expressing doubts and concerns to her about it (not that they shouldn’t – more about that below).
The concern is that once the marriage license is gone, Danielle will have no protection from all of the difficulties of life that may arise if Garrick decides to abandon her. Of course, this is a nonsensical concern, as Garrick could always end up filing for divorce at any time.
Without making this post too long, I will put it simply to all the women out there, especially those who have not yet chosen a husband yet (and yes, it is primarily the woman that does the choosing):
The best protection is the character of your man.
This advice applies to monogamy or polygamy equally. Do not settle, or be lax, in making your decision. Do not get carried away by money, or attention, or good looks (tho these things have their place in making a decision about marriage – they are secondary), and then trust the government to keep you protected from your poor choices. It is a bad plan, and all too often will lead to misery, legal battles, and wealthy lawyers. A license is no guarantee of protection, financial or otherwise (my wife Melissa can speak to this in great detail based on her previous marriages).
It is a much better plan to be careful about your mate, then stick to your choice thru thick and thin. Choose a man whose character will not cause you to doubt his dedication to you or your children. Choose a man who is worthy of trust and responsibility. Choose a man who will be able to stay with you and love you despite your personal flaws (and visa versa – he will not be perfect either). Choose a man who will remain by your side to lead, protect, and provide even if the county records building burns to the ground (and the “proof” of your marriage with it).
Fortunately for Dannielle, it seems that none of the concerns expressed by her family have anything to do with Garrick’s character. They don’t seem to think that he will leave her, they are only concerned about what would happen if he did, and these are very different things.
As for the opinions of friends and relatives, they cannot make choices for you, nor should you let them. However, there are circumstances where you should eagerly seek their input. You may discover that you are like a particular woman that I work with. She has been married several times previously; all of them ended in disaster. She had a string of husbands that were found to be sexually abusing her daughters (beginning with their biological father). We talked about her life and difficulties for quite a while; mostly I just listened. It turns out that she now identifies as a lesbian, and has a girlfriend, tho this arrangement has not been without problems as well. She told me that her “picker” was broken. In other words, the part of her brain that runs the program for picking a good mate (whatever part that may be) is not functioning well.
Take careful stock of your own thoughts, feelings, and past experiences, and ask yourself if your “picker” is broken (essentially this means you are a poor judge of character). If this describes you, then you should seek input from family and friends, and be sure to take things slow, so that you can gather enough information to make a good decision. You will want to see your potential mate in lots of different situations and interacting with lots of different people including, and perhaps especially, your family and friends. It will be worth it to make a good decision. It will be more protection than a piece of paper ever will.
None of my children is old enough for dating and courtship, but I’ve still had many important conversations about choosing a spouse, preparing to be a good husband/wife, what to look for in a potential partner, how to really get to know someone, etc.
I have repeatedly talked to them about dating versus real life.
You can go on a planned date with someone, where you’re both dressed up and presentable, you’re on your best behavior, and you get to just have a nice time at a restaurant where someone else is doing all the work. Enjoying one another’s company when the event is low-stress and nothing but fun is a facet of compatibility.
But it’s also important — and arguably more important — to see what someone is like when they’re in a stressful environment or when there’s work to be done. How does he behave when he gets a flat tire on the way to the restaurant? How does she treat you if you forget your wallet? Does he have a sense of humor if you’re spending time with children and he gets messy? Does she pitch in and work hard if you’re doing a difficult project together? Does he step up as a leader if he’s put in charge of motivating a group of children to help clean up after an event? Does she make it into a game and a challenge if she’s asked to help with something unpleasant?
When you are exploring whether a person is a good match for you, it’s essential to see them in situations that are closer to real life, and not just fun. Everyday life is work. Everyday life can be stressful. Everyday life isn’t just pleasant and relaxing, hour after hour, day after day.
My plan for my children when they start dating/courting is for them to invite their date to service projects, the big events we host, our family time, the work days. I want them to have opportunitites to interact with each other around parents, siblings, children, and people who need help. I want them to get to see each other in action when there’s work to be done, tool belts and boots to wear, mud or chicken poop to wade thru, fences to put up that catch on clothes. I want them to see each other at their best but also at their worst, in those kinds of situations that let the person’s character shine thru.
There’s a Kristina Kuzmic video about her as a divorced mother dating a man who wanted all of it, even cleaning up the vomit:
This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. He didn’t just want Kristina when her makeup was done and her children with with a babysitter. He was willing to take on the entire package, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.
Seeking Sister Wife, S3E2, titled “Irreconcilable Differences”, shows Garrick and Dannielle at dinner with some family. They are planning on yet another trip to Mexico to vacation with Roberta and spend some time her. Their sister-in-law Samantha points out the problem with meeting Roberta only on vacation.
I do have some questions about Roberta ’cause you guys only met her in Mexico because it’s different in a vacation. And then you come out here and it’s reality.
Samantha (Dannielle’s sister-in-law)
I agree with Samantha. Putting aside all the cultural and language differences the Merrifields will have to overcome, I am genuinely concerned that they are in for a reality shock when their relationship with Roberta moves from vacation to real life. I’m happy for them that they enjoy each other so much when the situation is fun and entertaining, but I wish they had the chance to see each other in the more realistic daily life and make sure they’re still compatible.
As Garrick acknowledged in the episode,
Yeah, I think there’s definitely gonna be a huge adjustment.
Did you know that polygamy doesn’t always mean a man with more than one wife?
The new season of Seeking Sister Wife is here! The Snowdens and Winders are back on Season 3, and a few new families have joined the cast.
One of the new families is from North Carolina and currently has 2 wives. The husband’s name is Jarod Clark, and in Episode 1, he brought up some of the vocabulary surrounding polygamy:
We practice polygamy; specifically, polygyny. Polygamy is the umbrella term for a multi-person relationship. And in polygyny … the male [has] separate wives.
The distinction he makes is correct. Polygamy means basically “many marriages” and can refer to a man with multiple wives or a woman with multiple husbands. The former is called polygyny, and the latter is called polyandry.
So why is polygamy the word used in so many contexts when referring to polygyny?
One reason must be the fact that one man with multiple wives is far more common than a woman with multiple husbands. Someday, I may write about why this is the case, but for now I’ll just point it out as a fact that thruout history and across cultures, polygamy almost universally means the husband has more than one spouse.
It’s universal enough that Dictionary.com acknowledges it in its definition of polygamy: “the practice or condition of having more than one spouse, especially wife, at one time.”
I admit I perpetuate the lack of distinction on this blog by using “polygamy” instead of the more specific “polygyny” most of the time. The simple reason I use “polygamy” is that it’s a much more familiar word.
I should mention that most fundamental Mormons prefer the phrase “plural marriage”. I think that’s the terminology used in Sister Wives most of the time.
Now let’s discuss the title of the episode: “Polygamist and Proud!” along with some grammar.
Polygamist is a noun. A polygamist is “a person who practices or favors polygamy.”
Polygamousis an adjective. (Quick review: Adjectives describe nouns. In the sentence “handsome man”, “handsome” is the adjective and “man” is the noun.) “Polygamous” is an adjective that describes something or someone as being “of, pertaining to, characterized by, or practicing polygamy” and is synonymous with the less-commonly used adjective polygamic.
Used in a sentence, you would correctly say:
“Garrick Merrifield is polygamous.”
“Sidian Jones is a polygamist.”
“Jarod Clark is a polygamous man.”
“I know a polygamist who writes a fascinating blog called ‘Speaking of Polygamy’.”
“I know the polygamous family who lives in Kody Brown’s old house.”
“I know a bunch of polygamists.”
“I am polygamous.”
“We are polygamists.”
You wouldn’t say:
“Dimitri Snowden is a polygamous.”
“Colton Winder is a polygamist man.”
“I am polygamist.”
I’ll bet the person/people who titled Episode 1 meant to pair the adjective “Polygamous” with the adjective “Proud”, rather than awkwardly pairing the noun “Polygamist” with the adjective “Proud”. I asked my teenaged daughter what she thought of the title, and she caught the presumed error as well. In other words, I think title should have been “Polygamous and Proud!” instead of “Polygamist and Proud!”
I’m not nitpicking with the intention of criticizing the show. I enjoy watching it and I’m sure my own writing has plenty of grammar mistakes for someone who cares to look. My goal here is simply to educate the reader about some of the vocabulary and grammar in the world of polygamy, clear up any confusion about those words, and provide a little help on correctly using them.
Here’s an example of the usefulness of knowing the proper vocabulary and grammar: In writing this post, I discovered that, according to Dictionary.com, polygamists include people who simply believe in polygamy, no matter whether they are practicing it or not.
From time-to-time I come across someone who is unmarried or monogamous but who calls himself or herself a “polygamist”. This has always bugged me, because I thought their marital status was incompatible with the category “polygamists”. I did not realize that the actual dictionary definition of polygamist really does include a person who simply “favors polygamy”. I stand corrected.
I have hesitated in the past to call myself a “polygamist” because I’m only married to one man, so technically my husband, and not me, is the one with multiple marriages. Realizing what the full definition of “polygamist” is gives me more confidence in calling myself a polygamist.
Getting back to S3E1, what is the deal with not having a schedule? Two of the families said something similar in E1.
Here, one of the couples that is new on SSW, Sidian and Tosha Jones, say that back when they were polygamists, they didn’t have a schedule:
Mostly at night, we would sort of switch off time.
Yeah, it wasn’t really scheduled.
And here, Jarod Clark says it’s “natural” and “fluid” to switch between wives without having a schedule.
It feels very natural to spend some nights with Kaleh and some nights with Vanessa. No schedules, no rules. We just keep it completely fluid.
My sisterwife Melissa, our husband Joshua, and I like to watch Seeking Sister Wife together, but they were both out of town when this episode aired, so we watched it separately and then discussed it later. When I asked Melissa what she thought of the episode, the very first thing she brought up was the lack of scheduling.
Not having a schedule honestly makes no sense to me. I wrote about this in “I don’t want to have a chart on the refrigerator“, a post about a conversation between Dimitri Snowden and Joselyn in SSW Season 1, Episode 4. In that post, I included a tweet from @TheBrineyFamily saying, “Good luck with no schedule for time in plural marriage!” I won’t repeat all my arguments here.
A major factor at play is whether the wives share a home. When I wrote that post, Melissa and I didn’t live together, so whether Joshua was coming to my house or to hers vastly changed the evening’s plans and the home’s atmosphere. Nowadays, we are under the same roof, so it matters a lot less. However, we still do certain things separately. If we shared a kitchen and shared every meal, shared the living spaces, and never did anything separately, maybe the small detail of which bedroom Joshua went to at bedtime would matter even less.
But how does a husband choose who to sleep with, if it’s not based on a schedule? Does it depend on which wife is more/less demanding? Does it depend on the husband’s mood? Does it depend on the moods of the wives? The whole concept simply does not compute for me.
I don’t want to think that my husband will only come to my house if he feels like it. He has duties to me and I have duties to him. Marriage is important enough that sometimes spouses need to spend time together whether they both want to or not; otherwise it might become all too easy to avoid working out problems and just go with the easier route of avoiding each other.
I don’t care what the schedule is, and there are plenty of forms it can take (I give several real-life examples in the Refrigerator post), but the logistics of polygamy are already complicated. I say, let’s not make them more complicated by going without a plan.
I completely understand basing the schedule on what is going on with every family member on any given week. Maybe that’s what is meant by the people on SSW? Rather than having a schedule that is repeating and predictable, perhaps it’s simply flexible, depends on the week, and is based on the needs of the husband, wives, and even children. That sounds fine, and from time-to-time Joshua has adjusted his schedule depending on all those things. I guess “no schedule” just sounds to me like the husband waiting until 9:00 p.m. to announce which bedroom he’s sleeping in, or in the case of wives living in separate homes, waiting until 6:00 p.m. to decide at which house he’ll be spending his evening, eating dinner, and going to bed.
I admit that my personality type may be to blame for my strong preference for a predictable schedule. I like to plan. I like to visualize what my day/week/month looks like. I make time for myself and my projects and tasks, I have one-on-one time with each my children every day, I make time for my husband and for the entire family; for me, all that requires scheduling.
My entire life, I have always been frustrated at changes of plans, even when the change is potentially for the better. I admit this is a personality flaw, and maybe if I was better at going with the flow, I wouldn’t care so much about knowing when my husband is going to be with me versus not. Maybe the wives on SSW are different enough in that respect that it really does work for them.
The more I comment on it, the more I think I should write a whole post about the plural husband’s schedule when his wives live together versus separately, since we’ve now experienced several years of both situations.
As a homeschooling mom, I was interested to learn that another one of the new families on SSW, the Merrifields, also homeschools. We’ll see if that comes up again in a future episode.
We have two boys… We homeschool them… [to their two sons] All right, do you guys wanna get your books and stuff ready?
I liked hearing Garrick and Dannielle Merrifield’s story about not coming from a polygamist background but being Christian, reading the Bible, and realizing plural marriage was practiced by godly people that were loved by God.
The way I see it is living a plural lifestyle is a great way to follow Christ and be like him.
I do not envy this family for courting and becoming engaged to a woman in a different country who speaks a different language! We have several friends with at least one wife in a different country, and they all have definitely chosen a hard way to live. The sisterwives don’t get the benefits that come from living together, and they end up living alone and almost like single mothers for weeks or months at a time. Melissa and I used to live only 1 hour apart, and that was difficult enough.
She [Roberta] lives in Brazil … so she speaks Portuguese, and only Portuguese.
Here’s what my preteen son has to say about it: “It seems like such a dumb idea to marry someone who lives in a different country and you don’t even know each other’s languages. They should probably know the same language!”
One last thought about the episode. I like the comments Jarod Clark made about polygamy and kings and queens.
[Polygamy] was something that I [came] across in some research on how tribes and kingdoms were built, where a king had multiple queens, and each wife played an intricate part in that king’s life and in building and growing the kingdom.
In my home I present myself as a king. … Same thing with Vanessa and Kaleh: they present themselves as queens.
The blog’s header image is a castle I designed with the Mars and Venus symbols, meant to symbolize the husband in a plural family being a king and his wives being queens.
And, finally, I wrote some about the king/queen concept in this post about being proud to be a polygamist. In that post, I talk about how wonderful I think my family and my husband are, how I consider Joshua a king and Melissa and I his queens, and especially about how being polygamous used to be embarrassing for me but now I hold my head up high.
I guess you could say I’m “Polygamist and Proud!” … or should I say “Polygamous and Proud!” ?
Tom Green died last month (Feb 28th, 2021). Here is his obituary. Tom was one of the most famous and controversial figures in modern Mormon polygamy. There is both much to love and much to disagree with in the life and person of Thomas Arthur Green. He lived a full and interesting life that spanned many different Mormon groups. His journey took him from the LDS Church, to the FLDS, to The Branch, to Fred Collier’s Group, to the LeBarons, to an Independent, and finally to the Kingston Clan. We were never closely associated with the Greens, but we have been privileged to meet Tom and some of his family members a few times in person. He has always come across to me as a humble, kind, and honest man. I believe the first time I met him was at a campout up Spanish Fork Canyon. It was an interesting get-together with fundamentalist Mormons of every stripe.
A few years later, at the same annual gathering, Tom gave those present an account of his life. I happened to have a recorder with me and captured his story in audio, which is nearly 3 hours long. It was a rainy evening up the canyon (as you will be able to hear in the recording) and we were all huddled under a tiny pavilion, some pop-up canopies, and tarps to keep out of the weather. There is also the occasional train in the background, and I dropped the recorder once; despite these distractions, it was a thoroly interesting and informative evening. It will probably spawn some additional blog posts – to comment on some of the things he relates in his telling.
This recording was made on August 11th of 2017, which was only a few months before this blog was started by my wife, Charlotte. One of the first things I wanted to post on this blog was the recording I had made of Tom sharing his memories. I asked Tom what he thought of my idea, and he wasn’t particularly comfortable with it. He asked me not to share it at that time, and I honored that request. You see, he was on parole at the time, and wasn’t particularly interested in stirring up the hornets’ nest so-to-speak. He had done so years earlier – he had been quite public and vocal about his practices and beliefs, and it had landed him in a lot of hot water. They (the government and society at large) don’t care if you are living polygamy (or any other “strange” practice), or hold to any less-than-mainstream beliefs, as long as you are quiet about them. Don’t openly resist the system, and you will be left alone – that is the deal.
Well, Tom is dead now, his probation has ended, and I figure the time is right to share these memories. I hope you will find them interesting and useful. Below the recording, because it is so long, I have some breakdown of the times. The times are not linked to the recording (Sorry, I’m not that tech savvy), but you can just drag the play bar along to the spots you are interested in. Enjoy.
0:00:00 Introduction by Kevin Kraut. 0:01:11 Tom begins by telling us that he’s one of the old timers (seats get shuffled around). 0:03:36 Introduces Shane Whelan and his book, More Than One. 0:04:46 Continues about “old timers”. 0:08:00 Talks about Ogden Kraut. 0:09:56 Tom starts his story, talks about his grandfather in Canada as a polygamist. 0:11:45 Tom talks about his Patriarchal Blessing. 0:14:05 Discusses different branches of Mormonism. 0:17:10 Mormon Church History. 0:18:30 Tom tells about experiences while serving as an LDS missionary. 0:24:30 Home from his mission, answers to prayers, and finding a wife. 0:28:06 Tom gets married, early married life, early business life, and his introduction to Mormon Fundamentalism. 0:31:31 New business partner (Jethro Barlow). 0:32:25 Arranged marriages. 0:33:26 Being angry at God and being tested by God. 0:38:53 Discussion with Jethro Barlow. 0:43:10 Doing Church History research. 0:49:26 Comes to the realization that plural marriage is a true principle and that he has been a fundamentalist his entire life. 1:03:20 Matthew 10 vs Mark 10. 1:04:40 Meeting Rulon Jeffs, being ready to leave the LDS Church and be baptized. 1:08:20 Being introduced to the Righteous Branch (Peterson Group) by Bill Ander. 1:13:30 (Lights go out – power problems). 1:14:00 Tom joins the Peterson Group. 1:14:15 Studying Fundamentalist History, meeting Fred Collier, debates with Max Anderson. 1:17:12 Meeting Ortel Kingston. 1:19:00 Convinced of Collier/LeBaron lines vs. Lorin Wooley line and leaves the Peterson Group. 1:23:15 Following Ross LeBaron. 1:27:15 Beginning a plural family. 1:29:35 Dan Jordan got shot and the news interviews begin, Janet Bennion. 1:37:05 David Levitt (Juab County Attorney) gets involved. 1:41:15 Utah Common Law gets twisted, hearings and trial begin. 1:43:50 Charges Filed – Criminal Non-Support. 1:50:58 Charges Filed – Child Rape. 1:54:01 Thought he couldn’t be prosecuted, Haddlow vs Haddlow (Utah Supreme Court Case). 1:58:00 Sentencing and prison experiences. 2:11:25 Attorney experiences. 2:13:20 News coverage in prison and visiting family. 2:27:30 Dreams, adjustments to freedom (on parole), and meeting children for the first time. 2:35:00 Story about his father-in-law, looking for peaches in a hay-field. 2:38:10 Joining the Kingstons. 2:53:00 Closing.
WARNING: THIS POST MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER OR IMMATURE READERS.
One common question (or complaint) about polygamy has to do with the “fairness” of sexual encounters between spouses. There are a lot of assumptions that must be rolled up together to fully form this complaint; nevertheless, it seems to be a simple, mathematical fact that the practice of polygamy itself will make for one sexually fulfilled man at the expense of all his wives being unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
This complaint is generally raised by women (tho not always, as you will see if you keep reading), and it should be no big surprise why. Everybody knows the reason; it is because, even monogamously married women are often sexually unsatisfied. This is a sad but genuine reality for many women. I even had a woman leave a comment about this very issue on my previous post about sex and polygamy. The reality of the situation is all the more saddening when you realize that this particular disparity between the sexes is completely needless.
Of course human sexual satisfaction and fulfillment is complicated, but a large portion our satisfaction has to do with how frequently we experience orgasms (along with all of the physiological and psychological fireworks that accompany them). There are various studies and surveys that have been conducted dealing with this subject, so you will get different numbers depending on where you look, but the general consensus seems to be that about 90% of men report experiencing an orgasm with every single sexual encounter (no surprise there – unless you are surprised that the reported percentage is that low). However, for women this number is considerably lower; only about 40-50% (probably no surprise here either), with a broad range depending on context (some studies say it is as low as 30%, others as high as 60%). No wonder this is a concern! In my family we have a playful euphemism that we sometimes use for orgasms; they are called, “waffles”. If we were to use “waffles” as a measure of the sexual inequality of the “average” marriage it might look something like this:
If sexual satisfaction (again approximating this with waffles) in women is only experienced sporadically in monogamy, then it must be worse in polygamy; since the frequency of sexual encounters between a woman and her husband will be more spaced. This is obviously a valid point, and it is not only made by women.
We once had an elderly man named Lee visit our house for worship services. He was very nice, and we enjoyed one another’s company and fellowship just fine, but he made it very clear that he disagreed with polygamy as a system of marriage. In conversation after the meeting he proceeded to tell us why. He was a fairly recent widower, but in his 50+ years of marriage, he had never been able to bring his wife to orgasm even a single time! All those years he had been having waffles in front of her and never sharing. It was a great disappointment to them both. However, as he was complaining to us about his wife’s frigidity, and blaming all this frustration on her lack of responsiveness, I was silently thinking how sad it was that years of problems were probably due to the lack of a simple anatomy lesson. I did not take the opportunity to give him a lesson (it wouldn’t have made a difference anyhow), but just listened. This was a serious objection to the practice of polygamy in his mind. He could not begin to fathom trying to satisfy more than one female, when he was never able to satisfy even one. Fair enough, I said, and agreed with him whole heartedly that he had made the right decision.
Lee, and other men like him, should never become polygamists.
Sex is a lot of things. It is an obligation between spouses, and a command from God, but it is also a blessing from God, and a part of the joy of the marriage relationship. Spouses should seek to please one another in this respect.
The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.
1Corinthians 3:7 (NLT)
There are many other places in scripture that could be used to show God’s approval of sex between husband and wife for physical pleasure, for the sake of desire, and not solely for the purpose of reproduction. The fulfillment of your spouses’ sexual needs is not only a matter of frequency of interactions, but also the quality of those interactions. This sexual connection is important not only for spiritual reasons, but for our emotional and psychological wellbeing also.
This brings us to a very important reality that ought to be understood in order to figure out how to accomplish satisfying your marriage partner. The reality is: men and women experience sexual arousal and satisfaction in different ways.
The human sexual response can be separated into four phases as shown in the graphs above. These same four phases (Arousal, Plateau, Orgasm/Climax, and Resolution) occur in both men and women, but with some obvious differences. Acknowledging that individual experiences may vary, the first difference to note is that it takes women more time to reach orgasm. This should come as no surprise; their plateau phase is generally longer in duration. If the graphs were superimposed (and all else being equal), we could easily see that men will reach climax, then descend quickly into resolution, before their wife ever gets a waffle. In addition, males generally experience a refractory period after resolution. During this time (which is variable, but see my post here for more about this), the man will not be sexually aroused by his wife. Husbands, listen up! Taken together these facts mean – You ought to take care of her first! If you don’t serve her first, there is a very good chance she will miss out entirely (this conclusion is borne out by the statistics mentioned at the beginning of this article).
Of course the most dramatic and remarkable difference between these graphs is that women are multi-orgasmic creatures! They can have waffle after waffle as long as they are hungry for them, and they are still being served. The line on the graph is dotted because the number of climaxes is variable; however, this is something that most, if not all, women are capable of. Things seem to be evening out a bit if you ask me.
I don’t speak for any other plural families, but I have a rule that the husband should be able to serve his wives at least as many waffles as he has wives. In other words, if he has only one wife, then she should get at least one waffle every time he does (this practice would solve the disparity in the statistics quoted at the top of this article). If he has two wives, they should each get at least two waffles every time he gets one waffle. If he has three wives, then they should each get at least three waffles every time he gets one waffle, etc. It is a beautiful system and a good rule to live by – no matter how many wives you have. In this way, even tho individuals may get served at different times, they all get fair portions, and everyone comes away satisfied.
In my family I try to meet or exceed this rule. My wives are always served at least two waffles (because I have two wives), but they will usually have three or four (sometimes more). If we were to use waffles as a visual representation of the sexual inequality of the marriages in my family, it might look something like this at the end of a week:
WARNING: THIS POST MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER OR IMMATURE READERS.
This is subject is a little delicate, and perhaps even controversial or scandalous, so reader beware. This post may not be appropriate for younger readers. I will try to be tactful in my delivery of this information, and yet still remain true to the facts as they are.
Marriage is so much more than sex, and yet sex is one key distinguishing feature of marriage. It differentiates marriage from other types of close family relationships (like siblings for example), and is thus an essential part of marriage. In fact, many states recognize failure to consummate the marriage as grounds, not for divorce, but for annulment (as per common law there was legally never any marriage without consummation). Additionally, even if the marriage was initially consummated, if one spouse refuses to continue having sexual relations this can be grounds for divorce in many states. In either case, these situations are treated legally as a type of fraud.
So, marriage is much more than sex, and sex is much more than biology (meaning just procreation), and all that is true, but it will have to wait for a separate post.
Toward the beginning of episode 10 of the second season of SSW, Dimitri and Ashley are talking about the recent sexual intimacy between Dimitri and Vanessa. In the course of discussion, Dimitri reveals that there are multiple “Channels of sexual tension”. This comes as a surprise to Ashley (and would probably be a surprise to most women). My own wives were similarly surprised when I told them that it was true.
Here are some screen shots (with closed captions) from the episode.
Ashley, confused at how this could possibly be the case (since she and Dimitri are already having regular sex), asks him about it.
Dimitri explains that it is true, that men can have multiple channels of sexual tension, and Ashley learns something that she did not know.
I actually hinted at this phenomenon in an earlier post, and I still stand by the principles that I discussed there. There are at least several reasons why it is important to know the truth of the situation. First for a potential new wife; she may feel like she needs to compete with the established wife(s) who is (or are) already having intimate relations with their husband. She may feel the need to overtly advertise her sexuality (in sexually flirtatious ways) in an attempt to draw his attention or affection, but she needn’t do so at all. Second, an established wife has no need to fear that the presence of a new wife will diminish her husband’s attraction for her.
This ability for men to have multiple, separate channels of sexual tension is colloquially known as the The Coolidge Effect. The term was first suggested by behavioral endocrinologist Frank A. Beach in 1958. He attributed the neologism to an old joke about Calvin Coolidge when he was President.
The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown [separately] around an experimental government farm. When [Mrs. Coolidge] came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, “Dozens of times each day.” Mrs. Coolidge said, “Tell that to the President when he comes by.” Upon being told, the President asked, “Same hen every time?” The reply was, “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time.” President: “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”
The joke appears in a 1972 book (Aggression in Man and Animals, by Roger N. Johnson, p. 94). You can read here for some more background about the origins of the term.
What is the Coolidge Effect? It is a biological phenomenon exhibited most commonly, and strongly, by males. After a male (this phenomenon is not limited to human men – it is displayed by males of most animal species) engages in sexual activity to the point of orgasm with a particular female, he will experience a refractory period. That is, there will be a period of time (which is variable and may last from hours to days) where he is unable to have additional orgasms with the female. During this refractory period he will also have a reduced sexual interest in the female. Repeated matings with the same female will result in successively longer refractory periods. However, if the male is presented with a different, sexually available female he will exhibit renewed sexual interest, arousal, and a reset (or significantly shortened) sexual refractory period. He will even release a larger volume of semen with more active sperm in an encounter with a new partner (in comparison with the volume released after repeated encounters with the same partner).
Of course this phenomenon is easy enough to understand. From a biological perspective, it is advantageous to his reproductive success for a male to distribute his genes as widely as possible, and a single man can impregnate many women. The inverse however, is not true. It is advantageous to a woman’s reproductive success to have a single devoted male that will help to provide for and protect her young.
This sexual phenomenon in males can be repeatedly exhibited (until exhaustion) if a new female sexual partner becomes available each time. Men are biologically wired to experience renewed dopamine releases with each new encounter. The male acts as tho he does not have an “absolute” refractory period. That is to say, a refractory period which is only dependent on time. A more correct description is that he has a separate refractory period for each individual female, or, as Dimitri would say, “different channels of sexual tension” for each woman. A current wife will not detract from a man’s attraction to a new wife, nor will a new wife detract from a man’s attraction to his current wife.
This refractory period is not a constant time interval, even between the same male/female pair. In the graph above you can see that repeated (frequent) matings with the same female will result in longer and longer durations between male climax. If the mating is less frequent (with the same female), there will be a reset of the arousal levels, arousal time, and refractory period, etc. This is because the female becomes “new” again after a sufficient delay. Thus, the average American couple will have sex about once per week (studies show that couples who have sex less often are less happy and satisfied with their relationship, but couples who have sex more often are not more happy than couples who have sex weekly).
For females, this phenomenon is not experienced, or is significantly muted (it has been demonstrated at least in some female rodents, but to a lesser extent than in male rodents). At least part of the reason this phenomenon is not prominently exhibited in women is that they have essentially no sexual refractory period. Rather, they are able to continue having multiple orgasms with the same male, in a single sexual encounter, until exhaustion (more on this in a later post). Furthermore, when looking at attraction in humans, women are found generally to prefer familiarity, while men are found to prefer novelty. It could be generally said that men are biologically geared towards polygamy and women towards monogamy. These are just some of the many biological differences between men and women.
This phenomenon also explains the increased sexual arousal that is often associated with new lingerie, different sexual positions, pornography, etc. This is also a reason why women tend (stereotypically) to have more outfits, shoes, and hairstyles than their male partners. By changing their physical appearance they are subtly suggesting novelty. The goal with all this simulated novelty is to trick the male brain into thinking that he is actually fulfilling his biological role as a polygamist (or at least that he is mating with multiple females).
In probably most cases of “erectile dysfunction”, there is no actual physical or physiological dysfunction at all. Rather, the Coolidge Effect is being manifested with a single long term sexual partner. If the male with “ED” were introduced to a new female sexual partner he would find himself fully functional and sexually reinvigorated.
Of course, we are not slaves to our biology; nevertheless, we ought to understand ourselves as best we can. Yes, men will take notice of a pretty woman who is not his wife, he can hardly help it. Just remember not to take a second notice, and to keep your eyes off of other men’s wives (whoever lusts after a married woman commits adultery in his heart); it will only lead to trouble.
Having written all that, nothing in this post should be used as an excuse for bad behavior. Sexual activity alone is a poor predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. Men (and humans in general) are not merely wired for sex with multiple partners. We are also wired to seek stability, and this is a much better predictor of satisfaction and happiness. Therefore, it would not only be immoral, but also destructive in many other ways (to themselves, to the women involved, and to society at large) for men to fulfil this biological programing outside of the bounds of marriage. Our natural, biological programing must be chained by our larger moral and religious inclinations and training. Intimacy comes after commitment.
In conclusion, there is absolutely no need for a potentially new wife to feel that she is at a disadvantage in comparison to any established wife in the area of sexual attraction. Also, there is no need for a current wife to feel any jealousy or sexual inadequacy in comparison to a newer wife; a husband will have separate channels of sexual tension for each of them individually.
Mothers everywhere know what it means when their husband is traveling for work: All the parenting, 24 hours a day, falls to you.
Such was the situation I found myself in, with my husband across the country on business, and I was discouraged and exhausted. The days were long, our routine disrupted, and the children tired of not seeing their father.
My son blew the shofar to call us to our evening family time, where everyone has a chance to show something or tell about their day; we lovingly call this time “Shofar & Tell” (a play on “Show and Tell” — get it?).
We gathered in the living room of my sisterwife Melissa, and as I routinely do, I pulled out the family Happy Book to write in while we shared our lives and visited together.
My son disrespectfully jumped on my case and told me I shouldn’t have a “toy” during Shofar & Tell (referring to my writing in the Happy Book). He’d been nitpicking and criticizing me a lot, so the uncalled-for criticism was especially frustrating.
We officially got started with Shofar & Tell, and when my daughter’s turn came to hold the shofar and show/tell us something, she took the opportunity to complain about me.
I was hurt, and since I had been struggling for some time with those two children disrespecting me, questioning me, and dishonoring me, it got to be too much.
I said to my sisterwife Melissa, “Why does everything come down to criticizing me and complaining about me? Everyone in this house seems to be starting from a place of ‘Mom is wrong. Mom has wronged me. What is Mom doing wrong right now? What can I criticize Mom about right now?’ I feel like everyone is assuming my guilt until I’m proven innocent.”
Melissa saw the problem, recognized my need for support, and she truly stepped up.
She launched into a scolding lecture about about how lucky the children are to have me; how lucky they are to have a mother who stays home with them and focuses on taking care of them; how they shouldn’t be rude to me; how they should treat me with respect and love; how they ought to show gratitude for me and the good life they have.
She went on and on. A couple of the children got teary-eyed over it. When she was done, she gave every child a chance to say something. To me she said, “I want you to write down in the family Happy Book what they say: I want you to recognize it and embrace it.”
Each of my children expressed their sincere gratitude for me and came over and hugged me. Melissa even had her young child say something nice and hug me, and then she also expressed her love and gave me a hug.
I felt extremely validated and supported. Someone saw me and wanted me to feel appreciated. Someone wasn’t going to stand by and let me be treated with disrespect by my children.
I wasn’t doing all the parenting by myself after all. Melissa and I were together, taking care of the children, trying to teach them, being a good team.
If I had been the only parent home that week, things would not have gone so well, I can promise you that. I would have continued to be sad, and I might have lost my temper with the children and just made things worse.
If our husband Joshua had been there, he certainly would have shushed the children to keep the peace and given me moral support later in a private conversation.
But Melissa took it further and worked right then and there to truly change the hearts of the children and let me know how much she supports me.
This is one real-life example of the benefits of a polygamous family.
My children are lucky Melissa is invested in them the way every mother should be invested in her children, and I’m grateful to have her as a co-parent.
Wasn’t it only 3 years ago that rabid lawmakers passed HB99, making life even worse for polygamists in Utah?
HB99 was so strict, it made it a felony to cohabitate OR purport to be married to someone you didn’t even live with. I figured with Utah getting even stricter, the law was here to stay, and the only way to get it to change would be to get the Supreme Court involved, which process would be helped along if someone was actually arrested.
Cuff me: I’m a polygamist.
Then, last year, adultery was decriminalized, and the world felt like it was upside-down. Why is it okay to be married and to sleep around with people who are already married (against the wishes of the respective spouses), but actually marrying, committing, providing for, and otherwise taking care of multiple consenting spouses is a crime?
Then an amazing thing happened! Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Utah State Senate which would lower the criminality from a felony to an infraction (which means no jail time).
I thought changing the law would require a polygamist actually getting prosecuted, and then challenging the law (which kind of, sort of, almost happened with Kody Brown — long story). I’ve been pleasantly surprised to watch the progress of SB102 and realize it was probably going to pass. It feels so easy compared to what I was expecting.
A few weeks ago, I hung out with some other polygamists at the Utah State Capitol building while we lobbied the State Legislature to pass SB102.
Among others, Enoch Foster (of Three Wives, One Husband) was there with two of his wives, and Joe Darger (a famous polygamist who’s been on TV and in the news many times) was there with one of his wives. Colton Winder (of Seeking Sister Wife) was there with one of his wives, and he wrote a blog post about it. (Check out those awesome photos of Tami and Colton in the State Capitol building! I took those photos, tee-hee!)
My sisterwife’s schedule and mine conflicted so she ended up going on Tuesday and I was there on the Wednesday before the Utah State Senate unanimously passed the bill, which is really amazing!
The Utah House of Representatives also passed it, and yesterday the governor signed it into law! Read the news reports here and here.
Is this really when and how the law is changing?
How have things changed so much in such a short time?