Note from the blog owner: Melissa is my sisterwife and she is a new contributor to the blog. This is her first post.
I have been asked many times how my teens reacted to me becoming a plural wife.
I’ll tell you: Horribly. And I don’t blame them.
Let’s review the collapse (there will be other blog posts fleshing out these experiences):
All my life I was raised to be very judgmental of others: hair, weight, clothing, how people carried themselves, etc. It was never just, people are different. No. There was some immeasurable standard to which all were compared, and to which all failed to measure up to. They were mocked, made fun of, and there was an undercurrent of haughtiness embedded in my very soul. I laugh now because my family was hardly the type who could lord anything over anyone. Sincerely, my own grandmother was annoyed by us – she is likely the one this critical worldview was passed down from in the first place.
Naturally, I passed all of that judgmental world-view on to my children. In the line of attack were people who lived in any manner differently from North American, mainstream, LDS, intact nuclear family. The sad part is that my own family didn’t meet the criteria for which I judged people – I was a divorced single mother.
Believe it or not, I was the worst toward polygamists. I didn’t know any polygamists, and I didn’t need to. I believed they were apostate, weird, and likely inhuman. I was mainstream LDS, born and raised in Colorado (with a 6-year stint in Seattle), and educated in Utah. I’d been living in Utah since 2000. My only reference points toward those living in plural families were news stories about how horrible the fundamentalists were; from not educating their children, to wearing old-fashioned garb, to their reprehensible lifestyle of sharing husbands. I was particularly horrible during the Texas events of 2008. I declared that all of the FLDS children should be removed by the authorities and raised by others. I confess that I vocally cheered at their trauma. God, I am such an ass (that was a prayer).
Five weeks before our lives were rocked by a series of events which left us homeless, (which in turn led to a series of events that created the structure, and mind/soul shift, for me to become a plural wife), upon hearing about a local plural family, I started off on a mean-spirited diatribe about how disgusting I thought their entire lifestyle was. We were in the car. All of my children were with me. And I was a monster. What a stage I set.
As all of this was going on, I did not prepare my children for my change of heart, and I don’t know that they would have understood it. When I first approached my children with the idea, they were horrified. They thought I had lost my mind. Suddenly, their rock-solid mom was adrift and they thought she was mad, unstable, brainwashed – everything I had said about polygamist women.
As time progressed, I did other less than mindful things which were ignorant to the venom others held and created a huge backlash for myself. I put my children in the care of my parents who were terribly misinformed and highly malignant against this lifestyle. My father told my children that my husband was going to take my 16-year-old daughter as a wife. My parents called my ex-husband – a man known to them as an alcohol/crack/porn addict, and spouse abuser – to offer him custody (apparently, they thought he would be a better parent than I, in spite of all of his limitations, and regardless of me being the legal custodial parent since September of 2000).
My father called both the police and DCFS (Child Protective Services) to report me. At the time polygamy was not illegal. Thankfully, the authorities told my father to bring my children home, or be faced with possible kidnapping charges. However, I still had to deal with a police officer coming to my home for a keep the peace call.
At one point I attempted to go to a counselor. I had no idea who to reach out to. The one place which specialized in polygamy turned out to be an agency which helped women and children flee from abusive plural situations. The counselor told me that she had never counseled anyone entering a plural marriage and could not help us. She did have a private session with my daughter where she told my child to flee the home entirely. I have since found out that counselors who are LGBT(etc.) friendly are the most open to those joining a family in a plural situation. I made one appointment for my daughter with an LGBT(etc.) friendly counselor, but the counselor moved immediately after and gave us a referral. My daughter refused to speak with the referral.
Through all of this, my kids were confused, horrified, and had no resources to sort things out. I truly believe that I could have made it much easier had I not been all along so horrendous about those unlike myself
TL;DR bottom line: Don’t judge. Don’t teach others to judge. You may be eating a feast of crow, and end up being judged by those for whom you set a terrible example of judgment.