Doing Hard Things (Bernie, Brandy, and Paige)

This last episode (Episode 7, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”) of Seeking Sister Wife was honestly very hard for me to watch. This difficulty had nothing to do with the quality of the filming or of the editing. It had to do with the raw truth of the matter: polygamy can be very difficult at times. And this episode, more than any of the previous episodes, highlighted many of the difficult things about it. Part of the reason it was hard to watch was that it showed the difficulties even well-adjusted, loving plural families (or potentially plural families) can experience.

We saw the very tense and awkward moments when Vanessa’s sisters were visiting in Los Angeles. Dimitri puts it so succinctly when he says that people are going to fall off, meaning relationships will be severed one way or another. It is a sad, painful, and unnecessary reality. We even got a glimpse into the struggles of (arguably) the most functional of plural families, the Alldredges, when Sharis tells about how she sometimes misses Jeff on nights he is not with her.

What’s more, it’s not just theoretical, or televised “plural families” that can have difficulties; it is my family. Watching this episode was difficult partly because it brought back memories of our own difficulties trying to live as polygamists in a society that largely frowns upon that. Fortunately, we have overcome most of those difficulties, both with others and with ourselves (but we’re not perfect yet), and things are so much better and smoother than they were in the beginning. There is so much to talk about in this episode that it is almost overwhelming.

As a plural husband, Paige McGee’s melt down was so hard to watch. I can tell that Bernie has a genuine, deep, and abiding affection for his wife. He is hurt when she is hurt. He is concerned for her welfare, for her physical and emotional well being. A person’s own emotions are difficult enough to manage. Handling other people’s emotions requires an added measure of patience and control.

I’ve talked about Paige’s issues with jealousy here and here already, so I won’t address it again – there’s not much more to say. Jealousy is natural and jealousy can serve a positive function, but jealousy also needs to be checked before it turns into envy. All that aside, I feel for Paige in this episode. When it comes to changes in plural marriage, the first wife has got some of the biggest adjustments to make. To be sure, everyone involved has to make some pretty huge changes when a new wife is added to the family. Of course, the biggest changes to any family come with the addition of the first two wives.

It is arguable that the biggest and most difficult changes accompany the marriage of the first wife. This is when the family is first forming, and therefore is experiencing the most dramatic changes. Consequently, this can also be the most difficult time for a family. I am speaking in general terms here, but the risk of divorce is highest during the first few years of marriage. There are so many adjustments that need to be made! And so many different types of adjustments – mental, physical, financial, logistical, etc. The stress can be crushing. But commitment pays off, hang in there, and give it some time and effort. Things get better with every passing year, and just because marriage is sometimes hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it!

Of course, adding the second wife is a huge adjustment for everyone too. The new wife has to adjust to being married (just as the first wife did), and adjust to the rest of the family and the first wife as well. The first wife has to adjust to her changing schedule both with her husband and also new interactions with the second wife. The children will certainly have adjustments to make, and the husband will obviously have a large additional load on his shoulders as well.

I don’t know the McGees personally (but I’d like to; they seem like very nice people) but my guess is that the mixture of emotions Paige was feeling have a lot of basis in a fear of the unknown. This fear is largely informed by our culture, which includes our family, friends, churches, laws, and a multitude of other factors. As I recall, Paige talks about her family playing the role of devil on her shoulder in the first episode – whispering doubts and encouraging envy. We saw some of the same with Vanessa Cobbs in this episode too.

Yes, it can be difficult. Yes, the fear, the jealousy, the envy, the uncertainty, and the negative responses are all real, but none of these things are sufficient reasons to give up. They are all obstacles to overcome, and, much to Paige’s credit, she pulled thru in the end! She is not even the one who asked Bernie to come back – that was TLC (and I think that was a bad move and poor form on their part). Regardless, it looks like things turned out anyway. It would have been an absolute tragedy if the date had not gone thru.

I feel for Paige and the difficult emotions she is dealing with in this episode. I feel for Bernie and his loving concern for Paige. And I feel for Brandy too! What thoughts must be going thru her head as she is waiting out in the car alone while Bernie gets called back in to console Paige? She seems to handle it well tho.

Paige knows what she wants, even if it is hard, and I admire her for that! Hard things that are worth it. We could easily make a list of a hundred things that fit this description (some harder than others) – things that you want and are willing to work and sacrifice for: Marriage, child birth, raising children, going to school, training for a marathon, quitting smoking, changing your life for the better, cleaning your room, getting up in the morning, going to work, going to church, etc. You get the idea.

There is pain and emotion connected to all of these things. That is real, and that is something that has to be dealt with if you want to accomplish anything useful or good in this world. Just because these things are hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. Just because they make you cry sometimes doesn’t mean you should give up. It is an uphill battle. Be patient with yourself and others. Things take time, and there will be setbacks. Get back on that horse and keep riding!

5 thoughts on “Doing Hard Things (Bernie, Brandy, and Paige)

  1. Agreed. Polygamy is harder than monogamy and this episode clearly showed it. The difference is that polygamists think that it is worth it. They believe that the benefits to the lifestyle are worth the sacrifices to get there.

    It always reminds me of that book “Do Hard Things” by the Harris brothers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to start this thought with two things, 1- I am not a polygamist 2- I recently found this blog due to watching SSW and SW’s.
    I have read several entries of this blog and I am so intrigued by this family. I truly believe that if people want to live a polygamist lifestyle, they should be entitled to do so and have all the same responsibilities and benefits of “marriage”.
    While, I am not led by God to live in a polygamist lifestyle, I truly believe there are people that are. I see the benefits. When I first started watching all of the shows on TV I became intrigued. It all started with the HBO series “Big Love” then Sister Wives, my Five Wives and Seeking Sister Wives.
    I can see where this could absolutely work.
    I can also see some of the negatives that could/can surround polygamists. The biggest negative would be the FDLS association with Warren Jeff’s and his kind. Which would include, forced marriages, under age marriage, abuse of spouses/children. Abuse of Social Services and welfare. Etc.
    All of these negatives can be found in monogamy, however it is surely multiplied by many in the “cult like” communities.
    If a second and subsequent Wives are forced to be silent citizens and have little to no patriarchal involvement, financially then, to me, this is an abuse to our government.
    If Polgamy was legal, then more than half of what I described above would be non-existent. Father’s could be involved with all of the wives and children’s lives and play a major role in regards to financial support, health insurance etc. marriage licenses could rule out forced marriages and underage women marrying much older men.
    I am a proponent for LGBT marriage as well. I feel like it was worth mentioning this as this has been as controversial as polygamist marriages.
    If people are living polygamist lifestyles, whether it being for religious or other reasons, it is no business of others as long as the family can sustain the lifestyle and consequent children. “Be all things to all members of the family”.
    On to your blog post, concerning Bernie and Paige, counseling would benefit them greatly if they are seriously determined to live the lifestyle. (I have many doubts about their true intentions)
    If it is something that they feel God has LED them to, they should let God lead them through the ups and downs of the jealousy. I truly get the everyday jealousy that I have seen other families talk about on just about every show that has been aired on tv. Paige’s jealousy seems to be very extreme for someone who claims that God has put this lifestyle on her heart to live for the benefit of their family. If it were not for a religious reason, I feel this family would always fail at polygamy. I really enjoyed the counseling sessions that were shared by the Brown family when they added Robyn and her children to the fold. Everyone had a voice, everyone’s feelings were taken into consideration and with counseling they tried to either learn skills that would help them adjust to the families growing status or repair relationships that through the years were ignored.
    As for the Snowden’s, the state they follow several religions and kind of pick and choose what they want for their family. It is ok by me, as they went into this process explaining to each other and defining their relationship from the beginning and as adding a 2nd wife, all expectations are out and on the table.
    The Winder’s are a sweet family and I feel they are working their way to their religious beliefs and are being very respectful to each other during the process.
    I like the Alldredge family the most out of all of the TV families I have seen. Both wives, although they had their issues with jealousy (minor compared to some) they are working together with their husband for the betterment of their earthly and celestial family.
    I hope to continue to follow your blog page and find out more of your family’s dynamics.
    Take care and God Bless

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment.
      We wholeheartedly agree that “If Polygamy was legal, then more than half of what I described above would be non-existent.”

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  3. I really appreciate this blog and have learned from the posts. Watching the various shows on plural marriage it seems to me that some, if not all the wives have been mild to moderately depressed. At times one wife seems very blue while another is doing well, then it’s seems they reverse moods as time goes on. Is this normal to have ups and downs?
    Also, how does it work to have a part time husband? How do you deal with being by yourself at night without your husband to cuddle next to? He never experiences such a bereft feeling, but each wife must endure that loneliness at least half her nights with just two wives. With the Browns, they sleep alone 3 out of every 4 nights. They have a 25% husband. I feel like when it was my night I’d have 3 days of things to discuss, plus things to talk about to help us be reconnecting after 3 days apart. But kids would need time too. I feel like I’d always be trying to cram 4 days of family life into one evening after Daddy comes home from work. That seems kinda tense, maybe even a little frantic. It’s difficult getting needs met when you’re the only wife, so dividing time only creates less opportunity to grow in oneness and intimacy as a couple. I’d be quite lonely and fear I would realistically, inevitably end up being drawn to another more emotionally and physically available man. I don’t see how I’d be able to not drift away and feel less close to the man I married. I might love him as a good and decent man, but I don’t think I could remain in love with him because his time and attention are so much elsewhere. Also, what if my night I had a rough day and am not in the mood to be intimate or to reconnect smoothly and swiftly?—is it awkward, hit and miss, or even tense kind I’m forcing a mood I don’t feel?—does he feel distant or moody sometimes? What if he quarreled with the wife from last night and is thinking about that so he’s distracted from any meaningful talk with me? Or he quarrels with me and it isn’t resolved that night so he moves on to the other wives and we have to wait till my turn again to work it out. Seems like letting hurt and angry feelings fester for several days is really hard on a relationship.
    Are these even issues in plural situations? Feeling you have a part time husband and are alone a lot, but the husband never knows such loneliness.
    Is it possible for wives to find a nice man to be with on the nights you’re alone—someone to sleep beside you and let you share your thoughts and concerns about the day, the kids, etc. If the husband has a wife to share a bed with every night, can the sister wives have a man to fill in when he’s gone? If that is frowned upon, what is the reason to ask women to suffer loneliness while the men never do? Can you point me to somewhere in your scriptures that explains why God would bless his sons so much and allow his daughters to suffer alone. That seems very ungodlike to me. Honestly, it seems like the men are highly favored and the women are not as valued in this system. The men are very kind and the women seem to support the husband most willingly. But it still appears that men are favored by having attention and affection continually while the women sacrifice a considerable amount of attention and affection. Again, part time husband.
    I ask out of a desire to understand how you view these things so that you feel it is good to live in such an inequitable marriage. I don’t fault you or think you’re bad or anything. I mean no condemnation or disrespect. Please forgive me if my wording has been lacking in any way. You seems so normal, healthy and committed to this lifestyle and I’d like to understand it more.
    Thank you for sharing so we can learn and grow.

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    1. Hi Lily, I mean, Gail 😉

      You ask some difficult questions. There are certainly ups and downs in plural marriage, but I believe this is inherent to the human condition, and not necessarily to polygamy. As for women being depressed, it is a sad truth that women in general are something like twice as likely to experience this than men. So, you are probably right that the women on the show might feel depressed sometimes. But, again, it has nothing to do with polygamy. It has to do with women – and men too! It has to do with humans. Everyone experiences ups and downs, and men and women have different problems to deal with (and they are prone to experience different challenges mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically). In fact, women in our society (speaking in general terms) are becoming less happy, less satisfied with their lives, and more depressed. There are debates about why exactly this is the case, but I’ll tell you why I think it is that way: Because women are trying to be men, and trying to make men into women. There is clamoring all the time for “equality” between the sexes, and now that our society is more egalitarian than it has ever been in the history of the world, the results are, I think, surprisingly disappointing.

      Again, I am speaking in generalities here. Yes, men and women are different, AND OUGHT TO BE DIFFERENT! This is true in both monogamy and polygamy. It’s got nothing to do with one gender being “favored”, or “blessed” above the other. It’s got everything to do with being different and accepting, respecting, and even admiring those differences. Any attempts to diminish them will lead to dissatisfaction, strife, and disappointment.

      It is difficult to fully answer the questions you pose because I believe they are based upon faulty premises. Namely, that men and women OUGHT to be the same, and that living polygamy is purely about sacrifice and loneliness on the part of the wives without any compensating factors, etc.

      Yes, there is loneliness sometimes. Yes, there is jealousy sometimes. No, it is not all happy for the man and sad for the women. Yes, it can be more work to keep up relationships at times. Yes, plural marriage can be harder than monogamy. But there are rewards too! Humans don’t act without rewards (differences in actions depend on differences in what is valued)! And time is not always lost – it is often traded. And how much loneliness and lost time there is depends on many things – many of which are within our power to choose. This will take an entire post to explain what I mean, but keep coming back and I’ll write it one day.

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