I know this post is an episode behind, but I’ve got to get down some of my thoughts about it before I move on.
I think the whole thing was blown entirely out of proportion. All the previews built up this impression that Bernie was acting in a wildly inappropriate way, but when it actually aired it was seen that it was all just a load of hot air. From what I saw, Bernie is essentially innocent. He didn’t initiate the sexting at all, and Paige herself says Bernie is the one that put an end to it when the woman started to get explicit. I don’t see what is the problem here. It seems like Paige should be proud of her man for that, rather than chastising him for what the other woman sent to him without any solicitation on his part (by this I mean without solicitation for the sexually explicit messages). It is amazing really, and a bit strange.
I also feel like I need to give some props to Bernie here. From what was shown, I would say he handled things very well. He stopped the potentially inappropriate text conversation, and he handled his wife, and her complaints, in a very gracious manner. He ended up apologizing for nothing (he says at first that he didn’t think he had crossed a line – and he is right) in order to protect his relationship – and hey, sometimes you might have to do that. But I’m not sure that apologizing for non-offenses every time they arise is going to be a sustainable long-term solution to the problem.
It seems to all come down to Paige’s well-developed (and dare I say, overdeveloped) sense of jealousy. This is definitely a large hurdle for the McGees and a challenge she has to personally deal with. Jealousy over a husband’s time, affection, and resources is an expected (tho not required!) emotion that has to be dealt with by most plural families, but Paige’s worries go even farther. Shethinks she will also be jealous about her children’s time and affection for the new wife (this is in the first episode). I wonder if she will feel even more jealousy when the dogs end up liking the new wife as well?
OK, joking aside, these are serious matters to deal with, and while I was disappointed to see Bernie chided for things he should have been praised for, I do have to give some credit to Paige as well. She admits that she doesn’t know what can and cannot be said between a husband and a potential plural wife (she just knows how it made her feel). I think that’s a fair thing for her to say, and here is my fair response:
The wives should be on equal terms, and with equal privileges. The second wife (and her relationship to their husband – or potential relationship) should not be subject to any restrictions that the first wife and her relationship are not (or were not) also under. Especially if those restrictions are placed on the new wife by the first wife – those are dangerous waters to be treading in. If it was fine for the first wife, it is fine for the second. End of story.
Paige says that when she and Bernie were courting they had, “free discussions” but now that he is married that is not allowed any more. I say bologna. She asks him about holding hands, kisses good night, etc.? One possible response to this question is: Did she and Bernie hold hands, kiss good night, talk about sex, etc.? My guess is that the answer is likely “yes” on all counts – she probably asks this question because she was remembering her own behaviors when she was courting. Not that these things are required for a relationship to progress, but they are normal, healthy, and acceptable behaviors. She says it is about Bernie “respecting” her and their relationship, but I see it much more as disrespect and devaluation, on her part, towards the potential second wife in not allowing her the same privileges she enjoyed – and this would be a very unhealthy way to start a relationship.
I guess another way of saying this is that Paige should not be berating Bernie ex post facto. Their agreement was no sexual intimacy before commitment (a.k.a. marriage), which is an excellent rule to abide by. Bernie did not break this rule, and is therefore innocent. He did not even violate the spirit of this rule. “This is borderline cheating,” she says, but I say it is nothing of the sort; furthermore, the line should not be moved after the fact.
Is it cheating or isn’t it? When it comes to laws and rules, it is not right to hold someone hostage with a fuzzy, ill-defined, gray area that may change in shape or scope with the whims of emotion. It reminds me of the very good rule the Snowdens laid down in the first episode of this season. Ashley told Dimitri that he was allowed to think Vanessa is beautiful, and he was allowed to tell her she was beautiful, but he just wasn’t allowed to act on it.
Something else to consider is the situation the potential second wife finds herself in. She wants to gain the attention/attraction/affection of a man who already has a wife, and who is (presumably) already having sex. Hopefully, it’s no secret that one of the things women bring to a relationship is sex-appeal. Certainly this is not all they bring, but it is a significant part of what they bring, and this is every bit as true in monogamy as it is in polygamy. It is nothing to criticize, or belittle, and it is not strange or creepy. It just needs to be understood as the proper and biological reality of the situation. However, this fact may lead her to believe that she is at a disadvantage, since her potential man is already having sex. As a result, she may feel like she needs to assure him that she will also be sexually pleasing. This is a good and natural desire, and concern, for a woman to have – to want to please her future spouse (and good men are concerned about pleasing their spouse(s) as well).
While I can understand this point of view, I will say to any potential sister wife:
I could understand limiting things in a second courtship if it was a mistake in the first courtship (like Dimitri drawing a line for Vanessa on their first Date). Beyond this, if it is not sinful, or prohibited by some agreement between spouses, then there should be no attempt to make the parties feel guilty over it. And yet, the emotions here can be so raw and dangerous, that everyone needs to tread cautiously.
My serious advice to potential plural husbands, in this area, is that you should be open about the relationship, but not open about the affection/intimacy. In other words, keep it private between you and the new, or potential, wife; especially when the relationship is so new. Doing otherwise probably won’t be good for anyone.
My serious advice to current wives is: Don’t be going thru his accounts! This (Paige snooping thru Bernie’s messages) actually seems like a much bigger breach of trust to me, than Bernie’s handling of the sexting. Just as I was typing this I recollected that Charlotte, when I was courting Melissa, told me that she knew my email password, but that she wanted me to change it, and that she had decided not to go snooping into correspondence between us. What an amazing woman she is!
8 ounces of red meat, and red it was, sat between them.
I commend Vanessa for taking the bull by the horns and eating what she wanted to eat, in spite of Ashley’s concern about food, and after stating that she did not want to mess things up on a date with Dimitri.
I think that everyone has the right to ask for what they need in a relationship. We all live in different ways, prioritize different things, and some things are not going to harmonize well with others. That may or may not include dietary demands; although, I’ve heard it said that it is harder to change someone’s diet than their religion.
I find it very funny that Ashley, in the prior episode, was like, “Dimitri won’t like this.” Then, in this episode, Dimitri said that Ashley would not like it. Perhaps something needs to be sorted out.
I do believe that an established kitchen should be respected, particularly when there are children involved. Otherwise, It is confusing and upsetting for all involved.
I don’t think that part is a control issue.
The problem would be for me if there were an attempt to control what I ate outside of the established kitchen. I like the idea of ordering what you want when you are eating out with the family or with friends, or getting what you want at a drive through on the way home from work when you are by yourself, but eating according to the established “rules” at home (especially in your sisterwife’s kitchen).
I have a good example that happened today; Charlotte’s youngest and I have had terrible head colds (One of the reasons this post is so late). Charlotte has requested that the child get no dairy until her congestion clears up. I was craving toast with cream cheese and jam. I went over to Charlotte’s kitchen with my toast and got immediate demand that I share the food. I wanted to respect Charlotte’s request, so I took the toast back to my kitchen where I ate it. Later I reminded the child that I was not to give her any kind of milk or cheese until her nose stopped running. That went over much better than eating it in front of her and attempting to explain the same thing. We are hoping for tomorrow to resume her cheese eating.
I see the restaurant differently than a meal at home because I don’t feel the same expectation to share what I am eating. Other’s mileage may vary with food sharing at restaurants, and that would have to be taken into individual account.
When I married Joshua, I knew that he didn’t like bacon (I know, who doesn’t like bacon?!). It wasn’t a deal breaker because he wasn’t demanding that I not eat bacon. As time progressed we talked about the Old Testament dietary laws and I made the decision to refrain from pork. It wasn’t actually a difficult decision as I knew that I had had a problem with feeling stiff and sore and generally achy the day after every time I ate it. That graduated to shellfish and other foods against Old Testament dietary laws.
It is, and has been, my decision, and would not be a big deal if I changed my eating habits again. Now that the rest of the family is off pork and shellfish etc, of course, I would respect the household and not eat it at home. However, I love eating out, so if I ever did change my diet, I would see eating out as an opportunity, rather than focusing on the kitchen rules as a restriction. I would see it in a way similar to not wanting to make something at home because I know it is made better at a restaurant.
Oh boy, do I remember those days. A year and a half of staying hidden.
I told my family very early on. Because of the chaos and backlash it created, I still have nightmares about interacting with my father, now 5 ½ years later. Thus, we decided to keep our marriage secret from everyone else for a time
One of the parameters of my becoming a wife was that in spite of the legal and social risks involved, I was not going to remain secret forever. However. the immediate repercussions of outing our marriage with people with whom I stood to have a lifetime continuing relationship was incredibly daunting. Also, we needed some recovery from the upheaval which was created by my family. These things were a higher priority than announcing to the world that we had entered a union we believed was heavenly but would be treated contemptuously.
Thus began the interaction with Joshua and Charlotte’s extended families which rapidly became a bane to my existence. I was part of the family and there was concern about me being left out as well as we wanted the extended family to meet me and perhaps create a relationship with me before we gave them the news. I was invited to every extended family activity by Charlotte and Joshua as well as in contact with Joshua’s brother’s family on a regular basis as they were living in the same house as Charlotte. I went as Charlotte’s friend. This rapidly proved difficult.
Every time we interacted with family or in public, I made sure that I walked separately from Joshua and that I did not make eye contact with him. I never sat next to him and we made sure we only spoke about trivial matters in voices loud enough for others to hear.
At the time, hiding everything seemed so vital. Now I realize that we were much more concerned about it than we probably should have been. However, it was quite a shock to others when we began to reveal ourselves.
When we thought we were ready, we started telling people one at a time; knowing that the risk of rejection was very real, as it had already happened with some people very close to us. There was new trauma with every reveal, and we felt the need to take time to regroup after each.
It’s been 4 years of living openly, and apparently, we still have people to tell. At a recent family Christmas party, one of the great-uncles came up to me and asked how I fit in the family. I responded, “I’m Melissa.” He then asked exactly how I was related. I told him that I was Joshua’s other wife. I watched him as he rapidly swallowed several times, blinked furiously, and then stammered “Oh!” Thankfully another of Joshua’s uncles was standing nearby and came to the rescue. He redirected the conversation in a very deft manner.
At our Chanukah party, we had this delightful experience.
Things are better now. I have much more confidence in sharing, and I am much more at peace with peoples’ reactions – regardless of what they are. There is nothing anyone can do that hasn’t already been done by someone closer.
I have gotten to a place where I’m kind of unfazed by responses. Simply because those who will accept us will, and those who will not will not – regardless of former relationships or perceived expectations. That is hard won, bitterly painful knowledge.
I’m at the point of telling shopkeepers and others in my daily life randomly, and it has been extremely interesting as I have shared. People will share that they too have polygamous backgrounds, and it almost seems conspiratorial as they do – like we are both in on some great secret. It immediately becomes a shared reference point between us and creates a sort of bond.
Those early days were so tough, and revealing ourselves to a largely unfriendly world was incredibly painful stuff.
Last week I had a moment of realization. I realized that because of how hard it was, and the constant stress and difficulty of that time, it is literally a miracle that I am here, married to the man of my dreams, and living happily with our plural family. Only by the grace of God could we have gotten to this place. He is so much bigger than the rejection of men.
I think this was the first episode my sisterwife, our husband, and I watched all together. Sitting in Melissa’s living room in a row of recliners, laughing heartily, arguing, each of us noticing and pointing out different things, made the viewing of it a party. Episode 2 of Seeking Sister Wife‘s second season (the one titled “Failure to Launch”) was extremely entertaining and definitely the funniest of either season.
The Alldredges left their 7 children at home for the first time and traveled to Niagara Falls. They left them with some unnamed friends. Here is a screenshot of the babysitters waving goodbye with all 7 children.
Oh, wait. I only count 6 children. Where is their oldest child, 9-year-old Dain? Maybe he had to go the bathroom or something. *shrug*
TLC didn’t name the babysitters for you, but I will. They are Taylor and Sara, some of our good friends. They had their 4 children at the Alldredges’ house as well (who weren’t shown in the goodbye scene). They actually have 5 children of their own now, since Sara just gave birth to a baby boy a few days ago!
Taylor and Sara were going to be one of the families in the first season of Seeking Sister Wife — they were under contract and everything — but as filming was getting closer they became uncomfortable with some of the things the network was planning and, although they’re still open to plural marriage, they felt inspired that it was not the right time/circumstances. They believe that (at least for them) such things are best left in God’s hands – not in the hands of TV producers. After everything was explained to the network, TLC terminated the contract, eventually replacing them with the Snowden family.
Taylor is one of the contributors to this blog. His post called “Dateonomics” is one of my personal favorites. In it, Taylor shows the mathematics of why polygamy being available is actually good for women. I used his ideas just the other day to explain these concepts to a friend who wasn’t sure what she thought about polygamy.
One of the main ideas in the post is that if polygamy is allowed, then the women don’t have to compete with each other in order to get married, and they have a lot more men to choose from, so their chances of marrying a good man are much higher. Instead of 10 men and 10 women in the dating pool resulting in every man getting a wife, polygamy allows the better men to score more women, potentially leaving some men unmarried. This puts the pressure on men to step it up because they are the ones who have to compete for the women. And in reality, there aren’t equal numbers of men and women in the dating pools: there are more women than men, due to various factors laid out in Taylor’s post. And in a monogamous culture, even if the pool of men is decreased by a tiny number, that still means there will be females left single. That makes dating analogous to a game of musical chairs: not everyone will get a spot, so you better play the game hard in order to not be left an old maid. If I am not explaining this well, you should really check out Taylor’s article and see what you think.
Anyway, it was fun to see our friends on the show even tho they were just babysitters and not one of the featured families.
The Alldredges’ flight to New York was Sharis’s first time on an airplane. Once they arrived at their hotel, we find out that Vanessa and Sharis got separate hotel rooms, which gives the sisterwives privacy and allows them to keep up the same sleeping schedule they were already on.
Normally my sisterwife Melissa and I drive separate cars, eat separate meals, and sleep in different rooms. But when we’re camping or otherwise staying away from home, we do things differently: we typically get just one room or set up one tent for the whole family, including the children, we drive just one car all together, and we combine our meals, etc. We like the closeness on occasion, and it simplifies things. Yes, there’s not as much privacy, and yes, Joshua has to rearrange his sleeping schedule, but it’s not a big deal if it’s only every once in a while.
I know polygamous families who stay in one room or tent the way we do, and I know other polygamous families who require a room for each wife the way the Alldredges do. I recognize different families have different preferences, and when the Alldredges stay with us, we give the wives separate bedrooms. But next time we stay at your house, feel free to put us all in the same room. 😉
Being in the present
Vanessa Alldredge seems pretty excited to be in Niagara Falls and she’s looking forward to meeting her potential sisterwife in person. She says when they were courting Melina (as shown in Season 1 of SSW) her pregnancy made things difficult.
Vanessa is referring to the molar pregnancy she was going thru, which Jeff also mentioned in Episode 1. The hormones of a molar pregnancy are many times higher than those in a normal pregnancy, so it makes sense that poor Vanessa was really sick. She told me in detail about her experience and even shared ultrasound photos, which you can see in this blog post.
Once again, I only had time to write up a fraction of what I wanted to share. I made notes to write about the McGees’ synagogue kicking them out because of their belief in polygamy; their talking to their sons about Bernie’s “talking to another woman” and not only the sons’ reactions but also the reactions of the son’s friends; the McGee son mentioning again that a plural wife of his dad’s “wouldn’t be a mom per se“; Bernie being confident that when he has plural wives, the whole family will live altogether in one house; the Winders attempt to come out as polygamists in their community (Joshua wrote about it here); Sophie Winder calling herself Sadie’s second mom; whether a new wife needs to adapt to the family’s diet, the way the Snowdens expect; the Snowdens’ potential sisterwife being a Pisces; Ashley Snowden’s “Highly Meditated” tank top; and her inspirational quote “Anything in life worth having takes effort”, referring to her efforts to practice polygamy.
But alas, the 3rd episode has aired and I won’t let myself watch it until I publish this post, so I will go ahead and do that right now. A recliner in my sisterwife’s living room is calling my name.
Oh, before I go, here are the numbers of the total amount of screentime each family had in episode 2. The Snowdens’ screentime was double that of the Alldredges. Playing favorites, I see:
What do you think? Did you notice a kid was missing in the Alldredge farewell scene? Did you get a chance to read Taylor’s Dateonomics post yet? If you were a polygamist, would you want to share a hotel room or get separate rooms when traveling? What was your favorite part of this episode? Is it obvious to you the Snowdens are TLC’s favorite family?
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster
which doth mock the meat it feeds on.
(Othello, Act 3, Scene 3)
In the first episode of the second season of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to some new people. The lovely McGee family (Bernie and Paige). They seem like a very tightly-knit and loving family, and the interaction between their two boys brings an involuntary smile to my face. They are very likable people, and I’m looking forward to watching how things work out for them.
However, we do get several glimpses into their past attempts to add a wife to their family, and it seems that Paige’s jealousy is going to be a serious and recurring issue. And naturally so! There is nothing wrong with jealousy! After all, Jealousy is God’s middle name. Okay, okay, I’m not sure if that is entirely true, but it is one of his names at least:
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
See! There you go, jealousy must not be such a bad thing after all!
To be clear, I believe, that none of our fundamental natural desires or impulses are, of themselves, bad things. The sin always comes from the perversion of our desires. The desires themselves are God-given and innate. Wrongs comes from the excesses and the misapplications. We want things at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, or in the wrong amounts, and don’t always consider how our efforts to achieve our desires appear to God or to our fellow beings.
For those who know the reference, our desires are like a red lizard sitting on our shoulder and whispering in our ears; arguing for us to give selfish and vile expression to our natural inclinations (for those who don’t know the reference, it is The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis). They are a serious hindrance if unbridled and allowed to run free. Appetites and passions are to be kept within the bounds the Lord has set. Food is good; we are even commanded to work for it (Gen 3:19, 2Thess 3:10), but too much of it and we are gluttons. Wine is something to look forward to (Isa 25:6), but drunkenness is a thing to be avoided. Human sexuality is a blessed and pleasurable thing, but is also the greatest snare and temptation of many people’s lives. Money has definite value, and using it facilitates our exchanges for goods and services, but making it the object of our affection is the root of many evils. You get the idea.
On the other hand, if bridled, trained, controlled, and allowed to give their proper vent, our natural inclinations can become our blessing, our strength, and our happiness. This transformation may not be an easy one, but will be well worth the trade for anyone concerned enough to make it!
Back to jealousy. It can be good. It has a purpose. The key is to find out what it is for and when it should be felt. If we can figure out our own selves, and our own emotions (even if it is an incremental process), we will simplify our lives and the lives of everyone around us.
First we must understand what jealousy is. Of course we all know what jealousy feels like, but I think it will be useful to discriminate between it and a very similar emotion, envy. In many cases these two words may be very close in their usage. They can both indicate a longing to posses something. However, the word jealous carries the particular sense of “vigilant (or zealous) in guarding a possession”. Jealousy also carries the connotation of a suspicious fear of losing something. In other words, properly applied, jealousy ought to be used to describe feelings of protectiveness for things that are our own; for things that already belong to us (our own advantages, attachments, relationships, and possessions). Thus, God is jealous for his people, for we are his!
We cross a line into envy when we begin to have similar emotions, but for things that are not ours. Another word for envy is covetousness. It is feeling possessive of things that we do not posses; it is feeling entitled to things to which we do not have a right. This of course, needs to be suppressed, and not allowed to take root.
Here then is the purpose of jealousy: it is one natural mechanism to preserve the romantic bond between spouses. It functions to encourage fidelity between parents (or potential parents). The jealous anger of one partner being both a deterrent to the infidelity of the other, and also a self-motivator for the person experiencing it to fight for the restoration of the bond. This (a strong bond between spouses) of course leads to a multitude of benefits for their children (or potential children), and their subsequent reproductive success.
Predictably, men and women feel jealousy in different ways, and for different (but significant!) reasons. To quote clinical psychologist, Dr. Vinita Mehta:
“Romantic jealously is widely understood to be different for men and women because each gender has a different level of investment in reproduction. For a man to provide for genetically distant children decreases his reproductive success—and because men are uncertain whether they really are the father of said children, they are most susceptible to [experiencing jealousy over] sexual infidelity. By contrast, women can rest assured that they are the mother of their own children; however, they are more dependent on men for resources, making them more sensitive to [experiencing jealousy over] emotional infidelity, since it could threaten the supply of resources for herself and her child.”
Generally speaking, women are concerned (on a basic, visceral level) that their partner’s affection for another woman will lead to a weaker emotional connection, and therefore less desire to care for them, or even that the emotional connection will be altogether severed, causing the man to abandon them for the other woman.
This all goes back to the scriptural, God-given roles and responsibilities for men and women in marriage. This is the Biblical marriage covenant in a nutshell. To quantify this difference, a large study, published in 2014 (this is not the only study confirming these results), reported that men were significantly more likely than women to be upset by sexual infidelity (54% vs. 35%), and significantly less likely than women to be upset by emotional infidelity (46% vs. 65%).
There are many things that could be said about the result of this study, but I want to mention two. First, this does not mean that women don’t feel jealousy over sexual infidelity, or that men don’t feel jealousy over emotional infidelity; rather, it means that their primary causes of jealousy are generally different, and this has significant effects on the way that men and women think and act. The other thing to mention about this finding is that it has nothing to do with age groups, income levels, history of being cheated on, history of being unfaithful, relationship type, relationship length, cultural differences, etc. Like it or not, this difference is an innate, biological difference.
So, how does knowing any of this help the Paige McGees of the world? I think there are at least two useful lessons that can be gleaned from the above.
1) Jealousy is natural, and can even be good, but care must be taken that it does not spill over into envy or covetousness. In order to keep jealousy within a righteous bound, we need to be certain of what is ours to be jealous over. In marriage, wives have a right to financial support for themselves and their children. They have full claim on their husband for that purpose. However, they do not have exclusive rights to him sexually. This is important to know because it can keep you from worrying over things that are not yours to worry about. To put it another way, you shouldn’t feel jealous over things that aren’t yours.
2) Understand that the source of your jealousy may largely (even unconsciously) come from a fear of being abandoned (emotional infidelity). This is certainly a rational fear, as we all know; this scenario has played out many times before. Many monogamous relationships have been broken by an unfaithful man tragically abandoning his wife and children for another woman. However, if you can realize that, in the case of polygamy, your husband is not at all interested in trading you for another woman, but rather wants to keep you both (or however many wives there may be), then that ought to restore your confidence that you are not being abandoned! At least it ought to increase the confidence in your mind – there may still be a battle with emotions, but what’s new about that? If he is a godly man, then he still wants you to be his wife just as much as ever, his emotions towards you are just as strong as ever, and he still wants to keep his commitment to you and your children just as much as ever.
So, to Paige, and to all the other plural (and potentially plural) wives out there I say: Have confidence in your husband and in your relationship, keep working on maintaining and improving your own relationship with your husband, and don’t worry too much about things that are not your business to worry about.
Last week after a day at work that was hours longer than I had planned, I came home to flowers on my kitchen island. Beautiful tulips that were just barely beginning to open. I thought “How nice of Joshua to be thinking of me!” He’s randomly gotten me flowers before, but it’s always so nice to be surprised with something like that. Particularly since he’s generally very practical.
Much later, I glanced through our connecting door and saw lovely flowers on Charlotte’s shelf. I thought that Joshua had gotten that for her. I asked her about it and realized that she had gotten them for herself and also the tulips for me. I felt chagrined that I had just assumed the tulips were from Joshua.
I find it wonderful that she was thinking about me as much as she was thinking about herself. That’s a beautiful facet of plural marriage for me. More love. I have the opportunity to have a wonderful woman in my life who has my back, who cares deeply for me and my well-being, and I have the opportunity to somehow be that for her too.
I met Sophie* more than two years ago because of our shared interest in home birth.
I never told her my marital status.
It wasn’t relevant to a relationship.
She was interested in my head covering, so it was a point of conversation which led to sharing somewhat of my beliefs. I shared what we did with Biblical feasts and what, in the context of Mormonism, I have come to believe about them. Sophie was very interested in my points of view regarding religious and spiritual matters, and we had shared child birthing, feeding, and rearing points of view.
I wanted to go over to her home often, but life is just busy, and my plan to teach her how to make challah never got off the ground.
When our Chanukah party came up, and we had a Facebook invite list, I was mentally going through who I wanted to come to it and Sophie popped into my brain.
So, not really thinking about it beyond sharing our feast with her, I sent an invitation via Facebook and she responded positively.
I wasn’t really sure how to confront the polygamy issue, so I decided to wait until she was actually there and tell her face to face on my porch. I’m kind of in a place of just telling people when they are in circumstances that will lead them to find out anyway. It’s probably not the safest but it gives absolute clarity on where they stand, and I get to do it in a take-it-to-the-front format.
However, two hours before the party began, right in the middle of preparations, I got a phone call from my son who happened to be in town. I hadn’t seen him for 9 months. He is in the Army and been deployed to Afghanistan. I really, really want to maintain this relationship for many reasons, but it’s kind of been on sketchy, tenuous threads and definitely on his terms. So I opted to leave the party preparations, visit him, and get back as soon as I reasonably could.
Well, I didn’t give the heads up to Joshua and Charlotte because I thought I could get back early to take care of disclosure.
That didn’t work out.
I got a text from Sophie, asking for the address and I gave it to her.
As time ran later, I began to worry about getting back on time but there wasn’t a definitive point to leave and I finally just said that I needed to leave. I got in my car and checked my messages.
Imagine my absolute relief when the last text message appeared on my screen.
I was floored. There are literally less than a handful of people who have reacted positively upon immediate disclosure. Sophie made #5.
So, I bawled my way home and walked into a huge hug from Sophie and a bunch of laughter and just absolute happiness about how it all went down.
Everyone at the party stopped talking and watched to see what would happen next. They all knew Joshua and I are not siblings, and they were curious to see how our new acquaintance would take the shocking news of real-life, in-your-face polygamy.
Just minutes earlier Joshua and I had met Sophie* for the first time and were getting to know her and her family. Melissa was supposed to have been there to make introductions, but a phone call had unexpectedly pulled her away from our Chanukah party before Sophie arrived. Melissa had texted Sophie telling her she would be gone and to “look for Joshua and Charlotte”.
So there we were, just chatting away. Joshua and Sophie made the connection that they both used to live in the south. She and I talked about Jewish feasts, home childbirth, and extended breastfeeding. Sophie said to Joshua, “This is a nice area! How long have you lived here?” He wasn’t sure how to answer because Melissa and I currently live in the same house, but we moved in 2 years apart. So which date should be given as his answer? I think he said, “Well, Melissa moved here in June, but we’ve owned the house for 2 years.” Sophie followed up, “So, were you renting it out in the meantime or something?” Awkward.
I started to realize that Sophie didn’t know that her friend Melissa was a plural wife, and that it wasn’t going to be Melissa that broke the news to her. At the same time, Sophie was trying to sort out what exactly my connection to Melissa was.
She gestured to Joshua and me, “So, are you two brother and sister?” That was the moment when our conversation got interesting to the rest of our party guests. All faces in the room turned to us as I tried to decide how to answer.
Our polygamy is not a secret (anymore), and we don’t lie about it, but we also don’t announce it everywhere we go. We like to tell people when it comes up naturally (altho, for various reasons, we occasionally make a point of going out of our way to tell someone). The awkwardness was simply the fact that it was Melissa’s friend, not my own, who asked the question.
I looked at Joshua and said, “She doesn’t know!” He gave me a knowing nod and I said, “And it’s up to me to tell her?” He laughed and said, “I guess so!”
I turned back to Sophie and said with a smile, “No.”
She said, “Oh, I noticed from the Facebook event invitation that you all have the same last name. Are you Melissa’s sister?”
The confusion was setting in. It was time for the truth to be told. I simply said, “No. Melissa and I are both married to Joshua.”
Then we all waited. We have had so many different reactions when people learn we are polygamists; we never know what we’re going to get.
I was pretty surprised when Sophie got excited and spoke with a voice punctuated by exclamation points. “Oh! I had no idea Melissa was a polygamist! I love polygamy! That’s great! Are you guys Mormon? I wish the LDS Church still practiced polygamy!”
Our long-time friend Hugh* butted in on the conversation and teasingly said to Sophie, “Stop encouraging them!” I bantered back by telling Joshua to spit in his food.
“I have so many questions for you!” Sophie went on. And she really did. She was interested and positive and was a good listener. Her response was amazingly supportive.
That moment of truth, that moment when an acquaintance learns about the polygamy, is bound to make or break a budding relationship. Some of my friendships have ended over the issue of polygamy; other potential friendships have never really gotten off the ground. Quite frankly, it could just as easily be a non-issue: I’m happy to be friends with people who are single, monogamous, or polygamous — why do so many people care which I am? There’s a lot more to me than the fact that my husband has another wife. I am grateful for those people in my life who haven’t let my polygamy get in the way of knowing me personally.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
In a previous post, I promised to elaborate some more on Adultery. It is among the dirtiest of words in the English language. It conjures up thoughts of the most serious kind of betrayal. There is perhaps no more serious a crime than the treachery of betrayed trust. Indeed, Dante places it at the very bottom of the pit – the 9th and very lowest circle of Hell. In Genesis 20:9 adultery is referred to as, “[the] great sin“. It is important then that we know what constitutes this great sin.
This is especially true perhaps in the case of polygamists, who are accused of committing this heinous sin by virtue of their marriages. For example, the last paragraph under the entry “Plural Marriage” in the book Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, said, “Any who pretend or assume to engage in plural marriage in this day [when the President of the LDS Church has forbidden it], are guilty of gross wickedness. They are living in adultery, have already sold their souls to Satan, and (whether their acts are based in ignorance or lust or both) they will be damned in eternity.” These are strong accusations to make.
First of all, let us establish that God has very clearly commanded,
Exodus 20:14 “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
It is the 7th commandment, and violation of this prohibition brought the most serious of consequences. As for punishment, there is no difference between the sexes, it was to be punished by DEATH for both parties (Leviticus 20:10). Certainly then we would want to know what constitutes this grave sin, so that we may utterly eschew it.
What is adultery? The answer to this question may seem simple, and indeed it is. And yet, the answer may nevertheless still surprise many people. Of course, as God is the author of this law, we ought to consult the scriptures for an answer. But first, let us look at the present usage of the word.
Unfortunately, the modern notions of what constitutes adultery have strayed in a very significant way from the original meaning of the word. Of this grammatical apostasy, some will say that the Biblical definitions of words, such as ‘adultery‘, are not as relevant in these modern times, with our modern understanding, and our modern morality. To this I would reply, that the Bible is the very reason that ‘adultery‘ is even in our vocabulary. It is the Biblical teachings on the matter that are the source of our conceptual understanding of this topic. The Bible is foundational to our notions about the immorality of adultery in the first place. Furthermore, no matter what the modern understanding of a word may be, we must understand the original, Biblical meanings of words in order to understand the Biblical stories, teachings, and commandments. As in all things, context is crucial. Let us be faithful to the word.
Here is the modern definition of adultery from some well-respected dictionaries:
Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse or partner. – Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary
Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse. – Oxford Dictionary
Sex between a married man or woman and someone he or she is not married to. – Cambridge Dictionary
Certainly language evolves, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is expected as our world changes. There are constantly new things and new situations that need to be described. Perhaps these definitions wouldn’t bother me so much if they stated that they were strictly modern definitions and that the original meaning of the word was something else. Without this sort of disclaimer, people will interpret ancient occurrences of the word in the incorrect light of a modern definition. Case in point: dictionary.com used to include the biblical definition of adultery on its “adultery” page, but that section was deleted just recently (sometime between March and May of 2017).
Here are some older definitions of the word:
Violation of the marriage bed; a crime, or a civil injury, which introduces, or may introduce, into a family, a spurious offspring. By the laws of Connecticut, the sexual intercourse of any man, with a married woman, is the crime of adultery in both. – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Black’s Law Dictionary (5th ed.) starts with the modern definition, but then adds:
In some [US] states, however, as was also true under the Roman and Jewish law, this crime is committed only when the woman is married to a third person.
I like the wording of these definitions very much. In the Webster’s 1828, it says that Adultery may introduce spurious offspring into a family; thus, adultery requires the woman to be married (i.e. she is part of a family). To adulterate a thing is to corrupt it by adding something foreign to it – to add or mix something with it that would not normally be mixed with it. To do so is to commit adultery. The adulterer is adding his seed to another man’s wife, and potentially his offspring to another man’s family.
Whether or not adultery has been committed depends exclusively on the marital status of the woman. The marital status of the man has nothing to do with it. He may be married or single, divorced or widowed; it is all inconsequential. Let me be very clear and precise: adultery happens when a married (or betrothed) woman voluntarily has sex with a man who is not her husband (or her betrothed). That is the simple, scriptural meaning of the crime of adultery. This does not mean that only women can commit adultery! Both parties are equally guilty, and the punishment is the same for both.
Let’s compare these common definitions with the definitions from a selection of Bible Dictionaries. As you read these you’ll get the impression that one of these things is not like the other…
Conjugal infidelity. An adulterer was a man who had illicit intercourse with a married or a betrothed woman, and such a woman was an adulteress. – Easton’s Bible Dictionary (1897)
Adultery was understood as sexual intercourse between a man and another man’s wife or betrothed woman. Similarly, any act of coition between a married woman and a man who was not her husband was also regarded as adultery. – Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (1996)
The parties to this crime, according to Jewish law, were a married woman and a man who was not her husband. – Smith’s Bible Dictionary (1884)
The unlawful association of men and women. Although generally having reference to illicit activity of married persons, the scripture often does not distinguish between the married and the unmarried. – LDS Bible Dictionary (1979)
A few things stand out to me as I read these definitions. First, I am very pleased with the descriptions given in the first three dictionaries. And yet, with this correct understanding of scripture, it makes me wonder in disbelief, how there can be such a generally vehement opposition to polygamy from the Christian community at large.
The other thing that stands out to me is the LDS definition. It just makes me shake my head. What are they talking about, “the scripture often does not distinguish between the married and the unmarried”?? Every single instance of adultery in the scripture where the marital status of either party is mentioned makes reference to the marriage or betrothal of the woman. Every single one. Here are several examples:
Leviticus 20:10 “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
Proverbs 2:16-19 “Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth [i.e. her husband] and ignored the covenant she made before God.”
Proverbs 5:3,20 “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil…Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?”
Proverbs 6:26-32 “For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry…But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.”
Jeremiah 29:23 “Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord.”
Ezekiel 16:32 “But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!”
Hosea 3:1 “The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.'”
Hosea 4:13-14 “They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills… your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses [feminine noun] shall commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses [feminine noun] when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.”
Romans 7:2-3 “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth… So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
In light of this fact (that every instance where marital status is explicitly mentioned in connection with adultery the woman is married to another man), we can use this as a key to understand two other cases of scriptural references. The first case is when adultery is not explicitly mentioned, and second case is where marital status is not explicitly mentioned. Here is an example of the first case:
Genesis 20:2-6,9 “…Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife…and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin?”
No where in these verses is adultery explicitly mentioned, and yet we know this is the sin that both God and Abimelech are speaking of (and the sin which Abimelech was spared from committing) – because of Sarah’s marital status. Abimelech took Sarah with the intention to make her his wife, thinking that she was unmarried. In verse 17 we read that Abimelech was already married, and yet both God and Abimelech knew that what he was planning was with “integrity”.
Here is another example of the first case. What is the difference between these verses in Deuteronomy and this verse in Exodus?
Deuteronomy 22:22 “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman:”
Deuteronomy 22:23-24 “… If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die… so thou shalt put away evil from among you.”
Exodus 22:16 “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.”
The difference between the outcome of these verses is the marital status of the woman. The situations in Deuteronomy are clearly adultery, for the woman is either married or betrothed, and the penalty is correspondingly harsh. The situation in Exodus describes a woman who is neither married nor betrothed, and the consequence is correspondingly light. I don’t know if I would even call this a punishment (altho I did in a previous post for humorous effect). It is also of note that the marital status of the man, in all these verses, is entirely inconsequential. He may be single or married; the consequence is the same either way.
As for the second case, here are some examples where there is no explicit mention of marital status.
However, we must interpret these verses in light of the rest of scripture. By using the term adultery there is an implicit mention of the marital status of the woman. The very word adulteryimplies the woman involved is married (or betrothed) and having sex with a man other than her husband (or her betrothed).
One scripture commonly used to make accusations about polygamy being adulterous is:
Matthew 5:27-28 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Those making this accusation feebly reason that a man must have lusted after subsequent wives, and is therefore guilty of adultery. However, they condemn themselves as well since the marital status of the man is not mentioned by Jesus. They fail to grasp that by their own understanding of Jesus’ words, an unmarried man looking for a wife is just as guilty as a married man looking for an additional wife.
Indeed, I have known several monogamous people (both men and women) who have wondered whether they are guilty of committing adultery since they have “lusted” after their own spouse. Of course, they are not guilty of anything (in this regard), but there are several problems with their interpretation that led them to this faulty conclusion:
First, even if they were “guilty” of “lusting”, it would not be of adultery; it would be of “adultery in their heart”, which (altho it is still a sin) is not the same thing as committing adultery with your body. Hopefully this is self-evident to every reader and can be left without further discussion.
Second, the word lust is not merely sexual in meaning. Certainly lusts can include sexual desires, but in this context, and in most other contexts in the scriptures, a better term might be covet. Coveting is all about wanting something that is not yours. It is about wanting your neighbor’s things. This saying of Jesus is as much about the 10th commandment as it is about the 7th. He is reaffirming the command, “thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” (Exodus 20:17), and, “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife” (Deuteronomy 17:21). Coveting your neighbor’s wife is the adultery in the heart that Jesus is referring to.
But how do we know that the woman he is talking about is a married woman? Because he uses the word adultery, and as we have seen, adultery always involves a married woman. This is the third point of common misunderstanding with these verses.
Many common English Bible translations use the potentially ambiguous term, woman, in Jesus’ saying quoted above, but this word is only ambiguous to our modern understandings. Ancient readers knew that the women Jesus was saying not to lust after were other men’s wives.
Reformation Day was last week, and this year my family studied the life and contributions of William Tyndale. The man was a chosen servant in the hand of God, and his contributions to the world are undervalued by a large margin. He is the man who gave God an English voice, and he did a beautiful job at it. Here are those verses in Matthew from Tyndale’s 1526 translation of the New Testament:
If you had some difficulty reading that “English” text, have no fear, here it is with modernized spelling and punctuation:
Ye have heard how it was said to them of old time, thou shalt not commit advoutry [adultery]. But I say unto you, that whosoever eyeth a wife, lusting after her, hath committed advoutry [adultery] with her already in his heart.
Tyndale hit the nail exactly on the head! Whoever eyeth a wife!
Those who make accusations of adultery had better beware of what they do lest they find themselves in violation of the 9th commandment.
Exodus 20:16 “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
Violating this commandment may be more serious than it seems. The Law requires the false accuser to receive the punishment appropriate to the accused crime.
Deuteronomy 19:18-19 “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.”
In other words, if a person falsely accuses another person of a capital offense, the punishment for the false accuser is also death.
May we all speak with understanding and not with ignorance, and may we be cautious in making accusations of wrongdoing.
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. – Proverbs 10:19
When I went from 11 years of monogamous marriage to a new polygamous lifestyle, I struggled to know what to do with myself on my nights alone. All my habits revolved around having my husband with me every night. I didn’t have a life separate from him, so for a time, I felt as if when he wasn’t with me, my life was put on hold. There was definitely a transition time for me while I figured out what to do with myself when I was alone.
If a monogamous woman was planning on becoming polygamous and asked me for advice, one of the things I would suggest is for her to have things she likes to do without her husband, whatever that looks like for her.
Women who naturally like having their own autonomy might gravitate towards polygamy exactly because of this time alone. I know my sisterwife Melissa calls plural marriage the ultimate lifestyle choice for feminists. She keeps herself busy with friends and hobbies, and she even chooses to have a job (even though Joshua is a wonderful provider and doesn’t need his wives need to work outside the home). Melissa considers herself a good candidate for a plural wife because her life is so full despite not having a husband who comes to her house every day.
Nowadays, I have a life with my husband, and I have a life without him. I’m fine either way. But some of my activities require planning, so I like to know in advance what Joshua’s schedule is going to be. His schedule does end up changing at the last minute at times, but generally I know what to expect. If I didn’t know each day where Joshua was going to land, it would cause unnecessary frustration in this whole plural marriage gig, because it would make it difficult for me to have a life separate from my husband. I need that separate life because otherwise it feels like when he’s not here, all I’m doing is waiting for him.
In episode 4 of Seeking Sister Wife, Dimitri Snowden and Joselyn are on a date at a restaurant. Dimitri brings up the topic of “splitting time.”
Dimitri: So, splitting time.
Dimitri: You know, listen, I’m wondering…
Joselyn: I wanted to ask you.
(They both laugh.)
Dimitri: So I’m one man, um, you know, with one body, you know… How do you feel about that?
Joselyn: As long as we feel that we make the best of our time, that there’s no problem.
Joselyn: So how would you go about that? Like, do you have, like, you think like days, certain days, or just…?
Dimitri: I ideally don’t want to have a defined schedule. I don’t want to have a chart on the refrigerator, where it says like Ashley and then Joselyn and then Ashley… Like, I’m not interested…
Joselyn: Yeah, me either, you know, because… It feels so generic to me, like I think that’s really generic.
Joselyn: I just want it to go naturally, like you said.
I think this is an interesting idea, but frankly, I don’t think it’s very realistic. I laughed when I saw what the Brineys said about it on Twitter because they seem to agree with me:
Not every woman likes to plan things in advance as much as I do, so I suppose Dimitri’s strategy might work for some polygamists. But in most of the plural families I’ve seen, the schedule is pretty predictable. Either they simply alternate nights (like the Alldredge family on SSW) or each wife takes a fixed set of weekdays (like the Briney family), or some combination/variation. One plural husband I’ve seen on YouTube spends 2 nights with one wife before switching and spending 2 nights with his other wife. Brady Williams from the reality TV show My Five Wives simply rotates through his 5 wives, 1 night with each wife, but gives each wife an extra night for her birthday.
Some time ago I read a novel called The Lonely Polygamist. In the book, the man and his 4 wives have a torturous meeting every Sunday where they decide on that week’s schedule (in particular, the sleeping schedule). The husband doesn’t take control at the meeting; it tends to be up to the wives to duke it out. The most aggressive wives end up with an unfair portion of his time, while the newest or most passive wife might go weeks without her husband coming to her house. This seems dysfunctional to me.
In our family, Joshua’s schedule is totally up to him, which makes sense, since he’s the one going back and forth between the houses. He’s the one that best understands his own scheduling needs as well as those of his wives and children. We give him our preferences and we can request changes to his normal schedule, but we wives don’t have to hash it out between ourselves.
And, no, we don’t have a chart on our refrigerator to keep it sorted out.
What do you think? How would you want to do it if you were a polygamist?