The Marriage of God

Some months ago I had the opportunity to speak to a small audience. The subject I decided to speak on was the Marriage of Christ and the church, also called the Marriage of the Lamb. I posted the paper associated with my talk below. I hope you will enjoy it, and find it useful. In it I discuss this most important of all marriages from a scriptural perspective and the light that it throws on the atonement of Jesus Christ (or Yeshua Messiah).

I was participating in an online forum where various theories of the atonement were being discussed. The discussion was vigorous and interesting and was continuing much longer than typical discussion threads. I offered the following theory: that the Atonement is about restoring us to our marriage with God. Here is the summary (which I posted in the discussion thread):

We were married to God at Sinai. Then we played the harlot. He tried to convince us to return, but we didn’t. Eventually he divorced us. He still hoped we would come back, but we kept playing the harlot.

After this point, the Law, which he gave, forbade him from taking us back as his wife (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Ah, but the Law about marriage only applies to a wife while her husband is alive! Once her husband is dead, she is no longer an adulterer. And, what is more, if her husband comes back to life, then she is free to marry him again, and he is free to take her – he is a new man! (see Romans 7:1-3)

We are very impressed that he would do that to get us back.

So, we are still not married, but we are betrothed (engaged). We are waiting for the groom to come and take us as his wife – to consummate the covenant we have made. We want to know him and he wants to know us.

This idea was received eagerly. Many people had never heard about the Atonement in these terms (they were more familiar with the ideas of Penal Substitution, Ransom Theory, Christus Victor, etc.). Due to the response I received, I posted the same paper as below, which more fully explains this concept of the Atonement, and also why this explanation is relatively unknown (because it flies in the face of Replacement Theology). However, I was a little nervous since this paper takes the scriptural view of marriage, and this discussion group generally considers polygamy to be “the doctrine of devils”. If you are reading this blog you can probably see how these viewpoints will be at odds. However, this paper is not about polygamy per se, so I thought it wouldn’t generate too much controversy.

After a few people read the paper there were more questions generated, generally insightful. Among them was the following:

You touched on how the woman’s marital status is all that matters when determining adultery. Any insights into why that’s important?

I have written a blog post about this topic here, but thought carefully about my response. In the end, I opted to keep it in terms of God and his marriage practices. My response was:

After some thinking of how to answer your last question about adultery and the marital status of the woman, I will say that if the Lord is the husband (or the betrothed) of Israel, then it is adultery on our part to go whoring after other gods. However, it is not adultery on his part if he goes seeking after other nations. He has other sheep in other folds (John 10:16, 3 Nephi 15:11-24), and he is their God also.

It is of note that the heathen gods are limited to one land and one people (the Bible makes mention of this concept repeatedly), but not so with our God. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords, and the ruler of the whole world. Indeed, he has worlds without number (Moses 1:33).

There was no response, and this was the final comment on that thread.

Being Needed (Advice to Future and Current Wives)

What I have to say here is not specific to polygamy, but will apply to all marriages.  Women, you don’t want your current or future husband to “need” you. It might sound romantic, but having a needy husband will be an emotional drain on your naturally fluctuating emotional state. You do not want someone who needs to rely on you (that is not to say that you will do nothing for your husband). I once had a conversation with a female coworker about her rocky love life. Aside from her personal life (which was a disaster), she was relatively accomplished in an educational and professional capacity. In this conversation she told me that she likes to date (and live with) men who are inferior to her.  This, in hopes that it will cause them to be dependent on her and therefore stay with her. She wanted someone who was not as smart as her, nor made as much money as she did. At the time of our conversation she had such a man, AND ABSOLUTELY DESPISED HIM for his general incompetence, and laziness. Her strategy didn’t work anyway. These weak men would eventually leave regardless.  Can you blame them? They surely felt their uselessness, and perceived her disdain.  Both she and they were generally miserable while they were together. Neither of them were satisfied by the situation. Her efforts to reverse the God-given and biological roles of men and women put her at odds with reality and resulted in misery. After telling me about her situation, she asked for my advice (which I usually keep to myself unless requested – this is a good policy). I told her what she really wanted. I told her that she wants a man better than herself. She wants a man stronger, smarter, more educated, more stable, and more successful than herself. She wants a man that can take care of her (and her child), and not the other way around. She thought for a brief moment and then said to me, “That is what I want.” I don’t know if anything has shifted in her life; she took a new job elsewhere shortly after this exchange. No indeed, you do not want someone who “needs” you. Rather, you need someone who loves and wants you (this is different than “needing you”). You need someone who can (and will) cherish, protect, provide, and lead you and your family. If you want to feel needed, if you want someone to be physically and emotionally dependent upon you, then have children. Nothing else will better fulfill your need to be needed.

Coming Out to My Family (My Cousin)

Telling your LDS family and friends that you are a polygamist is a surprisingly difficult thing to do.  In general, I would say that the drama and push-back related to people outside our family has made more difficulties than any of the problems within our family.  I’m not saying our family is perfect, none is.  Nevertheless, this (more difficulty related to outside problems than inside) has been our experience.  I will also say, for the benefit of anyone else in our position:

You do not need to let outside problems become inside problems!

That is to say, you do not need to let problems external to your marriage(s) and family work themselves into problems internal to your marriage(s) and family. Just don’t let them in.  If you can stick together (cleave), and not let outside problems get in between you, your marriage will be strong enough to overcome anything that may come your way. Alas, this is sometimes easier said than done, and frail humans as we are, we sometimes like to shoot ourselves with bullets others give us.

All that being said, there has been a mixture of responses; including some positive, some neural, some negative, and some criminal. Here is one exchange that was somewhat mild. We met in person with many of our close family members, then I sent out an email to the larger extended family.  One of my cousins, Kelly, was serving on a mission for the LDS Church at the time (my email was forwarded to her by her sister) and this is her response to my announcement:

Subject: Hello Josh

To: **********

Date: Tuesday, July 5, 2016, 4:16 PM

Hello Josh

So I just read an email that Jamie sent me. I am not going to lie, I was disappointed when I read the email about how you now are in a plural marriage. I had no idea that this even happened. It was a very big shock. I just wanted to say that I don’t agree with it. The Church does not practice this, nor has any reason to practice this anymore. I also wanted to say that I still love you. I am grateful that you are my cousin and I will always love you.

Love Sister Kelly ********

Here is my response to her:

Hello Kelly,

The Church does not practice or preach A LOT of things anymore that it used to. That is what the Church is prophesied to do in the Book of Mormon – and so, everything is as it should be (isn’t God amazing?!). As far as not having any reason to practice it anymore, there are many leaders of the Church who have disagreed with you, and have taught that the practice would be restored to the church in the future. I am not claiming that the time has come for that, I only point out that your point of view is in disagreement with many leaders of the Church (which I think is great!).

In fact, I also have some points of view that are in disagreement with the leaders of the Church. You might be surprised to know that I believe it was a mistake that the Church ever practised plural marriage at all, LOL! Many, many, many sections of the D&C are addressed to the “church”, but Section 132 is not (it would take a long time to explain why, so I won’t take the time here).

Of course, I am already well aware that the Church no longer practices it. I am glad that you realize this as well. In a remarkable twist of roles, the Church has become the persecutor of those who keep this practice (it is amazing how quickly we forget history – and how quickly we become intolerant of others who do the same things we used to do, just a few generations ago). We (as a church) pleaded for tolerance in the late 1800s, but refuse to grant it now to others (Jesus gave parables about that sort of behavior – Matthew 18:21-35).

If you have read my email, you should know that I am also aware that the Church disapproves of the practice. Of course, our actions are not about pleasing the Church, but rather about pleasing God. I realize that you will not agree with that, and I respect your right to believe that pleasing the Church is identical to pleasing God.

I’m sorry you are disappointed, but I’m also not surprised. Fortunately, the decision had absolutely nothing to do with you, and should not affect your life in any tangible way.

Thanks for letting me know that you still love me. I still love you too.

Shalom,

Joshua

Polygamous and Proud, Kings and Queens, Schedules, Wives in Different Countries, and Some Polygamy Grammar

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.

Jarod Clark

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.”

Polygamous is 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.

Sidian Jones

Yeah, it wasn’t really scheduled.

Tosha Jones

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.

Jarod Clark

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?

Dannielle Merrifield

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.

Garrick Merrifield

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.

Dannielle Merrifield

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.

Jarod Clark

In my home I present myself as a king. … Same thing with Vanessa and Kaleh: they present themselves as queens.

Jarod Clark

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.

I wrote briefly about the king/queen idea in this post about SSW S1E2 and this post about SSW S2E1.

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!” ?

Math, Waffles, Sex, and Plural Marriage

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:

I don’t think that’s too much to complain about.

Different Channels of Sexual Tension

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.

sexual tension

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.

you can have separate
I learned something new

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.

Coolidge

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.

Brittish news story from November 2000

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.

Parents: More is Better

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.

Lobbying for SB102 at the Utah State Capitol

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?

Being Plural in Public

I just didn’t think about it.

I’m pretty affectionate in public and I simply don’t think about how it could be perceived by others until I have this moment of shock, clarity, and realization that we are not a “normal” family.

Joshua sometimes goes on business trips. When he flies back into town the rest of us like to meet him at the airport. Everyone loves watching for him and being the first to call out when they see him come down the escalator to baggage claim where we are all waiting for him.

The last time we did this, He kissed both Charlotte and me upon greeting.

I then had this moment of “Whoa! what did we just do?”

His coworkers had come in on the same flight. He had not told them about our family. If they saw, what would they think? More importantly, what would they do? There is a law here in Utah making my marriage illegal. Potential reprucussions, although unlikely, huge.

We have this happen every so often in public. Affection in public shown to both wives and I don’t think about it when it happens, and then I look around and see people avert eyes, or stare. It gets all weird. I just want to live my life. I don’t want to be a spectacle.

Seeking Sister Problems

Humans are obligatory problem solvers.  They cannot help it.  If they didn’t have problems of their own, they would invent them.

We humans love problems!  Dealing with problems is essential to our health and well-being.  Our brains are designed to anticipate them, think about them, worry about them, and eventually solve them.  Our brains do this all the time, very well, and sometimes too well.

Even tho tendencies we may have are natural, evil can come of them when they are allowed to roam too far, or wander outside of the bounds the Lord has set. Problem-solving is one such tendency.  It is so ingrained in our being that when things are going generally well, and no problems seem to be presenting themselves to us, we will, of necessity, create our own problems.

If they chose to, most people could objectively look at their lives and see how frequently the problems they had were of their own engineering, and their suffering self-inflicted.  Yes, it is true that time and chance happens to everyone, and yet, it is also true that our lives are largely of our own making.

While these two ideas may seem to be at odds with one another, they are both true.  It is true because: what happens to us is only half of our life.  The other half is how we respond to the things that happen.  This weightier half is made up of what we think and do about the things that happen to us, and those around us.  It is our response to both the past and present, and also our response to the future.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.  – Shakespeare (Hamlet; Act 2, Scene 2)

We interact with the past thru our our mental and emotional analysis of our memories.  We interact with the future thru our mental simulations of possible events.  We imagine the things we might say or do, and we play these things out on the stage of our mind.  The data we have collected, and analyzed, from the past is fed into these simulations of the future.  We interact with the present thru our choices, which are determined by the outcomes of the simulations of our future.  After running these simulations, we do a mental calculation.  We weigh the pros and cons, consider the benefits and costs, the difficulty and feasibility.  In other words, we plan, and then we choose the action based on our plan, however hasty or shortsighted it may be.

molehills“Problems” have everything to do with our perception of them.  As I mentioned above, we even have the power, in our minds, to transform non-problems into problems, or small issues into big issues.  The proverb speaks of turning mole-hills into mountains.

For example, it is normal to have disagreements with those around us.  It is even normal to argue about those disagreements, but it takes special effort to turn agreements into something to argue about.

Here is an example of what I mean.  In episode 10 (of the second season of SSW), Brandy comes back to visit the McGees.  Brandy is spending the day with Paige, chatting and helping with the household chores.  In this scene the two women are folding laundry together, and we quickly see that things are not going very well.  I don’t know how much of this scene is the result of “editorial sculpting”; regardless, this exchange is illustrative.

Brandy: “Do we fold the same?”
Paige: “That’s what I was looking at.  I was like, yeah, she actually folds like I do.”
Brandy: “Nice.”
Paige: “That’s pretty cool.”
Brandy: “So, are you particular about, like, say I would have, (she begins to demonstrate folding a towel another way) because there is another way, and so…”
Paige: “No, I would have fixed it.  I wouldn’t have said anything; I would have just fixed it.”
Brandy:  “You would have fixed it?”
Paige:  “Mm-Hmm.”
Brandy: “Ok, so there is a particular way of doing things?”
Paige:  “Yeah.  There’s a right way and a wrong way.”
Brandy:  “Any other, like, pet peeves or particulars?  Like, if it was my day to do dishes – would you come in behind me and see if the dishwasher was loaded right?”
Paige:  (Nods, Yes)
Brandy:  “Yeah?  I used to be very particular, but now I’m just so grateful if someone helps.  I’ve gotten to where I’m just like, just put it in the closet and shut the door.”
Paige:  “No.  Towels, they have to be put in a certain way because they will fall over.  So, you have to fold them a certain way.”
Brandy:  “So, how would that work, you know, with me coming in?  If I come in, like, how would that work?”
Paige:  “You’ll just have to learn to do it my way.”

Towels

If you can grasp the reality, that our lives are largely what we make of them, and yet you continue to feel like you can’t stop worrying, can’t stop creating problems for yourself, can’t stop creating problems for others, cant stop sabotaging yourself and your relationships; then perhaps there’s something wrong with your understanding of the human brain and our search for happiness and satisfaction.

We aren’t made to experience “happiness” in the way normally think of it: carefree,  pain free, completely fulfilled, excited, and free of any suffering.  Rather, we were made to survive, and survival, in a very human sense, means to create.  The strange thing is that suffering (that is, the mental component of suffering), and creating are connected.   A large part of suffering involves a mental process called rumination.

Rumination is when we focus all our attention on the ways we are suffering, on its possible causes, and on our failures (and the failures of others) that have led us to our suffering.  These thoughts are repeated over and over (thus the name, rumination) without resolution.  We allow ourselves to rehash and dwell upon the causes and consequences of our suffering, rather than dwelling on its solutions.

Instead of devising the next step for our life, we ruminate on the last one. Rather than imagining new opportunities, we assume nothing better is possible. Rather than taking control of our life, we embrace an attitude of powerlessness. We become helpless, and our suffering becomes meaningless because we are at the whim of how the world makes us feel, but we were meant for better things.  We were created to create.  We were made to act, and not to be acted upon (See 2Nephi 2:14-16).

So what is the connection?  Rumination (a component of mental suffering) and creativity are controlled by the same parts of the brain, and they have an inhibiting effect upon one another.  Suffering will result when we stop creating, and visa versa.

Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

When we focus on creating, our pain is no longer meaningless – it is no longer “suffering for suffering’s sake”.  Rather, as pain cannot be altogether avoided, it becomes an expected part of the process – the pain becomes “worth it”.  When we focus on creating and doing, we no longer categorize our emotional experiences as: “things that feel good” or “things that don’t”. Instead, we use the vastly superior categories: “things that are worthwhile” and “things that aren’t”.

Use your mind and energies to create, to do, and to improve.  It will give your brain something productive to do.  These are the things in life that are worthwhile.  These are the things that will give our lives actual meaning, and in a deeper and more satisfying way than complaining and worrying about things will ever do.  I repeat, our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by complaining.  Our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by worrying.  Our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by suffering needlessly, nor by needlessly increasing the suffering of those around us.  

Our lives are made meaningful and satisfying by the things we do and create.

Increase the talents given to you, rather than hiding them.  Read a book, write a book, grow a garden, fix your marriage, plan a trip, learn a foreign language, learn to play an instrument, go back to school, make your children a larger priority in your life, become a regular volunteer for a local charity, change your own motor oil, quit an addiction, start exercising, organize a chess club, get yourself right with God. 

The possibilities are quite literally endless.  There are so many things you could do.  There are so many thing you ought to do, and you know it.  God is the creator, and we are made in his image.  We were made to create.  We were made to improve.