Below I have a copy of the message I sent out to my extended family when we announced our plural marriage. One of the problems with people’s reactions (and this is a fairly neutral problem on the positive-negative spectrum of reactions) to discovering our family structure is a failure to recognize it at all.
There may certainly be different reasons for this response; for example, they simply may not know what to say (out of shock or ignorance). Charlotte’s brother was in this camp. When she told him that I had taken another wife, he did not know whether to say “congratulations” or to offer to help her escape her abusive situation. Finding himself in this position, he said the most beautiful and sensible thing he could have possibly said:
“You tell me how to feel about it. I will feel the same way you do.”
Another possibility is that they fail to acknowledge the change due to force of habit. I think this happened quite a bit. After all, Charlotte and I were married for 11 years before Melissa joined our family. That’s a while to get used to saying, “Joshua & Charlotte” whenever a friend or relative was referring to my family. While this may not be intentionally rude, it can certainly be unthinking.
A final possibility is that they fail to acknowledge the change because they outright reject it. They are disgusted, repulsed, or saddened by it.
I’m not sure which category (as far as reasons go) this falls into, but my aunt had this sort of failure to recognize reaction when I made the announcement to my family. Here is the email I sent (this is the message I mentioned in my earlier post):
Jun 27, 2016, at 8:58 PM,
The time has come to make an announcement about my plural marriage. Some of you already know about this, and to some of you his will be news. Rather than making individual visits to everyone, I’ve decided this venue would be the easiest way to get the word out. Please feel free to send this along to family members who are not on this list.
You’ve probably got questions, so I’ll try to briefly answer a few of the big ones. Yes, I am still married to Charlotte. Yes, our marriage is happy (please feel free to call her about it: 801-***-****). Yes, our kids are doing great! Yes, there have been many difficulties and adjustments that have been made (and continue to be made). Yes, my siblings all know about it, and they have been great – you can ask them questions if you like (you will probably get different
answers from each of them, LOL). We entered into plural marriage a little more than three years ago when I married Melissa (some of you have met her already – some have not). Yes, I love her (and Charlotte and the kids do also). Yes, we are aware that it is a felony (and we find ourselves in good company with others who have also suffered for the sake of their religion). No, we have not joined another Church. Yes, we are aware that the LDS Church frowns upon it (and they already know about it). Can’t believe it? I know, and I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t believe it either, were I not in my own shoes.
Why am I making this announcement now and not earlier? I can only answer that we were not ready earlier. It has been a long process of adjustment for ourselves, and for those we have told earlier. For those of you who found out the news from other’s lips, and not my own, I apologize. I would have preferred the news to be spread by us, but that is extremely difficult to achieve in this world. Please take no offense. The delay has had much more to do with us than with you.
We love you all, and wish you all many blessings.
To which my aunt replied:
July 1, 2016, at 4:39 PM
Josh and Charlotte–we love you and miss seeing you! Come to family stuff, ok?
To which I replied:
Jul 4, 2016 1:43:52 AM
We will. But it won’t just be Charlotte and me 🙂 That’s why I made the announcement, you see?
Overall things have gotten better with our friends and family, and this is true for several reasons. Some of them have come around once they saw that we are not crazy, cultish, abusive, or weirdos (altho we are certainly not mainstream, we can pass for “normal”, haha). Plus, they can see that we are stable and committed, and that “this” is not going away. Other situations have gotten better because of lack of association. Some unhealthy relationships have simply been withered or pruned away, and this is alright because they have been replaced by better associations.
If you ever find yourself in my relative’s position, my brother-in-law’s response was the best. Don’t be unthinking, but rather acknowledge the change, otherwise it can come across as rude. If you are disapproving, it is probably best to keep it to yourself – since it does not involve your life nor your decisions. However, if you are disapproving and cannot keep it to yourself, go ahead and express your disapproval – whatever form that may take (worry, warning, scorn, etc.) – it is your right to do so. Nevertheless, speak your piece, and then hold your peace. Say it once and then shut up about it and get over it – if you want to keep relationships that is.
Sampson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:14-16), and everyday there thousands of relationships destroyed with the same weapon…You don’t have to say everything that is on your mind.