From the Mouths of Babes on Teamwork: Why Competition Between Plural Wives is Unnecessary

My young children were digging in the dirt, and I was fortunate enough to overhear this nugget of wisdom spoken by my 4-year-old son:

“It doesn’t matter who has the bigger shovel because we’re working together.”

This is exactly the kind of attitude that can and ought to prevail in a plural family (or any kind family or group working together for a common goal).

Anything more I say will just take away from what the 4-year-old said, so I’ll leave it at that.

It doesn’t matter who has the bigger shovel when you’re all working together.

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.

Family Is Always First

I want to write about a serious deficiency that many families face.  It is a plague upon the modern family: absentee fathers.  Sadly, much of the blame for this plague can be placed at the feet of our own government.  For generations now they have incentivized (in other words, encouraged) fatherless homes, and encouraged our women to marry the government. Fatherless homes are perhaps the biggest problem facing our culture.

The percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased dramatically in this country over the past few decades.  A generation or two ago only 5% of births were to unmarried women.  The current figure is hovering somewhere around 40%!  One of the amazing things about this trend is that it has happened after the invention of modern birth control! Shouldn’t the availability of birth control methods have lowered the incidence of births out of wedlock?  It seems that it has had the opposite effect in some regards. It has simply helped to create a culture of ever deteriorating morals. It doesn’t take a psychologist or social scientist to realize that this trend is detrimental to our society in a great many ways.

75_Births-to-Unmarried-Women_Image1

Children do better in every way with both a father and a mother in the home!  And fathers especially seem to have a large positive influence.  Children do better in every way you could think to measure when there is an involved father in the home.  There is a large body of evidence supporting what we already instinctively know about fathers, but in a time such as ours, when truth and wisdom are so often seen as foolishness (or “backwards” or “outdated” or “sexist” etc.), it is good to have some facts at our disposal.

Here I have gathered some statistics from various sources.  Please don’t write any comments about exceptions to these statistics.  I know there are bad fathers and husbands out there.  Maybe even your very own father was abusive.  If so, I would be very sorry to hear it, but it in no way contradicts the numbers I am about to share.  These numbers are speaking about fathers in general, and, generally speaking, fathers are very good to have around.

85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes.

71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

71% of pregnant teens have no father present in their life. Fatherless children are more likely to have children outside marriage or outside any partnership whatsoever.

90% of runaway children have an absent father.

Fatherless children are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs in childhood and adulthood.

nationalfatherhoodinitiativefatherabsencecrisis

Fathers are the natural protectors of their families. Therefore, fatherless children are at greater risk of suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.    Preschoolers living only with their mother are 40 times more likely to be sexually abused, and 5 times more likely to experience physical abuse and emotional maltreatment (with a 100 times higher risk of that abuse being fatal).

Fatherless children report significantly more psychosomatic health symptoms and illness such as acute and chronic pain, asthma, headaches, and stomach aches.

Children with absent fathers are consistently overrepresented among those with anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

As adults, fatherless children are more likely to experience unemployment, have low incomes, remain on social assistance, and experience homelessness.

Children with absent fathers are more likely to divorce, or dissolve their cohabiting unions.

Fatherless children are more likely to die as children, and live an average of four years less over the life span.

Given the fact that these and other social problems correlate more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other factor, surpassing race, social class, and poverty, father absence may well be the most critical social issue of our time.

Fathers are an absolutely vital part of human life and development, but a part that is often discredited and marginalized.  Our society at large is screaming at men and boys that they ought to be ashamed for what they have done (i.e. existing as males), and for the negative effects they have had on the world.  And that they ought to apologize for some imagined and unearned “privilege” which they have stolen from women – whom they have horribly abused and oppressed for the whole of history, and continue to oppress to the present day.  Our children are constantly being fed the lie that men ought to be more like women, and that women and men are equal in every way.  It is all a part of the attempted suicide of our western culture, and there are real and concerted efforts on many fronts to achieve this end.

For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) recently released their Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men wherein they state, “Research suggests that socialization practices that teach boys from an early age to be self-reliant, strong, and to minimize and manage their problems on their own yield adult men who are less willing to seek mental health treatment.”  The entire premise of this sentence is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in print.  Conflict of interest much?  In other words these psychologists are saying, “Teaching boys to be strong, self reliant, and to manage their own problems, makes them not give as much money to us when they are adults.”  Just think of it, they are criticizing teaching boys to be self-reliant, strong, and to manage their own problems!  These people are actively engaged in the destruction of everything good and right in the world.

Here is what Jordan Peterson had to say about the document mentioned:

Let me translate this opening salvo into something approximating clear and blunt English. The authors are claiming that men who socialize their boys in a traditional manner destroy their mental health. This translation/clarification needs to be extended to the second major claim of the document, which is distributed more subtly through its body. We’ll begin with this quote, taken from the Guidelines (p. 3): “Research suggests that socialization practices that teach boys from an early age to be self-reliant, strong, and to minimize and manage their problems on their own yield adult men who are less willing to seek mental health treatment,” in combination with this one (p. 3, as well): “Men are overrepresented in prisons, are more likely than women to commit violent crimes, and are at greatest risk of being a victim of violent crime (e.g., homicide, aggravated assault; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015).” So, it’s not only that men who encourage their boys to be “self-reliant, strong and manage their problems on their own” destroy the mental health of their children: they also produce adults who are a primary menace to their families and society.

This is all bad enough (and by that I mean inexcusable) conceptually, rhetorically and politically. But it’s also a lie, scientifically—and worse (because not merely a lie; instead, something more unforgivable). To indicate, as the writers have, that it is the socialization of boys and men by men that is producing both a decrement in the personal mental health of males and females and a threat to the social fabric is not only to get the facts wrong, but to get them wrong in a manner that is directly antithetical to the truth…

It’s simple – and it is this simple fact that is absolutely damning to the claims in the APA document. What kind of families produce violent young men? Fatherless families. The pernicious effect of fatherlessness is exceptionally well-documented. No serious researchers question it. Even the generally damnable sociologists admit it (see, for example, http://bit.ly/2HB27JL). Fatherless girls tend, for example, toward early sexual experimentation (something in itself linked to antisocial behavior) and, unsurprisingly, higher rates of teenage pregnancy. What might be more surprising, however, is that there is even evidence for earlier puberty among girls whose fathers are absent. Fatherless boys are over-represented as alcoholics, addicts, gang-members, prisoners, rapists and murderers. And there’s plenty of what is positive that is lacking among fatherless children, in addition to the negative that is more likely to be present (here’s a decent summary, in lay language: http://bit.ly/2HB27JL)

Consider this (it’s of primary importance): If it is fatherless boys who are violent, how can it be that masculine socialization produces harm both to mental health and society? The data should indicate precisely the opposite: that boys who are only raised by women are much less violent than boys who have men in their lives and, similarly, that boys who do have fathers are more violent than those who do not.

This is not the case. Period.

What does all of this have to do with polygamy?  A lot.  Diminished influence of a strong father figure is obviously a potential problem facing polygamous families as well – especially if the wives live in separate houses (and more especially if those houses are separated by great distances).  And of course, the danger of this increases with each additional wife in a family (assuming the branches of the family live separately).  Having the father absent every other evening, or whatever, is potentially going to have a negative effect on his children, and that is a problem that plural husbands need to address!

A few episodes ago Vanessa Cobbs has her two sisters visit in L.A. and there are some tense moments between them – especially between her and her twin sister Adrienne.  At one point Adrienne tells Vanessa that she will never be the center of Dimitri’s world.  I Vanessa’s reply: that Dimitri’s universe is big, that she and Ashley are both the center of it, and that his children are at the center of it too!

so are his children

In the next episode we see Adrienne talking to Ashley and Dimitri around the pool.  She’s still not convinced, but she is showing some openness to the idea, and wants to actually know more about it.  At one point she is talking to Dimitri and I ❤ this exchange as well!  It so completely shows the outlook that a successful plural husband must have.

hobby

She asks him about the difficulties of providing for the emotions and well being of two women.  In reply he speaks of listening and giving each woman what she needs.  She then asks him about time, and his response is that he, “builds around his family”, “keeps them in the center”, and makes his “family always first”.  In this way he can allocate his time and resources to meet his family’s needs.  From what we are seeing, Dimitri seems to be doing it well.  I love too that she eventually came around, and even apologized to Vanessa for her earlier offensiveness.

family first

Men need to be there. They need to make their families a priority. There is no substitute for a father in the home, and polygamous men, if they want to have a successful family, need to work extra hard to make it happen. They need to be thinking of their families all the time, and acting in a way that puts them first.  Polygamous men don’t have time for hobbies – their families need to be their hobby, or they need to find a way to involve their family in their hobbies.  Seriously; if you are a video gamer, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.  If you spend all your evenings watching sports with the guys, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.  If you spend every free weekend at the golf course, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.

I am not speaking against recreation. I am speaking about priorities and life-habits. By all means, read a book, take a walk, watch the big game. All that is a needful part of a healthy life, but these things will necessarily occur much less frequently for plural men.  At least, they will occur less frequently without your family present.

The difference is that polygamous men might read a book – to their children, take a walk – with their wives, and watch the big game with their sons – rather than with the guys.  I am not saying that monogamous men don’t do these things; I am saying that polygamous men must.

There are amazing plural families and amazing monogamous families. Of course, both can be dysfunctional as well. In either case the difference, I believe, is largely a difference in dedication.

No matter your position in life, or the type of family structure you are a part of, let’s raise healthy, strong, confident, self-sufficient children – and unapologetically so.  Let’s push back against the cultural suicide that is occurring. Let’s make this country and this world a better place!

Mama Donna (and Other Relatives)

Q:  You want to know what problem with polygamy is?

A:  Multiple Mother-in-Laws.

OK, joking aside (and I’m only partially joking), I feel the need to say a few words about the Snowdens’ most recent interaction with Ashley’s mother, Donna.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the Snowdens are doing great this time around!  But I did find something very disconcerting about the most recent episode of Seeking Sister Wife.

Let me also say, I am very happy that Dimitri’s surprise turned out so well.  It was a bold move for Dimitri, and, after all the extreme discomfort, Mama Donna was ultimately very graceful.  It was a gratifying moment, and a lot of the credit for this had to do with Vanessa’s heartfelt and touching words – she is a gem.  I think she won Mama Donna over.  I also have to give some applause to TLC and the producers of Seeking Sister Wife.  They are the masters of suspense and of the awkward situation.  The awkwardness was so thick it was palpable.  I’m sure there was so much editing and splicing in this scene, but it was entertaining nevertheless.

Alright, here is the issue I wanted to address: At 20 minutes and 24 seconds into the episode Dimitri says,

“If Mama Donna is not on board with Vanessa, you know, this could be the end of our relationship with Vanessa.”

the end of vanessa

As I mentioned earlier, I am very glad that things worked out for them, and I hope that this is not really what Dimitri meant to say; because, it is completely wrong to involve your parents, or your in-laws, in your marriage to the point of giving them veto power.  Yes, parents need to be respected and indeed honored, but they are also supposed to be left behind.

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

They are supposed to be left behind in many ways.  They are no longer supposed to be relied upon for financial or emotional support.  And, while they may be consulted for advice, they are no longer to have any authority to make decisions for your life.  Adults, and especially married people, must live their own lives, be responsible for their own decisions, and responsible for their own support, independent of their parents and other relatives.  There is no closer relationship, and no bond tighter, than the one you have with your spouse(s).

This can be a very difficult thing for some people to do – difficult for both the parents and the children!  I remember making announcements to our own extended family members when we had become polygamous.  I had to remind so many of them that they could not make decisions for us, and to stop trying, and to stop fretting about it.  After all, it would not affect them any more than they allowed it to.

I liked so much what Sophie Winder had to say on this subject a little earlier in the episode when she was talking to her brother,

Sophie Tells it

“I feel like I’m living this lifestyle with Tami and Colton because I was called to it.  My marriage with Tami and Colton is what we build up, not what your opinion of it is.”

She goes on to say,

“The fact that my brother doesn’t necessarily agree with this lifestyle, you know, kind of sucks, but I firmly believe in my lifestyle, and I don’t feel like there’s any need to apologize, and so I’m going to choose what feels right for my life.”

Preach it Sophie!

The Winder Family Comes Out of Hiding! or Hidden Wife, Hidden Life.

The second episode of Season 2 of Seeking Sister Wife is by far my favorite episode to date!  There are so many funny moments! I just laughed out loud on more than one occasion.  One was the very awkward conversation that Bernie has with his son John.  Oh man, you just can’t make that stuff up!  The confusion on John’s face was just priceless.  Bernie, from one father to another, I think you handled it well.

Another time that got me laughing was actually in the preview for the next episode where Vanessa provocatively orders a piece of red meat on her first date with Dimitri.  This, of course, was after she learned that the Snowdens are essentially pescatarian, as a matter of family policy.  But she likes her steaks and cheeseburgers!  Such a funny situation, and very bold of Vanessa.  I know it sparked some interesting conversations in my house, and I am sure there will be more to come.

Perhaps the funniest moment, however, was the public debut of the Winder family.  The situation was just too comical for words, and probably more funny for me because I know, first hand, the courage it took to do something like that!  And yet, despite all the emotional buildup and bravery, there was no one to appreciate it but some ducks.  It’s just too funny!  It reminds me of that old saying about sounds and falling trees in the forest.  You know the one: if a polygamous family comes out in the open together, but no one is there to see it…?

winders at park

Baby steps, baby steps.

In all seriousness, I think divulging themselves to the ducks is an admirable first step!  It means they have personally, and fully, embraced the reality of their own family, and are ready to take the next step, and that can be one of the hardest things to do.  Honestly, this may have been the best way to do it.  If they could go together, as a family (and those are not the same things), to an empty park (but where the possibility of being seen is a reality – where the sense and prospect of danger are real) a dozen times before actually going out where people would be guaranteed to see them, they would already have gone a long way towards conquering their personal fears.  And of course, they have gone quite a bit farther than that now.  What with being on national TV and all.

I remember, with a twinge of PTSD, our own efforts to announce the change in our family when we became plural.  The fear and uncertainty were so intense at times!!  And the losses were bitter and painful!!  But it has all been worth it.

There was fear of the repercussions from so many angles!  And it is the same for most, if not all other polygamous families.  We faced social, familial, and religious shunning wondering what our neighbors, friends, coworkers, family, and fellow church members would say, or how they would treat us and our children.  We were especially keen to the possible social consequences for our children – the decisions were horrible!  There were also financial fears, and legal fears.  We could go to jail, I could lose my job.  Every. Single. Thing. that we had worked so hard to gain and build – our family, our home, my career, our children, our friendships, and our very reputations –  was literally at stake.  It could all so easily come tumbling down into a broken pile of smoldering garbage.  Everything could be lost, and there was literally no earthly help or community that we could fall back on for support (however, we have built or received all of that community and support structure since).  It seemed sometimes that it was us against the entire world (and us against ourselves at other times).  Prayer was almost as common to me as breathing.  I look back on those days with wonder, and almost awe, that we survived at all, and I thank God that he walked us thru that fiery furnace.  Yes, the refining was intense, and our fears were not at all misplaced; yet, we were also given peace and courage sufficient to meet our fears, face them, and overcome them.  It was an amazing roller-coaster ride!

Scariest-Roller-Coasters-in-the-world

We had letters written to us by family members accusing us of adultery and other sorts of gross wickedness.  Similar letters were sent out to other family members, warning them of our dangerous influences.  We had death threats against us, the police were called to investigate us, ecclesiastical leaders were called to discipline us, and child protective services were called (DCFS) to remove our children.  But nothing came of any of these attacks.  There was no weapon forged against us that prevailed.

Melissa’s children were even kidnapped by her parents for a short time.  They were going to send her kids up to Washington State to live with their deadbeat father who is generally unstable, has lived in dozens of locations, is a known drug addict, owes 6 figures in child support, has been physically abusive, has multiple arrests, is into prostitutes, and has been married to 6 different women!  Can someone please explain how that is better than a man being financially stable, providing for his children (in both emotional and financial ways) but being married and maintaining a healthy relationship with 2 women!?  It’s crazy!  Literally crazy! Eventually, they relented and changed their actions when they realized that they were the felons (kidnapping) and not us (polygamy was alegal in Utah at the time of the kidnapping – thank you Judge Waddoups!).

We were openly uninvited to family parties.  I had family members that I hadn’t talked to in years, go out of their way to reach out to let me know that they disapproved of my life.  We were all excommunicated from the church that we had been born and raised in.  But when we kept on attending as non-members, my daughter was abused by her Sunday School teacher, and the church gave us legal notice that we were unwelcome in the most profound way possible.  We were not even allowed to set foot on any church property anywhere in the world!  The McGee family sadly describes a similar experience with their Synagogue (I’ll have a future post on this topic).

We literally had former friends place curses (in the name of the Lord – of course) upon us and our family.  I’m not making this stuff up.  I couldn’t.  I can hardly believe it now.

I used to ride a van pool to work.  It was convenient because the van would meet at a parking lot just one block from my house.  Rain or shine I would always walk in between my house and the van pool.  After we became plural, I remember being so grateful for the change in daylight savings time – just so I could walk home in the dark and not have to see my neighbors.

I thought about the 6th lecture on faith many times during those days.  Especially verses 5-8.

For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God.
– LoF 6:5

I remember having Jesus’ parable of the man building a tower brought to my mind so many times!  Those words were a steady a source of strength and inspiration for me.

At some point, everyone needs to live an authentic life – in my opinion.  The potential dangers and discomforts of the many forms of persecution are eventually outweighed by the desire to simply live rightly and face the consequences – whatever they may be.  Sophie Winder expresses this in the first episode when she talks about not having to be the hidden wife anymore, and Tami mentions it in the second episode when they are planning their outing to the park for Sadie’s Birthday party.  There comes a point when you are ready to just be done hiding.  There is no need to act rashly or foolishly, but when the time is right you’ll know it.  Hopefully, you will then have the courage to carry it out and see it thru to the end.

Despite all the hardships we endured, there have still been some good and true friends who have stuck by us while the false have fallen away.  Also, there have been plenty of new friends, a thousand times better than the old ones.  Some family members too, from the beginning, have maintained and reaffirmed their love and support of us, and that has been wonderful.  There are even some family members, originally antagonistic, who have now come around in some ways, and our relationships are healing.

Things have calmed down significantly for us since then.  The roller-coaster ride has slowed and transitioned from almost constant nausea to almost constant enjoyment.  There are still ups and downs, but we are enjoying the view and the thrill of the ride much more now, and we’ve loosened up our grip on the safety bar – now that our fear of certain and sudden death has subsided.  Even so, it has taken us years to fully come out into the public eye.  Starting this blog has been another step for us, and I’m so glad Charlotte did it.

elephant

We told our friends and family one by one.  Maybe there was a better way, but at the time it seemed like the most manageable way to handle all the upset and emotion.  Like eating an elephant one bite at a time.  And I suppose we are still not finished.  When Melissa and I were married we had no public celebration, but we are finally getting around to doing it this summer!  Let us know if you want an invitation.

 

Polygamy’s Jealousies and the McGees

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.screenshot 2019-01-25 23.28.43

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:

-Exodus 34:14

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.red lizard

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).  drawing-a-circle-with-the-compassesThey 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.horse

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 paige and bernieabout 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.

People and Things

I had an experience a few weeks ago that I want to share. It is not directly related to plural marriage per se; rather, it is about family relationships. Which, I suppose, may be more directly related to plural marriage than any scriptural, doctrinal, historical, or cultural commentary that could ever be written on the subject. This experience is a bit embarrassing to me, but I hope that it will be instructive to others. I hope also that it will be instructive to my future self. Hopefully, now that I have written it down, I can refer to it in times to come in order to remind myself of the wisdom I so easily forget.

Last month was Christmas. My family celebrates Christmas. In fact, we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, but we don’t do the Christmas tree, the evergreen boughs, the Yule log, the mistletoe, or Santa Claus. With our gift giving we want our children to remember the gifts of the Wise Men to the Christ child, and the loving Gift of God’s Son to the world.

john 3_16

And yet, even without Santa Claus and the shameful commercialization of the season, things can still become the focus of our attention, and mere objects can take on significance far greater than they merit.

One of the gifts that my wife Charlotte received was a Newton’s Cradle for her desk. You have seen them before. It is a clever little toy that uses swinging steel balls, suspended from strings, to demonstrate Newton’s laws of forces and motion and the conservation of momentum. There is a picture of one at the beginning of this post.

Charlotte liked her gift, but she wasn’t the only one. My son also took a keen interest in the toy. Those first few days he played with it more than the rest of us combined. He was fascinated with it, and experimented with all the different combinations of ball collisions he could think of. He would pull 1, 2, 3, or 4 balls from the left, or from the right and let them collide with the remaining balls. He would even pull back different numbers of balls from both sides at once and let them strike the remaining balls – sometimes simultaneously and sometimes intentionally delayed by a moment. It was fun just to watch him play and discover.

Then one afternoon I walked in on my son who was standing over a miserably tangled Newton’s Cradle. It was a useless, hopeless, knotted mass of strings and balls (apparently this is a common occurrence as I had no difficulty finding this picture with a Google image search).  I was shocked and disappointed at the sight complicated_ballsand allowed my displeasure to be known. With some exasperation and annoyance in my voice (and yet still attempting to remain calm) I asked him firmly, “What, are you doing?!”. I could tell that he was afraid of being punished, yet he replied that he had turned it upside down, and that everything had become suddenly tangled when he did that. This only increased my anger and annoyance with him. “Why would you do that?” I asked, along with many other, similarly accusatory and belittling, questions. “What were you thinking?”, “What did you think would happen?”, “Why would you treat someone else’s property in such an abusive manner?”. I restrained myself from spanking him, but the verbal lashing I gave to him was more than harsh enough.

I pushed him aside and sat myself down to see if I could do anything to remedy the situation. As I inspected the toy I discovered, to my surprise, that it was not nearly as difficult to untangle as it had appeared, and I had it completely resolved in less than 5 minutes. You might think that this result would have brought me happiness, relief, and satisfaction, but it only furthered my disappointment; not at my son, but at myself.

As I was untangling the dumb trinket, I realized how simple and trivial the mere thing was in comparison to my son, and how little I really valued it in comparison to him. The thing was $6 plus shipping, but my son was priceless! And yet, in my moment of weakness, I had allowed the thing to become more important to me than my son! How foolish and silly I am at times.

After finishing I looked around and saw that my son had been anxiously watching me the whole time. I thought that he had left the room. With my heart now considerably softened, I showed him the toy. He expressed his relief at the result. I asked him, this time more gently, about how it had happened. He explained to me that he was moving it with both hands, but that one of them had slipped. He had kept a hold with the other hand, but the toy had swung upside down as a result.

He had not behaved in an abusive manner towards the toy, but I had behaved in an abusive manner towards him. It was all just an accident! It was something I might have done myself! I have done similar things before – we all have! My heart was further broken by hearing this. I had jumped to accusations and anger without even bothering to discover the truth first! Isn’t my son worth asking a few questions? Isn’t the truth worth asking a few questions? Yes, the thing is important (how important? – $6 worth, plus shipping), but it is not more important than my boy.