This is a very hard post for me to write. I could not watch the fight, but buried my eyes in my hands while I wept, listened, and re-lived.
Kaleh came to the Clarks extremely damaged. It doesn’t matter how. Trauma is trauma. Any perceived slight to her is taken exponentially. Her baseline is that she is unneeded and unwanted. There is a lifetime of being trashed caught up in the phrase, “bringing the trash home”. Add in the cultural stereotype of being a brainwashed whore/side chick, and the lack of external support for plural marriage. Add in the time, effort, and financial resources needed to support a new wife. She’s well aware that the Clarks don’t need her. They did just fine before she came along; otherwise, there would have been no room for her at all.
She believes she is not worthy of any sacrifices for her. She doesn’t understand how they could love her, because no one ever has. She has been systematically used and abused with her only value being her fuckability, her labor, and/or her bragability. She’s terrified that the Clarks are going to get rid of her. She is not at this moment able to financially provide for herself; thus the jobs. They are critical to her mental survival. She knows that she needs this family more than they need her. She hates herself for that too.
She makes herself hard to love. She is trying to get rid of herself before they get rid of her. That’s all she knows, and that’s the only power she has. The push/pull of wanting to be with them, and undermining the entire relationship by being hard enough to love that they may give up trying. She has to prove that she’s the trash because that’s what she thinks of herself. It’s not her label, it’s her experience. A throwaway. Number 5 plastic.
In all of it, it is the family that pays the price for the damage that bad men created. The men who didn’t and couldn’t love, even though they had someone who loved them fiercely, and was never going to give up on them until they threw her out into the street – like so much garbage.
She truly believes she is expendable. More than expendable – Dead Weight. A drain. A black hole. A sucking wound. Broken. So broken.
It’s going to take years. Maybe a lifetime. It’s a rare man who can walk through fire to gather the pieces and to remold the shattered glass.
In season 3 of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to the Merrifields, Garrick and Dannielle. They have found a potential sister wife with complications. Their potential, Roberta, is Brazilian, and the easiest way for them to get her to the states is to bring her with a fiancé visa and have Garrick marry her (thus getting a license from the government that would allow her to legally stay in the country). The down side to this is that it would require Dannielle and Garrick to get a legal divorce first. Even tho this “divorce” would be in the eyes of the court only, the decision to carry out this plan is obviously filled with emotion, and all the more so because the Merrifields have had marital struggles in the past which had led them nearly to the brink of “true” divorce.
Even tho the Merrifields have a more complicated situation than most (given that Roberta is a foreigner), this decision (to divorce on paper), has been faced by many polygamists over the years. Besides obtaining citizenship for a foreign spouse, there are several reasons for contemplating this plan. The reasons may include extending insurance benefits to children or adopting children (as Kody Brown did with Robyn), or extending security or benefits to the new wife.
In any case, there are all sorts of doubts that will begin to play upon the minds of those involved (this is a continuing theme for Dannielle in several of the first episodes of season 3). The wife especially will be worried about being abandoned, and Dannielle is no exception. Of course it doesn’t help matters that her family members are expressing doubts and concerns to her about it (not that they shouldn’t – more about that below).
The concern is that once the marriage license is gone, Danielle will have no protection from all of the difficulties of life that may arise if Garrick decides to abandon her. Of course, this is a nonsensical concern, as Garrick could always end up filing for divorce at any time.
Without making this post too long, I will put it simply to all the women out there, especially those who have not yet chosen a husband yet (and yes, it is primarily the woman that does the choosing):
The best protection is the character of your man.
This advice applies to monogamy or polygamy equally. Do not settle, or be lax, in making your decision. Do not get carried away by money, or attention, or good looks (tho these things have their place in making a decision about marriage – they are secondary), and then trust the government to keep you protected from your poor choices. It is a bad plan, and all too often will lead to misery, legal battles, and wealthy lawyers. A license is no guarantee of protection, financial or otherwise (my wife Melissa can speak to this in great detail based on her previous marriages).
It is a much better plan to be careful about your mate, then stick to your choice thru thick and thin. Choose a man whose character will not cause you to doubt his dedication to you or your children. Choose a man who is worthy of trust and responsibility. Choose a man who will be able to stay with you and love you despite your personal flaws (and visa versa – he will not be perfect either). Choose a man who will remain by your side to lead, protect, and provide even if the county records building burns to the ground (and the “proof” of your marriage with it).
Fortunately for Dannielle, it seems that none of the concerns expressed by her family have anything to do with Garrick’s character. They don’t seem to think that he will leave her, they are only concerned about what would happen if he did, and these are very different things.
As for the opinions of friends and relatives, they cannot make choices for you, nor should you let them. However, there are circumstances where you should eagerly seek their input. You may discover that you are like a particular woman that I work with. She has been married several times previously; all of them ended in disaster. She had a string of husbands that were found to be sexually abusing her daughters (beginning with their biological father). We talked about her life and difficulties for quite a while; mostly I just listened. It turns out that she now identifies as a lesbian, and has a girlfriend, tho this arrangement has not been without problems as well. She told me that her “picker” was broken. In other words, the part of her brain that runs the program for picking a good mate (whatever part that may be) is not functioning well.
Take careful stock of your own thoughts, feelings, and past experiences, and ask yourself if your “picker” is broken (essentially this means you are a poor judge of character). If this describes you, then you should seek input from family and friends, and be sure to take things slow, so that you can gather enough information to make a good decision. You will want to see your potential mate in lots of different situations and interacting with lots of different people including, and perhaps especially, your family and friends. It will be worth it to make a good decision. It will be more protection than a piece of paper ever will.
None of my children is old enough for dating and courtship, but I’ve still had many important conversations about choosing a spouse, preparing to be a good husband/wife, what to look for in a potential partner, how to really get to know someone, etc.
I have repeatedly talked to them about dating versus real life.
You can go on a planned date with someone, where you’re both dressed up and presentable, you’re on your best behavior, and you get to just have a nice time at a restaurant where someone else is doing all the work. Enjoying one another’s company when the event is low-stress and nothing but fun is a facet of compatibility.
But it’s also important — and arguably more important — to see what someone is like when they’re in a stressful environment or when there’s work to be done. How does he behave when he gets a flat tire on the way to the restaurant? How does she treat you if you forget your wallet? Does he have a sense of humor if you’re spending time with children and he gets messy? Does she pitch in and work hard if you’re doing a difficult project together? Does he step up as a leader if he’s put in charge of motivating a group of children to help clean up after an event? Does she make it into a game and a challenge if she’s asked to help with something unpleasant?
When you are exploring whether a person is a good match for you, it’s essential to see them in situations that are closer to real life, and not just fun. Everyday life is work. Everyday life can be stressful. Everyday life isn’t just pleasant and relaxing, hour after hour, day after day.
My plan for my children when they start dating/courting is for them to invite their date to service projects, the big events we host, our family time, the work days. I want them to have opportunitites to interact with each other around parents, siblings, children, and people who need help. I want them to get to see each other in action when there’s work to be done, tool belts and boots to wear, mud or chicken poop to wade thru, fences to put up that catch on clothes. I want them to see each other at their best but also at their worst, in those kinds of situations that let the person’s character shine thru.
There’s a Kristina Kuzmic video about her as a divorced mother dating a man who wanted all of it, even cleaning up the vomit:
This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. He didn’t just want Kristina when her makeup was done and her children with with a babysitter. He was willing to take on the entire package, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.
Seeking Sister Wife, S3E2, titled “Irreconcilable Differences”, shows Garrick and Dannielle at dinner with some family. They are planning on yet another trip to Mexico to vacation with Roberta and spend some time her. Their sister-in-law Samantha points out the problem with meeting Roberta only on vacation.
I do have some questions about Roberta ’cause you guys only met her in Mexico because it’s different in a vacation. And then you come out here and it’s reality.
Samantha (Dannielle’s sister-in-law)
I agree with Samantha. Putting aside all the cultural and language differences the Merrifields will have to overcome, I am genuinely concerned that they are in for a reality shock when their relationship with Roberta moves from vacation to real life. I’m happy for them that they enjoy each other so much when the situation is fun and entertaining, but I wish they had the chance to see each other in the more realistic daily life and make sure they’re still compatible.
As Garrick acknowledged in the episode,
Yeah, I think there’s definitely gonna be a huge adjustment.
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.
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.”
Polygamousis 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.
Yeah, it wasn’t really scheduled.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
In my home I present myself as a king. … Same thing with Vanessa and Kaleh: they present themselves as queens.
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.
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!” ?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
There are some episodes of SSW, that I simply have no comments for. Words fail me.
Between yoni steaming and getting text messages from dead people (you can’t make this stuff up – fact is stranger than fiction!), I am forced to bow in humility before TLC and confess that I am not worthy to be reality TV material.
I watch every episode of Seeking Sister Wife, but I still haven’t gotten around to watching Sister Wives. My friend texted me this evening and told me she saw us on the Sister Wives episode that showed Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding, so I figured I should write about it. One of these days I’ll probably sit down and watch the episode.
The invitation had a cool wax seal with the letter “T” on it (for Thompson). I was interested to see that the bride’s name was “Aspyn Kristine Brown.” I wonder what the story is behind the middle name. I suppose her mom, Christine, wanted to name her daughter after herself, but without spelling it the same?
I was surprised to realize the reception was on Father’s Day; that seems like such a strange day for a wedding. But later I was told that the venue they wanted to rent for the reception was booked solid except for Father’s Day, so they went with it.
My sister got married on her birthday. That seems even stranger than getting married on Father’s Day. But it’s a bummer for my sister now that she’s divorced. C’est la vie.
Interestingly enough, a polygamous husband in one of the reality TV shows was married to one of his wives on her birthday, and they are also now divorced. You’re not going to believe this, but not only were both my sister and my friend married on their birthday, but they also have their birthdays on the same day! Weird! Don’t get married on your birthday, especially if your birthday is June 19th!
We know the Browns as well as Mitch. We also know all of Mitch’s siblings, including Vanessa Alldredge from Seeking Sister Wife (she actually stayed at our house when they were in town for the wedding). Half of Mitch’s siblings are polygamists and half are not. He’s the tie-breaker to tip the scale towards monogamy.
We have attended other events that were being filmed for reality TV. One of them was an event for the Briney family from the first season of Seeking Sister Wife. The event was a Meet ‘n’ Greet for Lenny, the newborn baby of Drew Briney’s third wife Angela. We were required to meet TLC employees in a parking lot a mile away from the Brineys’ house, sign a contract, and get our photos taken, before being allowed in the car that would shuttle us to the actual site. I don’t remember what the paperwork said, altho I did take a picture of it so I could go back and reread it if I ever wanted to. I remember it was several pages and after I signed it I had to hold it in front of my body while the network took a photo of me, mug shot style. (The Meet ‘n’ Greet never aired, presumably because the Briney family provided enough other drama that the footage wasn’t needed. Angela told me she was disappointed that TLC focused so much on the bad stuff instead of showing one of the beautiful themes available to them: the miracle of Lenny’s conception; the footage of his birth; the visit of his namesake, Angela’s father; and his Meet ‘n’ Greet.)
One of the things I remember from Lenny’s Meet ‘n’ Greet was that we arrived, put our gifts in the designated spot, talked to people, went inside the house, used the bathroom, chatted with Drew’s mom, asked if any help was needed with the food, etc., all before any filming took place. Then, when the film crew was finally ready, and more than an hour after the event was scheduled to begin, all the guests had to “leave” the party and then enter again, on camera this time, as if we had just arrived. That part felt fake, for sure. But most of the event felt normal, besides being surrounded by cameras, microphones, and film crew. Joshua was asked to give the opening prayer. We sat at the table with Jeff Alldredge’s daughter. If I remember right, at that point TLC wasn’t open about the Alldredges knowing the Brineys, it was hush-hush, and Jeff’s daughter wasn’t allowed to show her face in the Alldredge scenes because she had been filmed in the Briney parts of the show. In fact, the Alldredges weren’t even allowed to attend the Meet ‘n’ Greet, despite their being very close to Angela Briney. (As an example of how good of friends they are, I’ll tell you, I went to visit Angela when Lenny was less than a week old. As I pulled up to the house Angela shared with April Briney, the Alldredges came out and walked to their truck. I asked them, “Oh, did you come to meet the new baby?” and they answered that this wasn’t their first visit, that they’d already been to visit Angela several times since Lenny was born.) After Seeking Sister Wife aired for the first time, of course it came out that the Brineys and Alldredges know each other, and the control TLC tried to have over the families seemed extra ridiculous.
Anyway, back to the wedding reception. I was expecting the same level of red tape at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception that we had to go thru at the Lenny Briney’s Meet ‘n’ Greet, but I was disappointed. I actually had intended to take pictures of the contract and compare it to the earlier one. The invitation to the Briney event warned us that it was going to be filmed for reality TV; the invitation to the Brown event did the same. But when we showed up to the wedding reception, we weren’t asked to sign any contracts, and I don’t remember seeing any signs posted, except for this small sign I noticed by the entrance as we were leaving:
When we arrived at the wedding reception, we paid $6 for the required valet parking and walked around the outside of the building. There’s a vineyard, so since we’re interested in wine (we make our own sacramental wine, and we even teach wine-making classes) we took our time looking at the grape vines.
Actually, while I’m on the subject of wine-making, I will take another detour to the Brineys and Alldredges. We like to take credit for Angela marrying Drew Briney because of the events surrounding how they met. We were teaching a wine class at the Alldredges’ house and the Brineys and Angela were also in attendance, and that was how they met. They were married soon afterwards. I didn’t know they had gotten married because it happened so quickly. (A few months later they had a wedding reception we attended.) My close friend April Briney kept texting me, asking if she could come visit me. I repeatedly turned her down because I was so morning sick that I couldn’t take any visitors. At some point I ran into the Alldredges and asked about Angela. They told me she had news and I should ask her myself, so I texted Angela, and that’s how I found out she had married Drew. I feel terrible because April had wanted to tell me herself but I never gave her the opportunity. I think in Angela’s Year of Polygamy podcast interview, she said she met Drew “at a fireside.” Well, that “fireside” was our wine-making class. 😊
And while I’m on the subject of husbands meeting future wives, I will mention that Jeff Alldredge met Vanessa at an event at Kody Brown’s house in Utah, which is now my house. Oh, those polygamists all seem to be connected somehow, don’t they?
Okay. Back to Mitch and Aspyn’s party. It’s always fun to go to a party where the polygamists outnumber the monogamists. I don’t know if the wedding reception fit that description, but there were a lot of polygamists at Aspyn and Mitch’s wedding reception. We visited with friends and had refreshments.
Once it was time to sit down for the program (dancing, cake-cutting, etc.), we sat pretty close to the front. I suppose that’s why my friend was able to see us on the screen. It’s probably the kind of thing where you don’t really notice anyone in the background unless you’re specifically looking for them.
I gotta say, the most disappointing thing of the night was that there wasn’t an open bar. I figured since TLC was filming it, they were also paying for the wedding, and since it was at an expensive venue, the budget was generous. Therefore, I optimistically hoped for an open bar. Alas, there was a bar, but it was not open. The three of us each had a single glass of wine (a wedding is a sacrament, after all) and the bill was $26.
However, what was lacking in the drinks category was made up for in the dessert category. My sisterwife Melissa is known for her baking, and she said the cake served at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception was the best cake she’s ever eaten. Was there an earlier Sister Wives episode that showed a cake-tasting? Whoever picked this one is the winner. They had other refreshments besides the cake. I’m not really into desserts so I couldn’t tell you, but both my baker-in-the-making daughter and my sisterwife Melissa could probably tell you lots of details if you cared to ask them. They at least had s’mores, as shown in the photo below.
If you watch the episode closely I’m sure you’ll be able to see lots of familiar faces from Seeking Sister Wife. Among the photos I took are some blurry photos of Jeff and Vanessa Alldredge, and here’s a not-quite-as-blurry photo I took of their son making s’mores over a candle:
Here are some of the photos I took from my front-row seat. I suppose these are nothing new to those of you who have actually seen the episode.
I was told that Mitch’s mom (shown in the photo above) made all the beautiful hats for the wedding.
The morning after the wedding reception we left to go on our annual weeklong backpacking trip. Good times.
Mitch is a great guy and Aspyn is a fantastic match for him. I’m so glad they found each other and I think they make a beautiful couple.