Sexting Bernie & Equality

I know this post is an episode behind, but I’ve got to get down some of my thoughts about it before I move on.

I think the whole thing was blown entirely out of proportion. All the previews built up this impression that Bernie was acting in a wildly inappropriate way, but when it actually aired it was seen that it was all just a load of hot air. From what I saw, Bernie is essentially innocent. He didn’t initiate the sexting at all, and Paige herself says Bernie is the one that put an end to it when the woman started to get explicit. I don’t see what is the problem here. It seems like Paige should be proud of her man for that, rather than chastising him for what the other woman sent to him without any solicitation on his part (by this I mean without solicitation for the sexually explicit messages). It is amazing really, and a bit strange.

I also feel like I need to give some props to Bernie here. From what was shown, I would say he handled things very well. He stopped the potentially inappropriate text conversation, and he handled his wife, and her complaints, in a very gracious manner. He ended up apologizing for nothing (he says at first that he didn’t think he had crossed a line – and he is right) in order to protect his relationship – and hey, sometimes you might have to do that. But I’m not sure that apologizing for non-offenses every time they arise is going to be a sustainable long-term solution to the problem.

It seems to all come down to Paige’s well-developed (and dare I say, overdeveloped) sense of jealousy. This is definitely a large hurdle for the McGees and a challenge she has to personally deal with. Jealousy over a husband’s time, affection, and resources is an expected (tho not required!) emotion that has to be dealt with by most plural families, but Paige’s worries go even farther. She thinks she will also be jealous about her children’s time and affection for the new wife (this is in the first episode). I wonder if she will feel even more jealousy when the dogs end up liking the new wife as well?

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OK, joking aside, these are serious matters to deal with, and while I was disappointed to see Bernie chided for things he should have been praised for, I do have to give some credit to Paige as well. She admits that she doesn’t know what can and cannot be said between a husband and a potential plural wife (she just knows how it made her feel). I think that’s a fair thing for her to say, and here is my fair response:

The wives should be on equal terms, and with equal privileges. The second wife (and her relationship to their husband – or potential relationship) should not be subject to any restrictions that the first wife and her relationship are not (or were not) also under. Especially if those restrictions are placed on the new wife by the first wife – those are dangerous waters to be treading in. If it was fine for the first wife, it is fine for the second. End of story.

Paige says that when she and Bernie were courting they had, “free discussions” but now that he is married that is not allowed any more. I say bologna. She asks him about holding hands, kisses good night, etc.? One possible response to this question is: Did she and Bernie hold hands, kiss good night, talk about sex, etc.? My guess is that the answer is likely “yes” on all counts – she probably asks this question because she was remembering her own behaviors when she was courting. Not that these things are required for a relationship to progress, but they are normal, healthy, and acceptable behaviors. She says it is about Bernie “respecting” her and their relationship, but I see it much more as disrespect and devaluation, on her part, towards the potential second wife in not allowing her the same privileges she enjoyed – and this would be a very unhealthy way to start a relationship.

I guess another way of saying this is that Paige should not be berating Bernie ex post facto. Their agreement was no sexual intimacy before commitment (a.k.a. marriage), which is an excellent rule to abide by. Bernie did not break this rule, and is therefore innocent. He did not even violate the spirit of this rule. “This is borderline cheating,” she says, but I say it is nothing of the sort; furthermore, the line should not be moved after the fact. Is it cheating or isn’t it? When it comes to laws and rules, it is not right to hold someone hostage with a fuzzy, ill-defined, gray area that may change in shape or scope with the whims of emotion. It reminds me of the very good rule the Snowdens laid down in the first episode of this season. Ashley told Dimitri that he was allowed to think Vanessa is beautiful, and he was allowed to tell her she was beautiful, but he just wasn’t allowed to act on it.

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Something else to consider is the situation the potential second wife finds herself in. She wants to gain the attention/attraction/affection of a man who already has a wife, and who is (presumably) already having sex. Hopefully, it’s no secret that one of the things women bring to a relationship is sex-appeal. Certainly this is not all they bring, but it is a significant part of what they bring, and this is every bit as true in monogamy as it is in polygamy. It is nothing to criticize, or belittle, and it is not strange or creepy. It just needs to be understood as the proper and biological reality of the situation. However, this fact may lead her to believe that she is at a disadvantage, since her potential man is already having sex. As a result, she may feel like she needs to assure him that she will also be sexually pleasing. This is a good and natural desire, and concern, for a woman to have – to want to please her future spouse (and good men are concerned about pleasing their spouse(s) as well).

While I can understand this point of view, I will say to any potential sister wife: you sincerely don’t need to worry about this. That is all I will say for now (but more on this later).

I could understand limiting things in a second courtship if it was a mistake in the first courtship (like Dimitri drawing a line for Vanessa on their first Date). Beyond this, if it is not sinful, or prohibited by some agreement between spouses, then there should be no attempt to make the parties feel guilty over it. And yet, the emotions here can be so raw and dangerous, that everyone needs to tread cautiously. My serious advice to potential plural husbands, in this area, is that you should be open about the relationship, but not open about the affection/intimacy. In other words, keep it private. Doing otherwise probably wont be good for anyone.

My serious advice to current wives is: Don’t be going thru his accounts. This (Paige snooping thru Bernie’s messages) actually seems like a much bigger breach of trust to me, than Bernie’s handling of the sexting. Just as I was typing this I recollected that Charlotte, when I was courting Melissa, told me that she knew my email password, but that she wanted me to change it, and that she had decided not to go snooping into correspondence between us. What an amazing woman she is!

Unfortunately, my brother isn’t a polygamist.

When we began telling people we were polygamists, we told them in the wrong order.  We should have told my parents last, rather than first; as it turns out, my father has a big mouth, and couldn’t respect my simple request to allow me to tell people my news myself.  I asked him not to tell anyone for a month, and he promised me that month, and yet within 48 hours he had called both my bishop and his own bishop, confided in his friends and employees, and saddest of all, had announced my news to my brother, whom I really wanted to tell personally.

To his credit, he did call me afterwards and insist, “You should tell your brother your news.”  When I asked him why he was going out of his way to suggest that, he would only repeat himself.

So, I called my brother on the phone.  He was on a road trip with his wife, driving across the desert with spotty cell service.  Between me wondering what my dad had already told him and the phone call frequently getting dropped, the conversation took place in less-than-ideal circumstances.

After I finished telling him, my brother’s immediate response was the following: “What’s going on?  What do you need?  Do you need money?  Do you need help getting out?  Tell me what you need from me; tell me how to react, and I will.”

I answered that I didn’t need money, I didn’t want out of the situation, that all I wanted was his acceptance.  After he was convinced that I was safe, that I was being taken care, and that I was content, he stated his intention to be supportive.

And he has been.

This experience was what I thought of when I saw S2E4 (“Unforeseen Circumstances”) of Seeking Sister Wife.  Sophie Winder has a conversation with her brother about her polygamy, and he says he doesn’t understand it and doesn’t agree with it.

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Sophie says it sucks that her brother disagrees with polygamy.

However, she also says, “Unfortunately, he hasn’t chosen to live this lifestyle.”

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This is where Sophie and I differ.

I honestly don’t care whether my brother is a polygamist or not.  I also don’t care whether my friends are polygamists or not.  Naturally, if someone is a polygamist, that’s something unusual we have in common, which makes a friendship more likely.  But all I need from a brother or a friend is for them to be a supportive person in my life as a whole; I don’t need them to live exactly as I do.

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I’m friends with plenty of monogamists, and I don’t think it’s “unfortunate” that they haven’t chosen to live polygamy.  I still consider them to be “there for me.”

I definitely don’t think everyone should live polygamy.  Among other reasons, polygamy is extremely difficult.  In fact, Sophie’s brother cites that as a reason for not being interested in it.

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After the episode aired, Sophie published a post on the Winder family blog called “Live and Let Live.”  You can read it here.  You can also read Joshua’s thoughts on the same conversation here.

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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!

Dimitri & Vanessa

My, my, my how things have changed with the Snowdens!  And much for the better, I think.  I love that they are giving it another chance despite what happened between Dimitri and Joselyn last season (and then what happened afterwards, when Joselyn was thrown under the bus).  There is forgiveness and a chance for redemption here, and I like that.  It is amazing actually, and really gratifying to see – so big kudos to them.  They are making me proud this season!

Dimitri seems to have his head in the right place this time (and all his other body parts are in the right place too); and no wonder, with the seemingly constant reminders from both Ashley and the producer.  I both laugh and cringe every time Dimitri is reminded of his poor behavior last season, but he seems to be handling the humiliation gracefully, and with the proper attitude.

I think he has realized that you can’t respect people and treat them as objects at the same time.  He respects Vanessa too much to sleep with her before there is a real commitment (a.k.a. marriage).

Dont cross this line

Remember that, ladies!  If you meet a man who wants to sleep with you, without being willing to marry you first, then just move on.  He doesn’t care about you.  He’s just using you.  He isn’t worth your time, and you are worth much more than that! 

I think Dimitri has realized that there is too much at stake, too much on the line, and that Vanessa is worth waiting for!  I thought it was funny at the restaurant, when Dimitri wouldn’t even touch her, and was drawing an imaginary line between them.  Some may have seen that as a little extreme (even Vanessa poked a little fun at it), but that is the way repentance works.  I know the Snowden’s are not Christian, but the concepts of repentance and forgiveness are universal.  Dimitri’s behavior with Vanessa reminds me of Jesus’ sayings about cutting off your hand if it offends you.  What would have been acceptable before, may need to be denied for the sake of avoiding temptation.

As for that Vanessa, wow, she is indeed a prize!  From everything we have seen of her, she is a priceless gem!  I do not think the Snowdens could possibly find a more perfect woman for their family.  She is thoughtful, bold, honest, caring, cautious, mature, loving, good with children, willing, devoted, and absolutely beautiful to boot. Vanessa is such a catch that it is incredible she hasn’t been scooped up and married by someone else long ago.

She has said repeatedly that she doesn’t want to mess things up, and she has been doing everything right.  She’s an amazing woman and she’s got everything you would want in a wife or a sisterwife.  I think they have hit the jackpot with her, and I am so impressed.  They had better not mess it up.  She’s a keeper!

8 ounces away

8 ounces of red meat, and red it was, sat between them.

I commend Vanessa for taking the bull by the horns and eating what she wanted to eat, in spite of Ashley’s concern about food, and after stating that she did not want to mess things up on a date with Dimitri.

I think that everyone has the right to ask for what they need in a relationship. We all live in different ways, prioritize different things, and some things are not going to harmonize well with others. That may or may not include dietary demands; although, I’ve heard it said that it is harder to change someone’s diet than their religion.

I find it very funny that Ashley, in the prior episode, was like, “Dimitri won’t like this.” Then, in this episode, Dimitri said that Ashley would not like it.  Perhaps something needs to be sorted out.

I do believe that an established kitchen should be respected, particularly when there are children involved. Otherwise, It is confusing and upsetting for all involved.

I don’t think that part is a control issue.

The problem would be for me if there were an attempt to control what I ate outside of the established kitchen. I like the idea of ordering what you want when you are eating out with the family or with friends, or getting what you want at a drive through on the way home from work when you are by yourself, but eating according to the established “rules” at home (especially in your sisterwife’s kitchen).

I have a good example that happened today; Charlotte’s youngest and I have had terrible head colds (One of the reasons this post is so late).  Charlotte has requested that the child get no dairy until her congestion clears up.  I was craving toast with cream cheese and jam.  I went over to Charlotte’s kitchen with my toast and got immediate demand that I share the food. I wanted to respect Charlotte’s request, so I took the toast back to my kitchen where I ate it. Later I reminded the child that I was not to give her any kind of milk or cheese until her nose stopped running.  That went over much better than eating it in front of her and attempting to explain the same thing. We are hoping for tomorrow to resume her cheese eating.

I see the restaurant differently than a meal at home because I don’t feel the same expectation to share what I am eating.  Other’s mileage may vary with food sharing at restaurants, and that would have to be taken into individual account.

When I married Joshua, I knew that he didn’t like bacon (I know, who doesn’t like bacon?!).  It wasn’t a deal breaker because he wasn’t demanding that I not eat bacon.  As time progressed we talked about the Old Testament dietary laws and I made the decision to refrain from pork.  It wasn’t actually a difficult decision as I knew that I had had a problem with feeling stiff and sore and generally achy the day after every time I ate it.  That graduated to shellfish and other foods against Old Testament dietary laws.

It is, and has been, my decision, and would not be a big deal if I changed my eating habits again.  Now that the rest of the family is off pork and shellfish etc, of course, I would respect the household and not eat it at home.  However, I love eating out, so if I ever did change my diet, I would see eating out as an opportunity, rather than focusing on the kitchen rules as a restriction. I would see it in a way similar to not wanting to make something at home because I know it is made better at a restaurant.

 

 

Double Facepalm

“No! Stop. No! No! I can’t believe it!” Joshua put both hands to his face, not believing what he was seeing.

Colton Winder, standing between his wives, was approaching the local farmers market. Joshua, sitting between his wives, was watching it on TV. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seem him laugh so much and for so long.

“Must be touching at all times!” he roared with laughter, slapping his leg at the hilarity of Colton, Tami, and Sophie awkwardly clasping each other’s hands, white-knucklingly squeezing out the blood, and slowly making their way down the sidewalk. The Winders were about to come out of hiding, but for real this time. I didn’t see a single duck, but I did see lots of intimidating humans.

“I just can’t believe this!” Joshua laughed again, shaking his head.

But what started with Joshua’s hysterical laughter ended with both of his wives in tears. Did that just happen? Did the Winders, in the most awkward way imaginable, just tell the cheese vendor they are a plural family?

Part of this scene was shown again and again in the episode previews. We keep seeing Sophie confess to a perfect stranger, “I’m actually my husband’s second wife,” while Colton and Tami stand there nodding like bobble head dolls, and the vendor stares at them, looking quite surprised at what was just revealed to him.

But then… There’s a plot twist that makes this my favorite SSW scene thus far, when the cheese vendor confesses that he, too, is a polygamist with two wives!!!

The shock of that moment dropped my jaw. I did not see that one coming. That was unexpected. That was… Wait. Did that just happen? All I can say is, that was a wonderful tender mercy.

The episode shows all-too-brief excerpts from the conversation, which I would pay money to see in entirety, between the polygamous Winders and the polygamist cheese vendor. I was so touched by it that I starting tearing up. I looked over at my sisterwife Melissa and her face was red with emotion as well. God is so good!

After the episode finished, my sisterwife, our husband, and I discussed it until midnight. Joshua used the word “charming” to describe the Winders and what happened at the farmers market. Melissa called it “endearing.” Words failed me.

The Winders imagined a market full of enemies throwing tomatoes at them, then handcuffing them and putting them in jail. Instead, they ended up making a new friend. It was truly amazing. I loved it.

What did you think? Did you laugh at the awkwardness of going into public and telling perfect strangers they’re polygamists? Were you disappointed there weren’t any ducks at the farmers market? Were you touched by their luck at meeting another polygamist? What’s been your favorite SSW moment so far? Leave your comments below.

Being the Secret Wife

Oh boy, do I remember those days. A year and a half of staying hidden.

I told my family very early on. Because of the chaos and backlash it created, I still have nightmares about interacting with my father, now 5 ½ years later.  Thus, we decided to keep our marriage secret from everyone else for a time

One of the parameters of my becoming a wife was that in spite of the legal and social risks involved, I was not going to remain secret forever. However. the immediate repercussions of outing our marriage with people with whom I stood to have a lifetime continuing relationship was incredibly daunting. Also, we needed some recovery from the upheaval which was created by my family. These things were a higher priority than announcing to the world that we had entered a union we believed was heavenly but would be treated contemptuously.

Thus began the interaction with Joshua and Charlotte’s extended families which rapidly became a bane to my existence. I was part of the family and there was concern about me being left out as well as we wanted the extended family to meet me and perhaps create a relationship with me before we gave them the news. I was invited to every extended family activity by Charlotte and Joshua as well as in contact with Joshua’s brother’s family on a regular basis as they were living in the same house as Charlotte. I went as Charlotte’s friend.  This rapidly proved difficult.

Every time we interacted with family or in public, I made sure that I walked separately from Joshua and that I did not make eye contact with him. I never sat next to him and we made sure we only spoke about trivial matters in voices loud enough for others to hear.
At the time, hiding everything seemed so vital.  Now I realize that we were much more concerned about it than we probably should have been. However, it was quite a shock to others when we began to reveal ourselves.

When we thought we were ready, we started telling people one at a time; knowing that the risk of rejection was very real, as it had already happened with some people very close to us. There was new trauma with every reveal, and we felt the need to take time to regroup after each.

It’s been 4 years of living openly, and apparently, we still have people to tell.  At a recent family Christmas party, one of the great-uncles came up to me and asked how I fit in the family. I responded, “I’m Melissa.” He then asked exactly how I was related. I told him that I was Joshua’s other wife.  I watched him as he rapidly swallowed several times, blinked furiously, and then stammered “Oh!”  Thankfully another of Joshua’s uncles was standing nearby and came to the rescue.  He redirected the conversation in a very deft manner.

At our Chanukah party, we had this delightful experience.

Things are better now. I have much more confidence in sharing, and I am much more at peace with peoples’ reactions – regardless of what they are. There is nothing anyone can do that hasn’t already been done by someone closer.

I have gotten to a place where I’m kind of unfazed by responses.  Simply because those who will accept us will, and those who will not will not – regardless of former relationships or perceived expectations. That is hard won, bitterly painful knowledge.

I’m at the point of telling shopkeepers and others in my daily life randomly, and it has been extremely interesting as I have shared.  People will share that they too have polygamous backgrounds, and it almost seems conspiratorial as they do – like we are both in on some great secret.  It immediately becomes a shared reference point between us and creates a sort of bond.

Those early days were so tough, and revealing ourselves to a largely unfriendly world was incredibly painful stuff.

Last week I had a moment of realization.  I realized that because of how hard it was, and the constant stress and difficulty of that time, it is literally a miracle that I am here, married to the man of my dreams, and living happily with our plural family. Only by the grace of God could we have gotten to this place. He is so much bigger than the rejection of men.