Not what social media would have you believe.

Hello, my name is Tianna Foster.

I am 20 years of age.

I live at home with my dad, my three amazing mothers and 20 going on 21 siblings, whom I adore!

I grew up in the red rock country, in a beautiful community surrounded by wonderful people, each with a different background.

I have heard many different assumptions about the life of a child with “polygamist parents.” I know that the sad truth is that in some cases those assumptions are true, but what I want you to understand is that the problems that are pointed out in the polygamist communities exist all throughout the world, they are not things caused by polygamy, they are caused by self-focused humans. They are human problems.

However my life as a child raised in a polygamist family was much different than what social media would have you believe.

I had a wonderful childhood filled with the outdoors, adventure after adventure, traveling, family, friends and more love than most people receive in a lifetime.

When I was young, (before I was old enough to know about what the world thought of us) all I knew was that I was the lucky kid who had a dad and two moms to cherish, support, and want me. (My third mother joined our family a year ago.)

I did not see problems in my parents relationships; they all loved each other very much!

Being an adult I now see that like any relationship there are struggles from time to time and there are misunderstandings, but show me any marriage that doesn’t have that.

The important thing is they work through them and don’t give up on each other.

I understand that when you see people such as Warren Jeffs it puts a bad taste in your mouth but just because there was a bad man who had more than one wife does not make every polygamist family bad.

To say that is like saying that because one dog bites you all dogs are wicked. It’s simply not true.

We are not brainwashed.

My parents love education and free thinking.

They have taught me to be full of questions and to observe all ways of living, to choose for myself what I believe and how I choose to live.

Never once have I been told to live that way simply because they do.

They’ve taught me to look at what each lifestyle produces and then to choose my path according to the outcome I desire.

Now I do not believe that plural marriage is for everyone. But this is America, “the land of the free.” Can we not be free to choose that way of life if we want it?

You take away our right to speak, our right to live and believe as we choose, then I ask you, what is so great about America?

If consenting adults choose to live that way why must they be persecuted?

I will fight against opposition!!

I will speak out for the ones who don’t have a voice.

And I will fight for our rights and for our freedom.

Can we please break down the walls that divide us?

We are families, not felons.

My thoughts on plural marriage:

Someone once asked me, “Why would you want to live plural marriage?”

Up to that point I had never really thought of why I would WANT to live the principle of plural marriage, so it caused me to reflect and to ask myself that very question. “Why?”
After thinking about it for some time I came to a conclusion that surprised me: I realized that I wanted to live plural marriage because it would bring out the worst in me.

I know you might be thinking, well why on earth would you want the worst in you brought out?

I’ll tell you…because only when the worst is brought out can I overcome it!

Sure I could live my whole life putting on the act of perfection, allowing people to believe that I’m just a saint of a person but in the eternal run what good would that truly do me?

If I do not face my insecurities and jealousies but instead I bury them, then I will go through life still carrying them. Closing your eyes to a problem may make it disappear temporarily, but as soon as you open your eyes it will still be there.

Face it, solve it, overcome it.

As Henry Drummond said, “This world is not a playground; it is a school room. Life is not a holiday but an education. And the one eternal question for us all is, how better can I love.”

Which brings us to love itself.

This small four letter word that means so much.

I believe that in order to know how better to love you must first understand love itself. I could go on about that but I will leave that topic for another time.

So for now ask yourself what is love? And, How better may I love God, others and myself?

If we go back to what Henry Drummond said and we believe that he is correct, that “life is a school room” then should we not take every opportunity to learn and grow?

At some point in our lives we will learn the simple things, the ABCs if you will, which are wonderful, but as we go through life we are meant to progress, to then take those ABCs and compile them into words, and then string those words into sentences and so on.
Moving from a kindergarten level on and on until you reach a college level.

Now if you want, you are free to choose to stay in kindergarten; however, if you want more you must be willing to apply yourself, take steps forward and go through tests that challenge your mind.

I believe that the same is true in every area of life.

I enjoy analogies so allow me to paint one up for you…we are, each of us these pieces of coal. God loves us just the way we are and if we choose to live our whole lives as the coal that we are that’s all right, but if we want more than that there are certain principles that we can choose to live by, which will push you to become something more.

It’s like asking God to place a mountain on your shoulders, while at the same time asking him to give the strength to withhold the weight.

It will be heavy and difficult but if we stay strong in the Lord then the very pressure that could crush us can also change us from coal to a diamond.

It is choosing to walk through the fire knowing that the purest of gold must first go through the hottest of fire before it can be refined.

I believe that the same goes for plural marriage, along with many other higher principles.

Marriage in my mind is choosing a companion to share in life’s journey with, having a partner to face the hard times with and to cherish the moments with, just choosing to do life together!

My dad has told me my whole life, “Marry your best friend.”

I plan on doing that. And your best friend should be the one who brings out the best in you.

If marriage is choosing a person who you love to share life with then plural marriage is just choose to share life with yet another person.

I once asked my Mom, “Why did you choose to live this way?”

She told me this: “Because your dad is such an amazing husband, father and friend! I wanted to be able to bless another woman with the blessing I have.”

My parents were happily married for eight years before ever even talking about the principle of plural marriage, and when they did it was my mother who brought it up.

She is a strong, kind, incredible woman!

As are each of my moms.

I aspire to be like them.

Seeing how happy and successful my parents are makes me want what they have.

There is a right and a wrong way to do everything.

I think that my parents have got something right that’s for sure!

I have many more thought but for now my time for writing is up.

My hope is that I have brought a new piece to the puzzle, given some new perspective, that I have shed some light and given some understanding.

I hope these thoughts and principles will bless your life!

Sympathetic Biological Envy in Polygamy

Note from the blog owner: Natali Dilts is a new contributor to the blog and this is her first post.

The first memory I have concerning my “bonus-mom” plays back in my mind as follows: being excited to see her and then running towards her but then stopping at the tip of her left ring finger. “Your father asked me to marry him”, I perfectly recall her enthusiastic inflection as she urged me to admire her engagement ring. I looked at it in disbelief, I remember thinking “What about my mom?”. Before I could fully articulate my original reaction, I saw my biological mom embrace my soon-to-be mom, and as any seven year old would, I followed my mother’s example and began to welcome this new woman into my life.

Ten years later, I informed my birth mother of this memory. She then asked me several questions, her questions were questions that I already had. One of the questions being: Most of the people I knew as a child were directly involved in a polygamous relationship; why was my initial reaction negative?

Perhaps the engagement simply caught me off guard because of my expectations of what a romantic relationship looked like.  The courtship process in polygamy is strict and similar to that of a Christian Baptist dating ritual. No physical intimacy before marriage, apparent family involvement, and the purpose of the relationship to be “to the glory of the one and only God”. To the untrained or youthful eye, such a relationship could easily be determined as a close friendship.

I was homeschooled; my two social groups were family and church so the idea of polygamy was not foreign, in fact, it was incredibly common. I was actually more familiar with the polygamous way of life than the typical monogamous way of life. Though I had mentally understood the concept of polygamy fully and I had seen polygamy my entire life, I think I was surprised at my own family’s involvement. However, I do not think that fully explains why I reacted negatively to my bonus-mom’s engagement.

When I was seven, monogamy and polygamy to me was just a difference between two families. Refrigerating bread versus not refrigerating bread was a more prevalent difference between family beliefs than polygamy was. I would talk openly about my two mothers whenever I came into contact with children my age who were not acquainted with polygamy. I continued on that way until I was told not to do so.

“You shouldn’t tell other children that you have two moms; they might get jealous. You get two moms but they only one. You get a bonus-mom.”

Obviously, this was not the real reason I was not to tell “outside children” of my way of life but it’s the reason I believed. I do not think that the general public’s negative view of polygamy influenced my thoughts that day either. However, the majority of the world is mono-normative, meaning, monogamy is the ideal, typical relationship. This is similar to the idea of a physical relationship defining a romantic relationship. People’s certainty of normality speaks so much louder than people’s active disagreeance in regards to your lifestyle.  This concept of normality likely had an effect on me; the effect was not drastic but probably influential.

To be completely honest, I am not exactly sure what prompted me to think this way, there is likely a combination of several things both seen and unseen. I recognize that trying to understand my seven-year-old psyche in order to explain the immediate, sympathetic jealousy that many children of polygamy have felt in defense of their biological mother, will not provide many if any concrete answers. However, opening the discussion may lead to more concrete or evident answers and it may inspire “plyglets” to come forward and tell of their experience in polygamy. I do not claim to speak for all children of polygamy, I also know many “plyglets” who have formed a closer bond to a bonus-mom and felt jealous for her instead of automatically empathizing with their bio-mom. Nor do I claim to be an expert in psychology. These are mere theories of why some children of polygamy may feel jealous in the name of their biological mother.

Transition to siblinghood is similar to the transition into polygamy.

A common explanation describing how one man can love many women is described through how one woman can love many children. Psychoanalytic theorists such as Freud have emphasized the stressful nature of this transition for firstborn children, often citing it as one of the most traumatic experiences of early childhood (Adler, 1957; A. Freud, 1946; Winicott, 1964). Parental attention, once the sole province of the firstborn, must now be shared with a sibling rival. Winicott (1964) considered the distress of first borns during this time to be normative; “it is so usual as to be called normal when a child is upset at a new one” (p. 133). Since several children experience this, they are likely to relate to their mother and be empathetic. I personally experienced this with my mother. I am the oldest and I remember how I felt at the birth of my younger sister, not incredibly positive, I projected the emotions I felt towards my sister onto my mother and how she may have felt about her sister wife. Whether or not my predictions were correct, it caused me to empathise with my bio-mom and her struggle to accept a new wife.

Fetal Bias

Many neonates demonstrate a stronger connection to their biological mothers in contrast to their additional caretaker (father). It has been concluded that the main reason for this phenomenon is the physical dependence of early life. Emotional bonds are created and called “womb bonds” while there is a physical growth of the fetus. Then following the birth of the child, the first moral development stage of life is termed “trust vs mistrust”, where the child learns to trust their mother through physical care or where the child learns mistrust through neglect. The intimacy of this relationship does not extend to the additional caretaker until around the age three. To extend this trust to even more caretakers it could take an additional amount of time and it is not guaranteed to have the same intensity.

Egocentric Sympathy

It is estimated that until around the age of eight children are completely egocentric. Many interpret this as “a lack of sympathy until the age of eight years old” but this is not the case. Children are able to comprehend the difference between positive and negative emotion by the age of twelve months and they typically respond accordingly but they do not see the emotion felt by others as important as their personal emotions because it is not a central part of their world. It would be fair to assume that their biological mother’s emotion is of more importance to them than the emotion of their additional mother.  Simply because, their bio-mom typically plays a more central role in their lives, thus she is more important and her emotional state trumps the emotional state of her sister wife.

Conclusion

In what I have observed in my personal experience and through the basic childhood psychology that I have studied, I conclude that it is likely for a child to feel jealousy out of empathy for their biological mother when the possibility of polygamy is proposed. It is likely for the following reasons: societal influence and expectations help to dictate which ways a child may think of polygamy, there is a closeness to a biological mother that cannot be recreated, and the child is more likely to know of the emotional effects of their biological mother than of their additional mother.

This topic is important to present to the general public and the polygamist public because it highlights an important emotional process that “plyglets” experience. Further psychological speculation or anecdotal information from children of polygamy could be useful in defining polygamy’s place in the modern world.

References and Bibliography

Adler A. The progress of mankind. Journal of Individual Psychology. 1957;13:9–13.

Affonso DD, Mayberry LJ, Sheptak S. Multiparity and stressful events. Journal of Perinatology. 1988;8:312–317. [PubMed]

Alter JK. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Columbia University; New York: The relationship between language maturity and the adjustment to the birth of a sibling.

“Biomental Child Development: Perspectives on Psychology and Parenting” (2013).

“Envy Theory: Perspectives on the Psychology of Envy” (2010).