Marriage Licenses and Security

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.