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!

Where Will the Brineys Live? (or Living Arrangements in Polygamous Families)

In the final episode of Seeking Sister Wife‘s first season, the Briney family is getting ready to move out of state, but there was a difference in point of view about whether all the wives should continue to live together or not.  In the final scenes Auralee is an absolute saint.  She extends the olive branch in an amazing way to her sister wife, April.  Angela chimes in as well, and they all end up coming together in a beautiful way for the good of the family in both practical and emotional ways.

family chat

As may be expected, working out where everyone lives is a very common dilemma facing plural families, and it can be handled in a variety of ways.  Some families live in a single dwelling, sharing the same kitchen and living room (like the Alldredges do).  Some families may live in a single dwelling with separate apartments like my house or like the Fosters or Morrisons.  Some families have separate houses for the wives, but they are all in close proximity to one another, on the same property (or in the same cul-de-sac, like the Brown family currently does).  Some families may have separate houses for each wife, and those houses may be in separate cities or states.  I even know one family where the wives are in separate countries halfway around the world from each other (although they are working toward living all together).

Furthermore, many plural families are somewhere in between these various solutions, scalesor in transition between them.  For example, I know a family with three wives.  Two of them lived together in a single dwelling while the third (who was reportedly more difficult to live with) lived in a separate city.  Later on, the third, separate-city wife moved to a separate house next door to the other two, and lived there for a while.  Now they are all living together under one roof!  Ultimately, the solution to this problem will be different for each family, and lies in finding the correct balance between the practical and the emotional.  Both are very real issues, and need to be addressed.

The practical side of the question deals with resources like time and expense.  It is certainly more expensive to live apart: There are multiple rents or mortgages to pay, separate utility bills will add up to greater expense than a combined bill, more property taxes, more home insurance, more time and expense for home maintenance, added expense for owning duplicates of many items, and additional time and expense is involved in travel between homes.  These, and a great many other things, are practical factors that must be considered.  I think a general consideration of practical factors will favor living together.

The emotional side of the question deals with feelings, perceptions, and jealousies.  Some wives may not be able to stand seeing their husband show affection for another wife, may not be able to abide sharing a kitchen or other living areas, or may have or want different rules for their children.  Kody Brown once said, “I have two wives who think sharing a kitchen is abusive”.  This is in contrast to the Darger family whose philosophy is: If you can’t share a kitchen, what business do you have sharing a husband?  Of course, the Dargers are somewhat of a special case as the wives are already close relatives (which I am sure has been a blessing to their family).  I mean, how different could their kitchen management styles be?  They all have the same grandma.  They probably all have the same book of family recipes.

One plural wife I spoke with told me it can be harder to share a kitchen than to share a husband.  So, if you are adding an extra master bedroom to your house to accommodate a new sister wife, you may want to consider adding another kitchen too.  Each family will have to find what works best for them.

Children further complicate emotional considerations.  Children from different wives may have rivalries (especially if they are from previous marriages) or resentments.  In addition, there may be worries about societal perceptions. (What will the neighbors think?  What will my friends think?  What will our extended families think?)  Finally, some people may just be plain old difficult to live with — there are personality conflicts of all kinds.  These, and a great many other things, are emotional factors that must be given consideration.  I think a general consideration of emotional factors will favor living apart.

From my point of view, I think most (perhaps all) polygamist men want to have their families together as much and as close as possible.  If a plural family is not living together, it is very often because of difficulties between wives, or children from different wives (think of Sarah and Hagar, and Isaac and Ishmael, for example).  I was once talking with my grandpa about the scriptures when the subject of Abraham’s wives came up.  He said it was a shame that Abraham had married Hagar (because it led to difficulties that separated his family) and that he shouldn’t have done it in the first place.  I told him the shame was not that they married, but that they didn’t stay together and try to work out their problems.  Well, I’m not trying to pass any judgment on Abram, or his views on marriage and family, but I do think it is generally better to work on problems while problems can be worked on – even if some separation is warranted while the problems are being resolved (it may take years in some cases).  Anything worth having is worth working for.

Why would plural husbands generally want their family together?  There are certainly the financial pieces, which I mentioned above, and this weighs heavily on most husbands’ minds.  In addition, a husband will be able to more effectively portion his time between the members of his family and his other household duties.  Another important factor is the way that close-living facilitates family activities, family teaching, and family worship.  Finally, there is a desire among men, even if subconscious, to have their wives and children close for the sake of protecting them.

From a Biblical perspective, during the time when a couple was engaged to be married, the bridegroom would go away for a time and busy himself preparing a home for his new bride to live in.  If the man had more than one wife, he would have prepared a home for each of them in turn.  The home(s) would be built on the ancestral lands of the bridegroom’s father.  The bride-to-be fully expected to receive her own home to live in (whether this was a separate dwelling, or an extension of the existing family dwelling, would depend on the particular family and circumstance), and providing one for her was part of the future husband’s duties toward her.  When the home was made ready, the bridegroom would return for his bride, receive her to himself, and lead her to her new home which would become her responsibility to tend and care for.

In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. – John 14:2,3

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).