Doing Hard Things (Bernie, Brandy, and Paige)

This last episode (Episode 7, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”) of Seeking Sister Wife was honestly very hard for me to watch. This difficulty had nothing to do with the quality of the filming or of the editing. It had to do with the raw truth of the matter: polygamy can be very difficult at times. And this episode, more than any of the previous episodes, highlighted many of the difficult things about it. Part of the reason it was hard to watch was that it showed the difficulties even well-adjusted, loving plural families (or potentially plural families) can experience.

We saw the very tense and awkward moments when Vanessa’s sisters were visiting in Los Angeles. Dimitri puts it so succinctly when he says that people are going to fall off, meaning relationships will be severed one way or another. It is a sad, painful, and unnecessary reality. We even got a glimpse into the struggles of (arguably) the most functional of plural families, the Alldredges, when Sharis tells about how she sometimes misses Jeff on nights he is not with her.

What’s more, it’s not just theoretical, or televised “plural families” that can have difficulties; it is my family. Watching this episode was difficult partly because it brought back memories of our own difficulties trying to live as polygamists in a society that largely frowns upon that. Fortunately, we have overcome most of those difficulties, both with others and with ourselves (but we’re not perfect yet), and things are so much better and smoother than they were in the beginning. There is so much to talk about in this episode that it is almost overwhelming.

As a plural husband, Paige McGee’s melt down was so hard to watch. I can tell that Bernie has a genuine, deep, and abiding affection for his wife. He is hurt when she is hurt. He is concerned for her welfare, for her physical and emotional well being. A person’s own emotions are difficult enough to manage. Handling other people’s emotions requires an added measure of patience and control.

I’ve talked about Paige’s issues with jealousy here and here already, so I won’t address it again – there’s not much more to say. Jealousy is natural and jealousy can serve a positive function, but jealousy also needs to be checked before it turns into envy. All that aside, I feel for Paige in this episode. When it comes to changes in plural marriage, the first wife has got some of the biggest adjustments to make. To be sure, everyone involved has to make some pretty huge changes when a new wife is added to the family. Of course, the biggest changes to any family come with the addition of the first two wives.

It is arguable that the biggest and most difficult changes accompany the marriage of the first wife. This is when the family is first forming, and therefore is experiencing the most dramatic changes. Consequently, this can also be the most difficult time for a family. I am speaking in general terms here, but the risk of divorce is highest during the first few years of marriage. There are so many adjustments that need to be made! And so many different types of adjustments – mental, physical, financial, logistical, etc. The stress can be crushing. But commitment pays off, hang in there, and give it some time and effort. Things get better with every passing year, and just because marriage is sometimes hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it!

Of course, adding the second wife is a huge adjustment for everyone too. The new wife has to adjust to being married (just as the first wife did), and adjust to the rest of the family and the first wife as well. The first wife has to adjust to her changing schedule both with her husband and also new interactions with the second wife. The children will certainly have adjustments to make, and the husband will obviously have a large additional load on his shoulders as well.

I don’t know the McGees personally (but I’d like to; they seem like very nice people) but my guess is that the mixture of emotions Paige was feeling have a lot of basis in a fear of the unknown. This fear is largely informed by our culture, which includes our family, friends, churches, laws, and a multitude of other factors. As I recall, Paige talks about her family playing the role of devil on her shoulder in the first episode – whispering doubts and encouraging envy. We saw some of the same with Vanessa Cobbs in this episode too.

Yes, it can be difficult. Yes, the fear, the jealousy, the envy, the uncertainty, and the negative responses are all real, but none of these things are sufficient reasons to give up. They are all obstacles to overcome, and, much to Paige’s credit, she pulled thru in the end! She is not even the one who asked Bernie to come back – that was TLC (and I think that was a bad move and poor form on their part). Regardless, it looks like things turned out anyway. It would have been an absolute tragedy if the date had not gone thru.

I feel for Paige and the difficult emotions she is dealing with in this episode. I feel for Bernie and his loving concern for Paige. And I feel for Brandy too! What thoughts must be going thru her head as she is waiting out in the car alone while Bernie gets called back in to console Paige? She seems to handle it well tho.

Paige knows what she wants, even if it is hard, and I admire her for that! Hard things that are worth it. We could easily make a list of a hundred things that fit this description (some harder than others) – things that you want and are willing to work and sacrifice for: Marriage, child birth, raising children, going to school, training for a marathon, quitting smoking, changing your life for the better, cleaning your room, getting up in the morning, going to work, going to church, etc. You get the idea.

There is pain and emotion connected to all of these things. That is real, and that is something that has to be dealt with if you want to accomplish anything useful or good in this world. Just because these things are hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. Just because they make you cry sometimes doesn’t mean you should give up. It is an uphill battle. Be patient with yourself and others. Things take time, and there will be setbacks. Get back on that horse and keep riding!

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?

Paige Doesn't know.png

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!

Polygamy’s Jealousies and the McGees

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster
which doth mock the meat it feeds on.

(Othello, Act 3, Scene 3)

In the first episode of the second season of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to some new people.  The lovely McGee family (Bernie and Paige).  They seem like a very tightly-knit and loving family, and the interaction between their two boys brings an involuntary smile to my face.  They are very likable people, and I’m looking forward to watching how things work out for them.screenshot 2019-01-25 23.28.43

However, we do get several glimpses into their past attempts to add a wife to their family, and it seems that Paige’s jealousy is going to be a serious and recurring issue.  And naturally so!  There is nothing wrong with jealousy!  After all, Jealousy is God’s middle name.  Okay, okay, I’m not sure if that is entirely true, but it is one of his names at least:

For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

-Exodus 34:14

See!  There you go, jealousy must not be such a bad thing after all!

To be clear, I believe, that none of our fundamental natural desires or impulses are, of themselves, bad things.  The sin always comes from the perversion of our desires.  The desires themselves are God-given and innate.  Wrongs comes from the excesses and the misapplications.  We want things at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, or in the wrong amounts, and don’t always consider how our efforts to achieve our desires appear to God or to our fellow beings.red lizard

For those who know the reference, our desires are like a red lizard sitting on our shoulder and whispering in our ears; arguing for us to give selfish and vile expression to our natural inclinations (for those who don’t know the reference, it is The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis).  drawing-a-circle-with-the-compassesThey are a serious hindrance if unbridled and allowed to run free.  Appetites and passions are to be kept within the bounds the Lord has set.  Food is good;  we are even commanded to work for it (Gen 3:19, 2Thess 3:10), but too much of it and we are gluttons.  Wine is something to look forward to (Isa 25:6), but drunkenness is a thing to be avoided.  Human sexuality is a blessed and pleasurable thing, but is also the greatest snare and temptation of many people’s lives.  Money has definite value, and using it facilitates our exchanges for goods and services, but making it the object of our affection is the root of many evils.  You get the idea.horse

On the other hand, if bridled, trained, controlled, and allowed to give their proper vent, our natural inclinations can become our blessing, our strength, and our happiness.  This transformation may not be an easy one, but will be well worth the trade for anyone concerned enough to make it!

Back to jealousy.  It can be good.  It has a purpose.  The key is to find out what it is for and when it should be felt.  If we can figure out our own selves, and our own emotions (even if it is an incremental process), we will simplify our lives and the lives of everyone around us.

First we must understand what jealousy is.  Of course we all know what jealousy feels like, but I think it will be useful to discriminate between it and a very similar emotion, envy.  In many cases these two words may be very close in their usage.  They can both indicate a longing to posses something.  However, the word jealous carries the particular sense of “vigilant (or zealous) in guarding a possession”.  Jealousy also carries the connotation of a suspicious fear of losing something.  In other words, properly applied, jealousy ought to be used to describe feelings of protectiveness for things that are our own; for things that already belong to us (our own advantages, attachments, relationships, and possessions).  Thus, God is jealous for his people, for we are his!

We cross a line into envy when we begin to have similar emotions, but for things that are not ours.  Another word for envy is covetousness.  It is feeling possessive of things that we do not posses; it is feeling entitled to things to which we do not have a right.  This of course, needs to be suppressed, and not allowed to take root.

Here then is the purpose of jealousy: it is one natural mechanism to preserve the romantic bond between spouses. It functions to encourage fidelity between parents (or potential parents).  The jealous anger of one partner being both a deterrent to the infidelity of the other, and also a self-motivator for the person experiencing it to fight for the restoration of the bond.  This (a strong bond between spouses) of course leads to a multitude of benefits for their children (or potential children), and their subsequent reproductive success.

Predictably, men and women feel jealousy in different ways, and for different (but significant!) reasons.  To quote clinical psychologist, Dr. Vinita Mehta:

“Romantic jealously is widely understood to be different for men and women because each gender has a different level of investment in reproduction. For a man to provide for genetically distant children decreases his reproductive success—and because men are uncertain whether they really are the father of said children, they are most susceptible to [experiencing jealousy over] sexual infidelity. By contrast, women can rest assured that they are the mother of their own children; however, they are more dependent on men for resources, making them more sensitive to [experiencing jealousy over] emotional infidelity, since it could threaten the supply of resources for herself and her child.”

Generally speaking, women are concerned (on a basic, visceral level) that their partner’s affection for another woman will lead to a weaker emotional connection, and therefore less desire to care for them, or even that the emotional connection will be altogether severed, causing the man to abandon them for the other woman.

This all goes back to the scriptural, God-given roles and responsibilities for men and women in marriage.  This is the Biblical marriage covenant in a nutshell.  To quantify this difference, a large study, published in 2014 (this is not the only study confirming these results), reported that men were significantly more likely than women to be upset by sexual infidelity (54% vs. 35%), and significantly less likely than women to be upset by emotional infidelity (46% vs. 65%).

There are many things that could be said about the result of this study, but I want to mention two.  First, this does not mean that women don’t feel jealousy over sexual infidelity, or that men don’t feel jealousy over emotional infidelity; rather, it means that their primary causes of jealousy are generally different, and this has significant effects on the way that men and women think and act.  The other thing to mention about this finding is that it has nothing to do with age groups, income levels, history of being cheated on, history of being unfaithful, relationship type, relationship length, cultural differences, etc.  Like it or not, this difference is an innate, biological difference.

So, how does knowing any of this help the Paige McGees of the world?  I think there are at least two useful lessons that can be gleaned from the above.

1) Jealousy is natural, and can even be good, but care must be taken that it does not spill over into envy or covetousness.  In order to keep jealousy within a righteous bound, we need to be certain of what is ours to be jealous over.  In marriage, wives have a right to financial support for themselves and their children.  They have full claim on their husband for that purpose.  However, they do not have exclusive rights to him sexually.  This is important to know because it can keep you from worrying over things that are not yours to worry about.  To put it another way, you shouldn’t feel jealous over things that aren’t yours.

2) Understand that the source of your jealousy may largely (even unconsciously) come from a fear of being abandoned (emotional infidelity).  This is certainly a rational fear, as we all know; this scenario has played out many times before.  Many monogamous relationships have been broken by an unfaithful man tragically abandoning his wife and children for another woman.  However, if you can realize that, in the case of polygamy, your husband is not at all interested in trading you for another woman, but rather wants to keep you both (or however many wives there may be), then that ought to restore your confidence that you are not being abandoned!  At least it ought to increase the confidence in your mind – there may still be a battle with emotions, but what’s new paige and bernieabout that?  If he is a godly man, then he still wants you to be his wife just as much as ever, his emotions towards you are just as strong as ever, and he still wants to keep his commitment to you and your children just as much as ever.

So, to Paige, and to all the other plural (and potentially plural) wives out there I say: Have confidence in your husband and in your relationship, keep working on maintaining and improving your own relationship with your husband, and don’t worry too much about things that are not your business to worry about.

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.  If a family can make it work, there are so many benefits to living together!

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).

Word-of-the-day: Compersion

I’ve been working on a blog post about polygamy and jealousy.  I needed an antonym for jealousy and came across the word compersion.

Compersion means feeling joy when a loved one loves someone else (as contrasted with feeling jealous about their love).

As a plural wife with plenty of opportunities, I’ve considered myself successful when I don’t feel jealous, especially in a situation which in the past might have summoned up negative emotions.  If I would have previously felt jealous about something but this time I don’t, that’s a win, I’ve matured, I can do this, bring it on.  (One of the benefits of polygamy is character growth, after all.)

But this is news to me: the opposite of “jealousy” isn’t simply “lack-of-jealousy”!  Can a plural wife go from feeling jealous to feeling emotionally neutral and from there progress to feeling joy in her husband’s love for his other wives?  The very existence of this word makes it seem possible.  It takes things up a notch.  I just found a higher mountain to climb.

By the way, if you’re like me and haven’t come across “compersion” yet, it might be because it seems to be a relatively new word.  It’s probably not in your dictionary, and the oldest quote on compersion’s Wiktionary page is from 1998, as used in a book called Romantic Jealousy, Causes, Symptoms, Cures.  Now that sounds like an interesting book!