Different Channels of Sexual Tension

WARNING: THIS POST MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER OR IMMATURE READERS.

This is subject is a little delicate, and perhaps even controversial or scandalous, so reader beware.  This post may not be appropriate for younger readers.  I will try to be tactful in my delivery of this information, and yet still remain true to the facts as they are.

Marriage is so much more than sex, and yet sex is one key distinguishing feature of marriage.  It differentiates marriage from other types of close family relationships (like siblings for example), and is thus an essential part of marriage.  In fact, many states recognize failure to consummate the marriage as grounds, not for divorce, but for annulment (as per common law there was legally never any marriage without consummation). Additionally, even if the marriage was initially consummated, if one spouse refuses to continue having sexual relations this can be grounds for divorce in many states.  In either case, these situations are treated legally as a type of fraud.

So, marriage is much more than sex, and sex is much more than biology (meaning just procreation), and all that is true, but it will have to wait for a separate post.

Toward the beginning of episode 10 of the second season of SSW, Dimitri and Ashley are talking about the recent sexual intimacy between Dimitri and Vanessa.  In the course of discussion, Dimitri reveals that there are multiple “Channels of sexual tension”.  This comes as a surprise to Ashley (and would probably be a surprise to most women).  My own wives were similarly surprised when I told them that it was true.

Here are some screen shots (with closed captions) from the episode.

sexual tension

Ashley, confused at how this could possibly be the case (since she and Dimitri are already having regular sex), asks him about it.

Dimitri explains that it is true, that men can have multiple channels of sexual tension, and Ashley learns something that she did not know.

you can have separate
I learned something new

I actually hinted at this phenomenon in an earlier post, and I still stand by the principles that I discussed there.  There are at least several reasons why it is important to know the truth of the situation.  First for a potential new wife; she may feel like she needs to compete with the established wife(s) who is (or are) already having intimate relations with their husband.  She may feel the need to overtly advertise her sexuality (in sexually flirtatious ways) in an attempt to draw his attention or affection, but she needn’t do so at all. Second, an established wife has no need to fear that the presence of a new wife will diminish her husband’s attraction for her.

Coolidge

This ability for men to have multiple, separate channels of sexual tension is colloquially known as the The Coolidge Effect.  The term was first suggested by behavioral endocrinologist Frank A. Beach in 1958. He attributed the neologism to an old joke about Calvin Coolidge when he was President.

The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown [separately] around an experimental government farm. When [Mrs. Coolidge] came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, “Dozens of times each day.” Mrs. Coolidge said, “Tell that to the President when he comes by.” Upon being told, the President asked, “Same hen every time?” The reply was, “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time.” President: “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”

The joke appears in a 1972 book (Aggression in Man and Animals, by Roger N. Johnson, p. 94).  You can read here for some more background about the origins of the term.

Brittish news story from November 2000

What is the Coolidge Effect? It is a biological phenomenon exhibited most commonly, and strongly, by males. After a male (this phenomenon is not limited to human men – it is displayed by males of most animal species) engages in sexual activity to the point of orgasm with a particular female, he will experience a refractory period. That is, there will be a period of time (which is variable and may last from hours to days) where he is unable to have additional orgasms with the female. During this refractory period he will also have a reduced sexual interest in the female. Repeated matings with the same female will result in successively longer refractory periods. However, if the male is presented with a different, sexually available female he will exhibit renewed sexual interest, arousal, and a reset (or significantly shortened) sexual refractory period. He will even release a larger volume of semen with more active sperm in an encounter with a new partner (in comparison with the volume released after repeated encounters with the same partner).

Of course this phenomenon is easy enough to understand. From a biological perspective, it is advantageous to his reproductive success for a male to distribute his genes as widely as possible, and a single man can impregnate many women. The inverse however, is not true. It is advantageous to a woman’s reproductive success to have a single devoted male that will help to provide for and protect her young.

This sexual phenomenon in males can be repeatedly exhibited (until exhaustion) if a new female sexual partner becomes available each time. Men are biologically wired to experience renewed dopamine releases with each new encounter. The male acts as tho he does not have an “absolute” refractory period. That is to say, a refractory period which is only dependent on time. A more correct description is that he has a separate refractory period for each individual female, or, as Dimitri would say, “different channels of sexual tension” for each woman. A current wife will not detract from a man’s attraction to a new wife, nor will a new wife detract from a man’s attraction to his current wife.

This refractory period is not a constant time interval, even between the same male/female pair. In the graph above you can see that repeated (frequent) matings with the same female will result in longer and longer durations between male climax. If the mating is less frequent (with the same female), there will be a reset of the arousal levels, arousal time, and refractory period, etc. This is because the female becomes “new” again after a sufficient delay. Thus, the average American couple will have sex about once per week on average (studies show that couples who have sex less often are less happy and satisfied with their relationship, but couples who have sex more often are not more happy than couples who have sex weekly).

For females, this phenomenon is not experienced, or is significantly muted (it has been demonstrated at least in some female rodents, but to a lesser extent than in male rodents). At least part of the reason this phenomenon is not prominently exhibited in women is that they have essentially no sexual refractory period. Rather, they are able to continue having multiple orgasms with the same male, in a single sexual encounter, until exhaustion (more on this in a later post). Furthermore, when looking at attraction in humans, women are found generally to prefer familiarity, while men are found to prefer novelty. It could be generally said that men are biologically geared towards polygamy and women towards monogamy. These are just some of the many biological differences between men and women.

This phenomenon also explains the increased sexual arousal that is often associated with new lingerie, different sexual positions, pornography, etc. This is also a reason why women tend (stereotypically) to have more outfits, shoes, and hairstyles than their male partners. By changing their physical appearance they are subtly suggesting novelty. The goal with all this simulated novelty is to trick the male brain into thinking that he is actually fulfilling his biological role as a polygamist (or at least that he is mating with multiple females).

In probably most cases of “erectile dysfunction”, there is no actual physical or physiological dysfunction at all. Rather, the Coolidge Effect is being manifested with a single long term sexual partner. If the male with “ED” were introduced to a new female sexual partner he would find himself fully functional and sexually reinvigorated.

Of course, we are not slaves to our biology; nevertheless, we ought to understand ourselves as best we can. Yes, men will take notice of a pretty woman who is not his wife, he can hardly help it. Just remember not to take a second notice, and to keep your eyes off of other men’s wives (whoever lusts after a married woman commits adultery in his heart); it will only lead to trouble.

Having written all that, nothing in this post should be used as an excuse for bad behavior. Sexual activity alone is a poor predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. Men (and humans in general) are not merely wired for sex with multiple partners. We are also wired to seek stability, and this is a much better predictor of satisfaction and happiness. Therefore, it would not only be immoral, but also destructive in many other ways (to themselves, to the women involved, and to society at large) for men to fulfil this biological programing outside of the bounds of marriage. Our natural, biological programing must be chained by our larger moral and religious inclinations and training. Intimacy comes after commitment.

In conclusion, there is absolutely no need for a potentially new wife to feel that she is at a disadvantage in comparison to any established wife in the area of sexual attraction. Also, there is no need for a current wife to feel any jealousy or sexual inadequacy in comparison to a newer wife; a husband will have separate channels of sexual tension for each of them individually.

Being Proud of Polygamy Instead of Ashamed

I distinctly remember the first time someone looked up to me for being a polygamist.

We had been invited by some polygamous friends to a Thanksgiving dinner that was attended by an eclectic group of fundamental Mormons (some were members of a sect of Mormonism, but many were independent).  I knew almost no one there.  (This was the first time I met Benjamin Shaffer, the attorney who purchased Drew Briney’s law firm when the Brineys moved away from Utah.)  I was introduced to a married couple and I asked them if they were polygamists.  The wife said, “No, not yet.  I wish.  Are you guys polygamists?”  When I answered in the affirmative, she said with sincerity, “Oh, that’s so great.  I hope I can be a plural wife someday.”  (She’s a plural wife now and one of the best I know.  As one example of how she’s so supportive: She has a huge picture of her husband and sisterwife on their wedding day on her living room wall.)

That was a very nice moment for me.  Up to that point, people expressed many different feelings about my marital status, ranging from outright rejection to disgust to fascination to neutrality to supportive, but I had never met anyone who was actually jealous of me for being a polygamist.

I didn’t consider myself a fundamental Mormon, but after that Thanksgiving dinner I started to feel more and more comfortable hanging around Mormon fundamentalists because of their general belief that polygamy is acceptable, desirable, even preferred.

I still spend plenty of time with people who merely tolerate my polygamy.  When I’m around those people, I will either hide my polygamy or at the very least I feel an overarching sense of embarrassment/shame about it, like the girl who keeps brushing her bangs in front of the zit on her forehead.

However, those feelings of shame or embarrassment are left over from when I cared what those people thought.  I’m not ashamed to be a polygamist.  I’m actually quite proud of my plural family and in particular of my husband.  I’m proud of my husband for keeping two emotional women happy most of the time.  I’m proud of him for financially supporting a large family.  I’m proud of him for bearing the weight of a marred reputation caused by society’s feelings about plural marriage.  I’m proud of him for always putting his family first and for being the most selfless person I have the privilege of knowing.  I’m proud of him that God trusts him with such a great responsibility.  I’m proud of him for keeping peace (and restoring it when it’s lost) between all the members of our family.  I’m proud of him for his wisdom in difficult decisions.  I’m proud of him for functioning on 2 hours of sleep when one of his wives needs to talk with him all night.  I’m proud of him for never putting himself first but for always always serving God and his family and others around him.  I’m proud of him for being stable when one or both of his wives are being crazy.  I’m proud of Joshua for so many reasons.  I think of him as a king and I feel it an honor to be married to him.  I’m proud to be one of his queens.

The feeling of pride I have over our functional, beautiful plural family has grown and expanded almost imperceptibly until an event that happened yesterday.  We went to a party for Joshua’s aunts, uncles, and cousins.  This party is held annually, but it was our first time attending since becoming polygamists.  We used to go every year (and to other events with these people as well), and Joshua and I have been married for 17 years, so I’ve known these people for a good long time.

The family is a pretty big group, I would say about 85 people, and almost all of them are active LDS.  This is the kind of group I have historically felt awkward to be around.  None of them are excited that we’re polygamists, and many of them openly disapprove (even writing letters and making phone calls to make sure we know how they feel).

And yet, yesterday when we walked into the party, I held my head high.  I felt like a queen.  I look at Joshua as a king and Melissa as a queen, and  yesterday I felt no shame or embarrassment whatsoever.  I greeted everyone with a confident hug and just acted like my old pre-polygamy self.  If anyone felt awkward, it wasn’t me.  If anyone wished I wasn’t there, it wasn’t me.  I didn’t feel like I was inferior to any of the monogamists in the room.  I didn’t feel like I had anything to apologize for.  I didn’t feel like I had a zit on my forehead I was trying to hide.  I just felt proud of my plural family and proud of my kingly husband.  It was a wonderful experience and certainly made me feel as tho I have progressed in my journey as a plural wife.

How Joshua and I Met

There he stood, in the front of our Ethics and Values classroom, curly brown hair, leather jacket that couldn’t hide his muscular arms, sexy 5 o’clock shadow, a deep voice.  He was discussing the pros and cons of capital punishment, the controversial ethical topic assigned to his group.

I had dated a lot in high school, but now that I was in college, I was trying to be pickier, trying to figure out what my type was, and I had picked up the habit of analyzing men to discern which of his physical traits I liked and which I didn’t.  I had never found a man I couldn’t improve upon, but as I sat on the back row that day watching and listening to Joshua, for the first time I couldn’t come up with a single thing I would change to make a man more attractive.  I had found my ideal man, at least on the surface.  Not only was he the most handsome men I’d ever met, but he was intelligent, well-prepared, and well-spoken.

At the end of Joshua’s presentation, I raised my hand to add to the discussion.  Was it just my imagination, or did he like what I had to say?  A little while later, I raised my hand again, but then I noticed that class time was almost gone, and I lowered it again.  He noticed the question left hanging, and he approached me as the classroom emptied and asked what I had intended to say.

We talked for a few minutes before going our separate ways.  But that was enough to get the ball rolling.

It was a series of coincidences that had led to our meeting.  You see, we weren’t exactly classmates: We were taking the same course, but we were in different sections taught by the same professor.  If things had gone according to schedule, Joshua and I would never have met.  But something happened to shake things up: My brother had been called on a mission for the LDS Church, and I wanted to go with him and the rest of my family to see him enter the MTC, or Missionary Training Center.  The end of the college semester was approaching, and since class time was being taken up with group presentations, my professor had started making class participation part of our grade to prevent attendance from declining.  If I was going to see my brother enter the MTC, I would miss my class, so I talked to my professor in advance and got permission to make up the participation points by coming to another of her Ethics and Values sessions.  I searched my schedule for a time when that would be possible.  Most school days at 1:00 p.m. I was busy as an ASL interpreter for a religion class.  Fortunately, those classes weren’t held on Fridays, which meant I was available for that one hour — which happened to be, of course, the day and hour of Joshua’s presentation in his own section of Ethics and Values.  That’s how I came to be there that Friday afternoon.

After Joshua and I had parted company.  I went to work for a few hours and then got ready for a date — a formal dance I was going to with a man named Ryan.

Now, Ryan and I were very close friends, and sometimes we acted as tho we liked each other, but the truth was that the woman he wanted to marry was away from home serving a mission for the mainstream LDS Church, and I was just a placeholder until she came home a few months later.  I wasn’t particularly into him either, but we got along splendidly, and our relationship was convenient.  We carpooled to school together, worked on our Calculus 3 homework together, hung out as friends on the weekend, and when one of us needed an official date for an event, the other person was usually available.

(As a side note, two fun stories: After his girlfriend got home from her mission, Ryan and she came together to my wedding reception, which was so romantic that they ended up getting engaged at it.  They’re still happily married and have half a dozen kids.  He’s a successful engineer, so I guess it worked out for him to study calculus with me, ha ha.  Another guy I dated met someone at my wedding reception, soon afterwards they started dating, later they were also engaged.  Have you ever heard of a wedding reception so romantic?)

I had asked my friend to do my hair in a fancy up-do for the dance with Ryan, and while she worked, I chatted endlessly about this man named Joshua I had met at school that day.  I don’t know how I came up with so much to say about someone I’d only talked to for a quarter of an hour, but you and I both know how silly girls can be.

At some point in the course of our conversation I told her, “I think I’m going to marry him!”  She responded by telling me I was crazy.  (I still have the professional photo taken of Ryan and me at the formal dance, and it’s one of my favorites because of the fond memories I have of that day and even of my hairdo.)

I couldn’t stop thinking about Joshua for days, and he must have had a similar weekend.  On Monday he got my phone number from our professor (with my permission), called me up, and the rest of our story is for future chapters.

Being Plural in Public

I just didn’t think about it.

I’m pretty affectionate in public and I simply don’t think about how it could be perceived by others until I have this moment of shock, clarity, and realization that we are not a “normal” family.

Joshua sometimes goes on business trips. When he flies back into town the rest of us like to meet him at the airport. Everyone loves watching for him and being the first to call out when they see him come down the escalator to baggage claim where we are all waiting for him.

The last time we did this, He kissed both Charlotte and me upon greeting.

I then had this moment of “Whoa! what did we just do?”

His coworkers had come in on the same flight. He had not told them about our family. If they saw, what would they think? More importantly, what would they do? There is a law here in Utah making my marriage illegal. Potential reprucussions, although unlikely, huge.

We have this happen every so often in public. Affection in public shown to both wives and I don’t think about it when it happens, and then I look around and see people avert eyes, or stare. It gets all weird. I just want to live my life. I don’t want to be a spectacle.

Seeking Sister Problems

Humans are obligatory problem solvers.  They cannot help it.  If they didn’t have problems of their own, they would invent them.

We humans love problems!  Dealing with problems is essential to our health and well-being.  Our brains are designed to anticipate them, think about them, worry about them, and eventually solve them.  Our brains do this all the time, very well, and sometimes too well.

Even tho tendencies we may have are natural, evil can come of them when they are allowed to roam too far, or wander outside of the bounds the Lord has set. Problem-solving is one such tendency.  It is so ingrained in our being that when things are going generally well, and no problems seem to be presenting themselves to us, we will, of necessity, create our own problems.

If they chose to, most people could objectively look at their lives and see how frequently the problems they had were of their own engineering, and their suffering self-inflicted.  Yes, it is true that time and chance happens to everyone, and yet, it is also true that our lives are largely of our own making.

While these two ideas may seem to be at odds with one another, they are both true.  It is true because: what happens to us is only half of our life.  The other half is how we respond to the things that happen.  This weightier half is made up of what we think and do about the things that happen to us, and those around us.  It is our response to both the past and present, and also our response to the future.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.  – Shakespeare (Hamlet; Act 2, Scene 2)

We interact with the past thru our our mental and emotional analysis of our memories.  We interact with the future thru our mental simulations of possible events.  We imagine the things we might say or do, and we play these things out on the stage of our mind.  The data we have collected, and analyzed, from the past is fed into these simulations of the future.  We interact with the present thru our choices, which are determined by the outcomes of the simulations of our future.  After running these simulations, we do a mental calculation.  We weigh the pros and cons, consider the benefits and costs, the difficulty and feasibility.  In other words, we plan, and then we choose the action based on our plan, however hasty or shortsighted it may be.

molehills“Problems” have everything to do with our perception of them.  As I mentioned above, we even have the power, in our minds, to transform non-problems into problems, or small issues into big issues.  The proverb speaks of turning mole-hills into mountains.

For example, it is normal to have disagreements with those around us.  It is even normal to argue about those disagreements, but it takes special effort to turn agreements into something to argue about.

Here is an example of what I mean.  In episode 10 (of the second season of SSW), Brandy comes back to visit the McGees.  Brandy is spending the day with Paige, chatting and helping with the household chores.  In this scene the two women are folding laundry together, and we quickly see that things are not going very well.  I don’t know how much of this scene is the result of “editorial sculpting”; regardless, this exchange is illustrative.

Brandy: “Do we fold the same?”
Paige: “That’s what I was looking at.  I was like, yeah, she actually folds like I do.”
Brandy: “Nice.”
Paige: “That’s pretty cool.”
Brandy: “So, are you particular about, like, say I would have, (she begins to demonstrate folding a towel another way) because there is another way, and so…”
Paige: “No, I would have fixed it.  I wouldn’t have said anything; I would have just fixed it.”
Brandy:  “You would have fixed it?”
Paige:  “Mm-Hmm.”
Brandy: “Ok, so there is a particular way of doing things?”
Paige:  “Yeah.  There’s a right way and a wrong way.”
Brandy:  “Any other, like, pet peeves or particulars?  Like, if it was my day to do dishes – would you come in behind me and see if the dishwasher was loaded right?”
Paige:  (Nods, Yes)
Brandy:  “Yeah?  I used to be very particular, but now I’m just so grateful if someone helps.  I’ve gotten to where I’m just like, just put it in the closet and shut the door.”
Paige:  “No.  Towels, they have to be put in a certain way because they will fall over.  So, you have to fold them a certain way.”
Brandy:  “So, how would that work, you know, with me coming in?  If I come in, like, how would that work?”
Paige:  “You’ll just have to learn to do it my way.”

Towels

If you can grasp the reality, that our lives are largely what we make of them, and yet you continue to feel like you can’t stop worrying, can’t stop creating problems for yourself, can’t stop creating problems for others, cant stop sabotaging yourself and your relationships; then perhaps there’s something wrong with your understanding of the human brain and our search for happiness and satisfaction.

We aren’t made to experience “happiness” in the way normally think of it: carefree,  pain free, completely fulfilled, excited, and free of any suffering.  Rather, we were made to survive, and survival, in a very human sense, means to create.  The strange thing is that suffering (that is, the mental component of suffering), and creating are connected.   A large part of suffering involves a mental process called rumination.

Rumination is when we focus all our attention on the ways we are suffering, on its possible causes, and on our failures (and the failures of others) that have led us to our suffering.  These thoughts are repeated over and over (thus the name, rumination) without resolution.  We allow ourselves to rehash and dwell upon the causes and consequences of our suffering, rather than dwelling on its solutions.

Instead of devising the next step for our life, we ruminate on the last one. Rather than imagining new opportunities, we assume nothing better is possible. Rather than taking control of our life, we embrace an attitude of powerlessness. We become helpless, and our suffering becomes meaningless because we are at the whim of how the world makes us feel, but we were meant for better things.  We were created to create.  We were made to act, and not to be acted upon (See 2Nephi 2:14-16).

So what is the connection?  Rumination (a component of mental suffering) and creativity are controlled by the same parts of the brain, and they have an inhibiting effect upon one another.  Suffering will result when we stop creating, and visa versa.

Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

When we focus on creating, our pain is no longer meaningless – it is no longer “suffering for suffering’s sake”.  Rather, as pain cannot be altogether avoided, it becomes an expected part of the process – the pain becomes “worth it”.  When we focus on creating and doing, we no longer categorize our emotional experiences as: “things that feel good” or “things that don’t”. Instead, we use the vastly superior categories: “things that are worthwhile” and “things that aren’t”.

Use your mind and energies to create, to do, and to improve.  It will give your brain something productive to do.  These are the things in life that are worthwhile.  These are the things that will give our lives actual meaning, and in a deeper and more satisfying way than complaining and worrying about things will ever do.  I repeat, our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by complaining.  Our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by worrying.  Our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by suffering needlessly, nor by needlessly increasing the suffering of those around us.  

Our lives are made meaningful and satisfying by the things we do and create.

Increase the talents given to you, rather than hiding them.  Read a book, write a book, grow a garden, fix your marriage, plan a trip, learn a foreign language, learn to play an instrument, go back to school, make your children a larger priority in your life, become a regular volunteer for a local charity, change your own motor oil, quit an addiction, start exercising, organize a chess club, get yourself right with God. 

The possibilities are quite literally endless.  There are so many things you could do.  There are so many thing you ought to do, and you know it.  God is the creator, and we are made in his image.  We were made to create.  We were made to improve.

Plural Parenting

I’ve been a plural wife for almost 6 years. We have lived separately for 5 of those years as I got my teens grown and launched.

Charlotte had 3 children when I joined the family. Now she has 4.

It’s been very interesting being a second mother to her children.

I am very grateful that the basics of early parenting are so similar. Cosleeping, extended breastfeeding, baby wearing, etc. I”m grateful that we agree on discipline techniques and are constantly looking for better ways to parent each individual child.

For a long time, because I was only around parts of a couple of days a week, it was difficult finding my voice as a parent to the portion of the family I didn’t live with daily. Now that I live in the same overarching home, it has gotten much easier and I have much more enlightenment on the day to day running of the household. I’m beginning to understand how kids can work the system, and how much more plural parents have to be in communication in order to limit treats and deal with chore assignments.

I am a parent to these children of Joshua and Charlotte. I have a very vested interest in them and even more so now. We are a family.

We support each other in parenting. If we believe another adult to be out of line or too harsh, we save those criticisms for out of child earshot. I have been very neededly pulled out of situations where I escalated too abruptly and too loudly (AKA lost my damn mind). A pair of scissors and a Bluebird flour bag come to mind.

There are a couple of funny things which have happened recently:

Each night we have family time which consists of Joshua reading, each person sharing something about the day, and family prayer. A while ago, while gathering the 10-year-old came in sulking and complaining “In the last 5 minutes, I’ve been asked by 3 parents if I’ve brushed my teeth!” Sorry kid; it’s just a parent thing, and you have more than most.

I was reading a book to the 2 1/2-year-old about 5 little monkeys and their mother’s birthday. The little monkeys were making their mother a cake. Our toddler was very confused and asked “Where is the other mama?! as she thumbed through the pages looking for another mother. I told her that there was only one mother in the monkey family and she kept asking why.  I just explained that there are many families with only one mom.  She was very dissatisfied that that was the case.

We were at a Sunday meeting with other multiple-mother families and the 6-year-old was on a stairwell with a group of other young girls. She was attempting to explain who I was, “She’s kind of like my Stepmother, but she’s not.”  I called up to her, “Just call me your other mother. All of these girls likely have at least 2 maybe 3 moms.”  She had a sigh of relief and the other girls collectively nodded their heads in understanding.

~~~~

One of the most exciting and joyful things about being in my family is that I am expecting a baby in about a month.

As hard as it was to wait for so long, I am so happy this kiddo is being born into a plural family who lives together. I’m excited to have other parents who are so good at parenting and are much closer to the tiny years, so I can ask for help on things like baby carriers and EC.  I’m excited that this baby will be like an only child, but with older siblings who are eager to help and excited for a new family member.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

People and Things

I had an experience a few weeks ago that I want to share. It is not directly related to plural marriage per se; rather, it is about family relationships. Which, I suppose, may be more directly related to plural marriage than any scriptural, doctrinal, historical, or cultural commentary that could ever be written on the subject. This experience is a bit embarrassing to me, but I hope that it will be instructive to others. I hope also that it will be instructive to my future self. Hopefully, now that I have written it down, I can refer to it in times to come in order to remind myself of the wisdom I so easily forget.

Last month was Christmas. My family celebrates Christmas. In fact, we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, but we don’t do the Christmas tree, the evergreen boughs, the Yule log, the mistletoe, or Santa Claus. With our gift giving we want our children to remember the gifts of the Wise Men to the Christ child, and the loving Gift of God’s Son to the world.

john 3_16

And yet, even without Santa Claus and the shameful commercialization of the season, things can still become the focus of our attention, and mere objects can take on significance far greater than they merit.

One of the gifts that my wife Charlotte received was a Newton’s Cradle for her desk. You have seen them before. It is a clever little toy that uses swinging steel balls, suspended from strings, to demonstrate Newton’s laws of forces and motion and the conservation of momentum. There is a picture of one at the beginning of this post.

Charlotte liked her gift, but she wasn’t the only one. My son also took a keen interest in the toy. Those first few days he played with it more than the rest of us combined. He was fascinated with it, and experimented with all the different combinations of ball collisions he could think of. He would pull 1, 2, 3, or 4 balls from the left, or from the right and let them collide with the remaining balls. He would even pull back different numbers of balls from both sides at once and let them strike the remaining balls – sometimes simultaneously and sometimes intentionally delayed by a moment. It was fun just to watch him play and discover.

Then one afternoon I walked in on my son who was standing over a miserably tangled Newton’s Cradle. It was a useless, hopeless, knotted mass of strings and balls (apparently this is a common occurrence as I had no difficulty finding this picture with a Google image search).  I was shocked and disappointed at the sight complicated_ballsand allowed my displeasure to be known. With some exasperation and annoyance in my voice (and yet still attempting to remain calm) I asked him firmly, “What, are you doing?!”. I could tell that he was afraid of being punished, yet he replied that he had turned it upside down, and that everything had become suddenly tangled when he did that. This only increased my anger and annoyance with him. “Why would you do that?” I asked, along with many other, similarly accusatory and belittling, questions. “What were you thinking?”, “What did you think would happen?”, “Why would you treat someone else’s property in such an abusive manner?”. I restrained myself from spanking him, but the verbal lashing I gave to him was more than harsh enough.

I pushed him aside and sat myself down to see if I could do anything to remedy the situation. As I inspected the toy I discovered, to my surprise, that it was not nearly as difficult to untangle as it had appeared, and I had it completely resolved in less than 5 minutes. You might think that this result would have brought me happiness, relief, and satisfaction, but it only furthered my disappointment; not at my son, but at myself.

As I was untangling the dumb trinket, I realized how simple and trivial the mere thing was in comparison to my son, and how little I really valued it in comparison to him. The thing was $6 plus shipping, but my son was priceless! And yet, in my moment of weakness, I had allowed the thing to become more important to me than my son! How foolish and silly I am at times.

After finishing I looked around and saw that my son had been anxiously watching me the whole time. I thought that he had left the room. With my heart now considerably softened, I showed him the toy. He expressed his relief at the result. I asked him, this time more gently, about how it had happened. He explained to me that he was moving it with both hands, but that one of them had slipped. He had kept a hold with the other hand, but the toy had swung upside down as a result.

He had not behaved in an abusive manner towards the toy, but I had behaved in an abusive manner towards him. It was all just an accident! It was something I might have done myself! I have done similar things before – we all have! My heart was further broken by hearing this. I had jumped to accusations and anger without even bothering to discover the truth first! Isn’t my son worth asking a few questions? Isn’t the truth worth asking a few questions? Yes, the thing is important (how important? – $6 worth, plus shipping), but it is not more important than my boy.

Advice For Potential Plural Husbands (From a Current Plural Husband)

This post will be written primarily to those men who are contemplating becoming plurally married.  However, those men (and women too) who are already part of a polygamous family may still find this post interesting and entertaining.

I hope that the comment section of this post will fill up with additional bits of wisdom from other plural husbands or wives – people who have lived within this type of family structure and have some insight to share.  I know that some have had wonderful experiences with polygamy, and others have experienced heartbreak.  I invite the wisdom from both in the comments below.

Also, I plan on doing several more advice posts, so save your advice for wives until then.  I decided to start this series of advice posts because someone has reached out to my wife Charlotte asking for this type of advice.  I apologize for the tardiness, the advice was asked for quite a while ago, but I just haven’t been able to get to it.  Here then is the first thing to plan for:

1) Be prepared to have much less free time.

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In fact, I should probably be doing something else right now other than working on this blog post.  You will have nearly constant demands for your time from both wives and children, and rightly so.  The demands, each in turn, will be physical, logistical, emotional, or spiritual, but each will require a slice of time.  Each person will have to have their father or husband cup filled on a regular basis in order for the relationships to remain healthy and strong.  Of course, no wife needs constant attention from a husband, nor does any child need constant attention from its father (or mother(s)), but when you have several, their needs tend to spread and overlap in such a way that will cause you to always be attending to someone.  It could overwhelm you if you let it.

2) You don’t know anything.

Women are more emotional than men.  This is true no matter the marital status of the woman whether single, monogamously married, or plurally married.  This also makes women mysterious (as the poets and storytellers have noted since antiquity).  Adding more women to your life will add more mystery, bewilderment, and confusion to your life.  And the addition is not as straightforward as 1+1=2.  No no, going from 1 woman to 2 will more than double the emotional complexity of your life.  Be prepared to face utter cluelessness on a regular basis, where you are completely stupefied, and have no idea what to do to fix the problem at hand.

While the emotional burden will be draining (at times to the point of exhaustion), this is not to say that it isn’t worth the effort – far from it.  Nothing worth anything comes without effort.  And of course, it’s not all difficulties.  There will be wonderful times as well.  You will have the highest highs and the lowest lows of your life. It will bring you face to face with your greatest fear: failure.

3) Make friends with other plural families. 

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
– Proverbs 27:17

The detractors and critics will take care of themselves – you will probably have more of them than you would care to have.  That being said, find a plurally married man who is respectable; someone you can look to for advice and support.  Knowing another, well-functioning plural family will be a great support to your wife or wives and your children as well.  Building or joining a network or community of supporting, like-minded people is one of the best things you can do for your own family, and you and your family will be a support for them as well.  Win-win!  I am so grateful for all of my supportive friends and neighbors.

And, while we are talking about supporters:

4) You should be your own family’s best supporter.

If you have a family already, then build them up and encourage them.  If you are single, then seek to be optimistic, positive, helpful, and useful rather than negative and criticizing.  Yes, there is a place for discipline, and sternness, and all that comes along with that, but you want to be like a benevolent king to your family, not like a tyrant.  Your wife and children should desire your company.  You should accentuate and notice the positive in them, and make your support and approval known to them.  You should realize that a husband or father criticizing his family is really a criticism of himself.  If there is something wrong with a wife or child, then a good husband or father will accept the fact that he has played a major part in creating his family.  Take the moment to teach instead. And if you must correct and discipline, then you must always show afterwards an increase of love towards the person you have chastened – lest they consider you their enemy.

If you are ever called upon to chasten a person, never chasten beyond the balm you have within you to bind up. – Brigham Young, JoD 9:124-125

Not only should you be supportive of your own family, and encourage a general feeling and practice of mutual support among all the members of the family, but you should also discourage detractors from within as well.

5) Family members should not spread their views about the faults of current family members to the potential new spouse; thus tainting her views from the get go.

Orson Pratt had some excellent things to say about this idea in his essay entitled, The Equality and Oneness of the Saints.  In his essay, Elder Pratt is speaking about people joining the saints, but the principle applies just as well to people joining any family.

“Through faith, repentance, baptism, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, the imperfect sons and daughters of Adam become the sons and daughters of God; and being born of God, and all baptized with the same spirit into the same body, they begin to feel alike, think alike, and act alike, in many things: this is a first approximation towards a oneness: but being weak, and only having obeyed the first principles of the celestial law, they are tempted by the devil; divisions of feeling arise; each one sees the faults and imperfections of his brothers or sisters; and instead of trying to reclaim them in the spirit of meekness from their faults, he whispers them to others; prejudice rises; their love towards them begins to grow cold; this coldness is felt by others, and begets the same feeling in them. And thus the seeds of division are sown, and begin to sprout, and grow, and, if not checked, they speedily bring forth nauseous and bitter fruit, which, when ripened, contains the poison of death.

To counteract these divisions strict laws are given, and authorities ordained to strengthen and succour the weak; to root out all evil-speaking; and to check every sinful thing on its first appearance. Those who give diligent heed, will become habituated to keep the law of God, and will understand their duties, and perform them with cheerfulness and delight. Such will become more and more assimilated in their feelings; their love towards each other, and towards God, and His word, will grow stronger and stronger; and thus by habit they learn obedience to the law of oneness, until they are ready and willing to do anything which that law requires. While those, on the other hand, who do not give heed, find themselves more and more tempted, and their love growing colder and colder, and the faults and imperfections of their brethren and sisters still more magnified in their eyes; and at last, they become destitute of the spirit—destitute of good desires—destitute of the meekness and humility of the Gospel; and the devil takes possession of them, and leads them captive at his own will and pleasure. These do not abide a celestial law, therefore they cannot be made one.”

Orson Pratt, The Seer, Vol. II, No. 7, pg. 290

A husband should not speak ill of his current wife to a potential wife.  He should not taint or influence her first impressions in a negative way.  It will be detrimental to the family to gossip in such a way.  The right way for a potential wife to form her own opinions of her future family members is to meet and spend time with them.  The only reasonable exception I might imagine to this policy is in the case of serious physical or mental illness.  Even then, it still might be better for the potential wife to find out these things by her own interaction.  Either way, it will not be good to start a relationship with spouses on different “teams“.

6) Work on being the best man you can be first. Work on being the best husband you can be first. Work on having a good marriage first. 

I call this the Jordan Peterson principle – clean your room.  If you are single, getting married will not fix your problems.  Fix yourself up before getting married.  Make yourself a person that a woman would want to be married to.

If you are already married, getting married again will not fix your problems.  Adding a second marriage will not fix your first marriage (nor will a third marriage fix a second, etc.).  Have a good, loving, stable relationship first before adding another wife.  If your current marriage is already unstable then you have got more than enough problems to deal with already, without adding further complexity to your lives.  You may hear anecdotal occasions where this sort of thing may have helped, but don’t bet on it.

No man ever did, or ever will rule judiciously on this earth, with honor to himself and glory to his God unless he first learn to rule and control himself. A man must first learn to rightly rule himself, before his knowledge can be fully brought to bear for the correct government of a family, a neighborhood, or nation, over which it is his lot to preside. – Brigham Young, JoD 3:256

This idea is very similar to the common tragedy of a woman wanting to have a baby with her husband (or boyfriend) in order to get him to stay with her, or to love her, or to fix their relationship.  It doesn’t work! And it is a terrible plan! Fix yourself and your relationships first.

Growing your family is important, but we should not run faster than we are able.  Adding people brings chaos.  Get your house in order before adding additional members (whether wives or children) and complexity to your family.

7) Take as much care in the additional wives as you did in the first.  Don’t rush headlong into a second marriage (or third).goat and fox

Additional marriages can, and often do, happen faster than the first.  This is very understandable as the situation is quite different.  People generally know how things work, are more mature, know what they are looking for, are in a better financial situation, aren’t waiting for their parents’ input/approval/funding etc., and yet there is much folly.  It often happens that people rush into plural marriage without giving proper consideration to the personality, habits, beliefs, etc. of the new person they are wanting to add to the family.  Go slow, and don’t be afraid to back out.  There is so much at stake.  People have often make a perfect wreck of their lives by jumping into something without looking.  Of course, the very same things can and should be said about monogamy.

Here is a good example; if a potential wife already has children of her own (however that may have occurred), you should realize that you will be presented with more than an extra measure of drama.  As Joe Darger once remarked, “It’s harder to add a stepkid than to add a wife.”  It may take years to develop a good relationship with stepchildren, and it may never happen if there is resentment.  Things to consider.

The wise saying holds true for any type of marriage: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

8) It’s not all about the sex.

It is certainly true that sex is an important part of any good marriage (whether polygamous or monogamous), and I will have an entire post about this subject in the future.  However, this is not a sound basis upon which to build any relationship.  Sex is one dimension of a multidimensional thing called marriage.  Sex alone is not enough to make anyone happy in marriage.  Most of marriage is not sex.

However, I do believe this is a common mistake for men to make in both monogamous and polygamous situations.  I have known monogamous men who told me they were looking forward to marriage just so they could have sex.  No wonder the divorce rate is so high.  It is particularly enticing bait that women hold out for us, and rightly so as it is intended to lead to marriage, but marriage is a long-term relationship.  You want to find someone you can grow old with; someone you will be happy to share your life with; someone who will be happy to share their life with you, and this is based on much more than sex appeal.

9) Be upfront and above board in your communications about the possibility of having another woman join your family in the future.

If you are single, be upfront with your potential spouse about the possibility of having another woman join your family in the future.  Clear, upfront expectations can make anything go more smoothly.  No one likes to have the rules changed mid-game or the terms changed mid-contract.  If you are already married it is the same story, but may be complicated if polygamy has not been a part of the plan from the beginning.  As I just said, it’s not fair to change the rules mid-game.  Having a wife united with you is heaven, having division between you is hell.  If polygamy was not potentially a part of the game plan from the beginning, then you need to be sensitive, honorable, and respect that fact.  Whatever happens, be patient (who knows, she might be the one to bring it up with you).  Do not go around in secret courting and collecting wives.  I know it has been done before, but I would never recommend it as a general course of action (I wouldn’t even recommend it on an individual basis – there is so much at stake).  Don’t make it part of your plan.  It will only lead to heartache and loss.

10) Know why you are doing it, and then stick to it. Tower

Be committed thru thick and thin.  It’s going to be rough sometimes (maybe oftentimes); you’ll need to be committed to get thru.  Count the cost! Like Jesus said,

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” – Luke 14:28-30

Consider the difficulties first.  Polygamy will place financial, emotional, physical, spiritual, and social pressures on you and your family.  Be sure that you are aware of the possible extent of these difficulties ahead of time, have a plan to deal with them, and be sure that your mental and emotional resolve is sufficient to meet the challenges in advance.  Then, once you have started don’t look backRemember Lot’s wife.  Be all in, or not at all.  Hot and cold both make pleasant drinks, but lukewarm gets spit out.

11) Get yourself into good financial shape.

moneyThe truth is, you may not be able to afford additional wives.  Being welcomed into an impoverished family situation is not what women are looking for.  Financial security is a particularly enticing piece of bait that men hold out for women, and rightly so as it is intended to lead to marriage. Financial difficulties are a major cause of marital problems, and even divorce, in monogamous couples.  It is no different for polygamists.  Polygamy itself can be more stressful than monogamy at times (and sometimes less stressful too); therefore, you will not want to add financial stress on top of other stresses that are already intrinsic to polygamy.

Closely related to financial preparations are the physical, logistical preparations such as lodging and transportation.  Adding another master bedroom is good, but may not be enough.  You might need another kitchen too, and maybe other space.  This will depend on your wives.  Maybe they can live together harmoniously in the same house, maybe they would even prefer it, and more happiness to you if they can, but it is not an unreasonable request if they want their own space – they are entitled to that much.  Putting a wife in a regular room (while the other wife is in a master bedroom) is not good enough for a long-term arrangement.  Don’t make this your plan.  It may be fine initially, but will probably fail in the long run.  If you can’t afford to do this, then you probably can’t afford to have another wife.

12) Women are afraid of being abandoned.

Your first wife must feel secure in her relationship with you, she must feel secure in your love for her, and feel secure in her financial support from you.  You should be sensitive toward these natural and understandable fears.  One area where you may want to be especially sensitive is in public displays of affection to a new or potential wife in front of established wives.  You may want to limit this at first (and you will want to limit it both ways).  Showing affection in public and in private is an important part of a marriage relationship, and it is something that a first wife is going to have to come to terms with, no doubt.  That doesn’t mean it will be easy.  However, it will become easier and more natural as time goes on.

                                                                       

There you have it.  Take this advice for what it’s worth.  Not all of these may apply to every situation, and some things you may disagree with.  I openly invite your additional wisdom or counter advice in the comments below.  Feel free to ask me to clarify my thoughts on anything that didn’t seem perfectly clear above. One more thing, after saying all of this you may get the impression that plural marriage has so many difficulties that it should be avoided all together.  This may be true for some people, maybe even most people, but it is not true for all people.  Even with all the difficulties, I am a fully converted polygamist.  I find the rewards well worth the efforts, and I wouldn’t trade it back if I could.  Thank you Charlotte and Melissa for making my life so full and blessed!

Sealing Part III (The Parable of the Two Sons)

And when Jesus was come into the temple, the high priests and the elders of the church came unto him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority do you do these things?”, and, “who gave you this authority?”

Jesus answered them, “Tell me what you think? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, ‘Son, go find yourself a wife, and make an eternal family.’

The first son said, ‘I’m not interested.’  Nevertheless, he eventually did find a wife, but they were not married in the temple.  And yet he loved and cherished her like a treasure, and worked hard to lead their growing family, and to provide for all her needs.  She likewise loved and honored him as her husband, and was a devoted and supporting wife.

Then the man came to the second son, and told him likewise to, ‘find yourself a wife, and make an eternal family.’

And he answered and said, ‘I will sir.’  He found a woman, and married her in the temple – a fact that he was always very proud of.  By and by he began to neglect and abuse her, and she him.  They insulted rather than complimented one another, they were always on the lookout to find fault and to take offense, they never apologized or reconciled, and they were secretly glad when something bad happened to the other.  They were miserable, but still took pride in the fact that they were married by the proper authority.”

When Jesus was finished he asked, “Which of the two did the will of his father?”

It was actually harder for them to answer than you might realize, but eventually one elder, who was a little wiser than the rest, replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus said unto them, “Truly I say unto you, that the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”

What is Sealing? (Part II)