Mama Donna (and Other Relatives)

Q:  You want to know what problem with polygamy is?

A:  Multiple Mother-in-Laws.

OK, joking aside (and I’m only partially joking), I feel the need to say a few words about the Snowdens’ most recent interaction with Ashley’s mother, Donna.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the Snowdens are doing great this time around!  But I did find something very disconcerting about the most recent episode of Seeking Sister Wife.

Let me also say, I am very happy that Dimitri’s surprise turned out so well.  It was a bold move for Dimitri, and, after all the extreme discomfort, Mama Donna was ultimately very graceful.  It was a gratifying moment, and a lot of the credit for this had to do with Vanessa’s heartfelt and touching words – she is a gem.  I think she won Mama Donna over.  I also have to give some applause to TLC and the producers of Seeking Sister Wife.  They are the masters of suspense and of the awkward situation.  The awkwardness was so thick it was palpable.  I’m sure there was so much editing and splicing in this scene, but it was entertaining nevertheless.

Alright, here is the issue I wanted to address: At 20 minutes and 24 seconds into the episode Dimitri says,

“If Mama Donna is not on board with Vanessa, you know, this could be the end of our relationship with Vanessa.”

the end of vanessa

As I mentioned earlier, I am very glad that things worked out for them, and I hope that this is not really what Dimitri meant to say; because, it is completely wrong to involve your parents, or your in-laws, in your marriage to the point of giving them veto power.  Yes, parents need to be respected and indeed honored, but they are also supposed to be left behind.

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

They are supposed to be left behind in many ways.  They are no longer supposed to be relied upon for financial or emotional support.  And, while they may be consulted for advice, they are no longer to have any authority to make decisions for your life.  Adults, and especially married people, must live their own lives, be responsible for their own decisions, and responsible for their own support, independent of their parents and other relatives.  There is no closer relationship, and no bond tighter, than the one you have with your spouse(s).

This can be a very difficult thing for some people to do – difficult for both the parents and the children!  I remember making announcements to our own extended family members when we had become polygamous.  I had to remind so many of them that they could not make decisions for us, and to stop trying, and to stop fretting about it.  After all, it would not affect them any more than they allowed it to.

I liked so much what Sophie Winder had to say on this subject a little earlier in the episode when she was talking to her brother,

Sophie Tells it

“I feel like I’m living this lifestyle with Tami and Colton because I was called to it.  My marriage with Tami and Colton is what we build up, not what your opinion of it is.”

She goes on to say,

“The fact that my brother doesn’t necessarily agree with this lifestyle, you know, kind of sucks, but I firmly believe in my lifestyle, and I don’t feel like there’s any need to apologize, and so I’m going to choose what feels right for my life.”

Preach it Sophie!

The Briney Family and Season 2 of Seeking Sister Wife

I suppose all the viewers have realized by now that the Briney family is not returning for the second season of Seeking Sister Wife, and I just wanted to say a few words about that.  Of course, as a polygamist myself, I will have a somewhat different view on things than most others.

Different people will want different things from a show about polygamy.  Some will want simple entertainment; the novelty of seeing a glimpse into the lives of real-life polygamous families is in itself a compelling reason to watch.  Others might find it educational.  They might be interested in how a polygamous family works, how do they manage their time, raise their children, what are their living arrangements like, sleeping schedules, etc.  Others will look forward to seeing drama and bickering.  The misery of others can be cruel sport.  There will even be some who watch with hopes of seeing plural families fail in a public way.  This will add further justification to their negative views and stereotypes relating to polygamy, and fuel their support of (and efforts to reinforce) political, social, and legal barriers to those families.  As for myself and the rest of the polygamy community, I think we all hope that shows like this will be good publicity, good PR, and will generally show the positive, functional, and healthy side of this kind of family.  We hope that they will help to change the largely negative public perception of plural families.  Yes, every family, indeed every individual, has problems and struggles, but last season of Seeking Sister Wife was, frankly speaking, a disappointing train wreck.

This is not all the fault of the Brineys, of course, but I know they have a similar feeling about their own showing last season.  Here are some quotes about it from their family blog, The Briney Family.

I see bitter bickering and failure to abide by basic Christian principles that leaves me feeling inexpressibly sad and extremely regretful that we, as a family, set such a bad example of our lifestyle on national tv. Worst. Disappointment. Of. My. Life.  – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

I’m truly heartbroken we’ve set such a bad example of our lifestyle that we fed that culture to whatever degree we did. – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

As a family (including April), we were all devastated at how poorly our family represented our Mormon fundamentalist friends and peers. We’d hoped to show how most polygamist families were normal, good people.  – Drew (April’s Apology regarding Season 1)

April herself has told my wives and me in person that she has regret about the way things turned out on the show.  Before anyone thinks I am picking on the Briney family, I want to say also that the family represented on TV was not a representation of their usual family life!  The Brineys are also in agreement with this point.

We know that the mentally stable April would not have done the things that she’s done. – Angela (Why the Brineys are Not Returning for Season 2 of TLCs Seeking Sister Wife)

These types of viewers notice that we’re “real” because we allowed ourselves to show our bad side on camera so people can see what the lifestyle is “really like.” I swallow hard when I hear that one. Our first season doesn’t show what our lifestyle is “really like.” It shows us experiencing our worst train wreck as a family! – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

We’d hoped to show how most polygamist families were normal, good people. Instead, unforeseen challenges led us to be a poor example of our lifestyle, our culture, and our peers. – Drew (April’s Apology Regarding Season 1)

I personally believe that their sudden television exposure, with its accompanying change of living arrangements (all moving in together in the same house), was a HUGE stressor to their family that they would not have been exposed to otherwise.  It is not uncommon for families to end up broken after large, traumatic life changes (one spouse gets a serious disease – even if they are later cured, a child dies, a child is born, career changes, becoming empty nesters, etc).  It happens, and it is tragic.

What happened with the Briney family was a tragedy as well.  I love them all and still and count them as friends.  April has been to my house several times since then and Drew and the rest of his family are welcome to visit as well.

Having said all that, I want to thank TLC!  I know that many people have expressed dismay that the Brineys did not come back, but not me.  Personally, I am glad of it, and I think TLC made the right decision.  I know that even the Brineys (Drew, Auralee, and Angela) wanted the story of their family breaking up to air, but things are probably better this way.  I think it would have been bad for everyone (all the members of the Briney family and the larger plural community as well), to have to live their personal family drama thrice. Once as it happened; once again when it was edited, distilled to its most potent form, and aired on national TV; and again when dissected and criticized ad nauseam by all the insensitive onlookers on social media. How can that be good for anyone?  What person or relationship could thrive under those circumstances? It would wither anyone.

I hope, now that the pressure and stress of being in the public eye is largely gone, that the Briney family can rest, recuperate, reflect, and put all the pain and drama behind them.  Who knows, maybe they’ll even be back for a future season after taking a break for a while.

Forgetting is actually an important part of our mental function and mental health.  Forgetting helps us to live our lives in relative peace and be able to focus on the present.  Having old offenses repeatedly dug up and examined (which is what would have happened had the juicy story aired) will not help us to live abundantly in the now.  Forgetting offenses is an important part of forgiveness.  The scriptures testify repeatedly that God will not only forgive our sins, but also forget them.  They will be blotted out.  He will mention them to us no more!

God bless the Briney family.

See here for some ideas if you are interested in helping the Briney Family.