Parents: More is Better

Mothers everywhere know what it means when their husband is traveling for work: All the parenting, 24 hours a day, falls to you.

Such was the situation I found myself in, with my husband across the country on business, and I was discouraged and exhausted. The days were long, our routine disrupted, and the children tired of not seeing their father.

My son blew the shofar to call us to our evening family time, where everyone has a chance to show something or tell about their day; we lovingly call this time “Shofar & Tell” (a play on “Show and Tell” — get it?).

We gathered in the living room of my sisterwife Melissa, and as I routinely do, I pulled out the family Happy Book to write in while we shared our lives and visited together.

My son disrespectfully jumped on my case and told me I shouldn’t have a “toy” during Shofar & Tell (referring to my writing in the Happy Book). He’d been nitpicking and criticizing me a lot, so the uncalled-for criticism was especially frustrating.

We officially got started with Shofar & Tell, and when my daughter’s turn came to hold the shofar and show/tell us something, she took the opportunity to complain about me.

I was hurt, and since I had been struggling for some time with those two children disrespecting me, questioning me, and dishonoring me, it got to be too much.

I said to my sisterwife Melissa, “Why does everything come down to criticizing me and complaining about me? Everyone in this house seems to be starting from a place of ‘Mom is wrong. Mom has wronged me. What is Mom doing wrong right now? What can I criticize Mom about right now?’ I feel like everyone is assuming my guilt until I’m proven innocent.”

Melissa saw the problem, recognized my need for support, and she truly stepped up.

She launched into a scolding lecture about about how lucky the children are to have me; how lucky they are to have a mother who stays home with them and focuses on taking care of them; how they shouldn’t be rude to me; how they should treat me with respect and love; how they ought to show gratitude for me and the good life they have.

She went on and on. A couple of the children got teary-eyed over it. When she was done, she gave every child a chance to say something. To me she said, “I want you to write down in the family Happy Book what they say: I want you to recognize it and embrace it.”

Each of my children expressed their sincere gratitude for me and came over and hugged me. Melissa even had her young child say something nice and hug me, and then she also expressed her love and gave me a hug.

I felt extremely validated and supported. Someone saw me and wanted me to feel appreciated. Someone wasn’t going to stand by and let me be treated with disrespect by my children.

I wasn’t doing all the parenting by myself after all. Melissa and I were together, taking care of the children, trying to teach them, being a good team.

If I had been the only parent home that week, things would not have gone so well, I can promise you that. I would have continued to be sad, and I might have lost my temper with the children and just made things worse.

If our husband Joshua had been there, he certainly would have shushed the children to keep the peace and given me moral support later in a private conversation.

But Melissa took it further and worked right then and there to truly change the hearts of the children and let me know how much she supports me.

This is one real-life example of the benefits of a polygamous family.

My children are lucky Melissa is invested in them the way every mother should be invested in her children, and I’m grateful to have her as a co-parent.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Is Always First

I want to write about a serious deficiency that many families face.  It is a plague upon the modern family: absentee fathers.  Sadly, much of the blame for this plague can be placed at the feet of our own government.  For generations now they have incentivized (in other words, encouraged) fatherless homes, and encouraged our women to marry the government. Fatherless homes are perhaps the biggest problem facing our culture.

The percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased dramatically in this country over the past few decades.  A generation or two ago only 5% of births were to unmarried women.  The current figure is hovering somewhere around 40%!  One of the amazing things about this trend is that it has happened after the invention of modern birth control! Shouldn’t the availability of birth control methods have lowered the incidence of births out of wedlock?  It seems that it has had the opposite effect in some regards. It has simply helped to create a culture of ever deteriorating morals. It doesn’t take a psychologist or social scientist to realize that this trend is detrimental to our society in a great many ways.

75_Births-to-Unmarried-Women_Image1

Children do better in every way with both a father and a mother in the home!  And fathers especially seem to have a large positive influence.  Children do better in every way you could think to measure when there is an involved father in the home.  There is a large body of evidence supporting what we already instinctively know about fathers, but in a time such as ours, when truth and wisdom are so often seen as foolishness (or “backwards” or “outdated” or “sexist” etc.), it is good to have some facts at our disposal.

Here I have gathered some statistics from various sources.  Please don’t write any comments about exceptions to these statistics.  I know there are bad fathers and husbands out there.  Maybe even your very own father was abusive.  If so, I would be very sorry to hear it, but it in no way contradicts the numbers I am about to share.  These numbers are speaking about fathers in general, and, generally speaking, fathers are very good to have around.

85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes.

71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

71% of pregnant teens have no father present in their life. Fatherless children are more likely to have children outside marriage or outside any partnership whatsoever.

90% of runaway children have an absent father.

Fatherless children are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs in childhood and adulthood.

nationalfatherhoodinitiativefatherabsencecrisis

Fathers are the natural protectors of their families. Therefore, fatherless children are at greater risk of suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.    Preschoolers living only with their mother are 40 times more likely to be sexually abused, and 5 times more likely to experience physical abuse and emotional maltreatment (with a 100 times higher risk of that abuse being fatal).

Fatherless children report significantly more psychosomatic health symptoms and illness such as acute and chronic pain, asthma, headaches, and stomach aches.

Children with absent fathers are consistently overrepresented among those with anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

As adults, fatherless children are more likely to experience unemployment, have low incomes, remain on social assistance, and experience homelessness.

Children with absent fathers are more likely to divorce, or dissolve their cohabiting unions.

Fatherless children are more likely to die as children, and live an average of four years less over the life span.

Given the fact that these and other social problems correlate more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other factor, surpassing race, social class, and poverty, father absence may well be the most critical social issue of our time.

Fathers are an absolutely vital part of human life and development, but a part that is often discredited and marginalized.  Our society at large is screaming at men and boys that they ought to be ashamed for what they have done (i.e. existing as males), and for the negative effects they have had on the world.  And that they ought to apologize for some imagined and unearned “privilege” which they have stolen from women – whom they have horribly abused and oppressed for the whole of history, and continue to oppress to the present day.  Our children are constantly being fed the lie that men ought to be more like women, and that women and men are equal in every way.  It is all a part of the attempted suicide of our western culture, and there are real and concerted efforts on many fronts to achieve this end.

For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) recently released their Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men wherein they state, “Research suggests that socialization practices that teach boys from an early age to be self-reliant, strong, and to minimize and manage their problems on their own yield adult men who are less willing to seek mental health treatment.”  The entire premise of this sentence is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in print.  Conflict of interest much?  In other words these psychologists are saying, “Teaching boys to be strong, self reliant, and to manage their own problems, makes them not give as much money to us when they are adults.”  Just think of it, they are criticizing teaching boys to be self-reliant, strong, and to manage their own problems!  These people are actively engaged in the destruction of everything good and right in the world.

Here is what Jordan Peterson had to say about the document mentioned:

Let me translate this opening salvo into something approximating clear and blunt English. The authors are claiming that men who socialize their boys in a traditional manner destroy their mental health. This translation/clarification needs to be extended to the second major claim of the document, which is distributed more subtly through its body. We’ll begin with this quote, taken from the Guidelines (p. 3): “Research suggests that socialization practices that teach boys from an early age to be self-reliant, strong, and to minimize and manage their problems on their own yield adult men who are less willing to seek mental health treatment,” in combination with this one (p. 3, as well): “Men are overrepresented in prisons, are more likely than women to commit violent crimes, and are at greatest risk of being a victim of violent crime (e.g., homicide, aggravated assault; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015).” So, it’s not only that men who encourage their boys to be “self-reliant, strong and manage their problems on their own” destroy the mental health of their children: they also produce adults who are a primary menace to their families and society.

This is all bad enough (and by that I mean inexcusable) conceptually, rhetorically and politically. But it’s also a lie, scientifically—and worse (because not merely a lie; instead, something more unforgivable). To indicate, as the writers have, that it is the socialization of boys and men by men that is producing both a decrement in the personal mental health of males and females and a threat to the social fabric is not only to get the facts wrong, but to get them wrong in a manner that is directly antithetical to the truth…

It’s simple – and it is this simple fact that is absolutely damning to the claims in the APA document. What kind of families produce violent young men? Fatherless families. The pernicious effect of fatherlessness is exceptionally well-documented. No serious researchers question it. Even the generally damnable sociologists admit it (see, for example, http://bit.ly/2HB27JL). Fatherless girls tend, for example, toward early sexual experimentation (something in itself linked to antisocial behavior) and, unsurprisingly, higher rates of teenage pregnancy. What might be more surprising, however, is that there is even evidence for earlier puberty among girls whose fathers are absent. Fatherless boys are over-represented as alcoholics, addicts, gang-members, prisoners, rapists and murderers. And there’s plenty of what is positive that is lacking among fatherless children, in addition to the negative that is more likely to be present (here’s a decent summary, in lay language: http://bit.ly/2HB27JL)

Consider this (it’s of primary importance): If it is fatherless boys who are violent, how can it be that masculine socialization produces harm both to mental health and society? The data should indicate precisely the opposite: that boys who are only raised by women are much less violent than boys who have men in their lives and, similarly, that boys who do have fathers are more violent than those who do not.

This is not the case. Period.

What does all of this have to do with polygamy?  A lot.  Diminished influence of a strong father figure is obviously a potential problem facing polygamous families as well – especially if the wives live in separate houses (and more especially if those houses are separated by great distances).  And of course, the danger of this increases with each additional wife in a family (assuming the branches of the family live separately).  Having the father absent every other evening, or whatever, is potentially going to have a negative effect on his children, and that is a problem that plural husbands need to address!

A few episodes ago Vanessa Cobbs has her two sisters visit in L.A. and there are some tense moments between them – especially between her and her twin sister Adrienne.  At one point Adrienne tells Vanessa that she will never be the center of Dimitri’s world.  I Vanessa’s reply: that Dimitri’s universe is big, that she and Ashley are both the center of it, and that his children are at the center of it too!

so are his children

In the next episode we see Adrienne talking to Ashley and Dimitri around the pool.  She’s still not convinced, but she is showing some openness to the idea, and wants to actually know more about it.  At one point she is talking to Dimitri and I ❤ this exchange as well!  It so completely shows the outlook that a successful plural husband must have.

hobby

She asks him about the difficulties of providing for the emotions and well being of two women.  In reply he speaks of listening and giving each woman what she needs.  She then asks him about time, and his response is that he, “builds around his family”, “keeps them in the center”, and makes his “family always first”.  In this way he can allocate his time and resources to meet his family’s needs.  From what we are seeing, Dimitri seems to be doing it well.  I love too that she eventually came around, and even apologized to Vanessa for her earlier offensiveness.

family first

Men need to be there. They need to make their families a priority. There is no substitute for a father in the home, and polygamous men, if they want to have a successful family, need to work extra hard to make it happen. They need to be thinking of their families all the time, and acting in a way that puts them first.  Polygamous men don’t have time for hobbies – their families need to be their hobby, or they need to find a way to involve their family in their hobbies.  Seriously; if you are a video gamer, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.  If you spend all your evenings watching sports with the guys, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.  If you spend every free weekend at the golf course, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.

I am not speaking against recreation. I am speaking about priorities and life-habits. By all means, read a book, take a walk, watch the big game. All that is a needful part of a healthy life, but these things will necessarily occur much less frequently for plural men.  At least, they will occur less frequently without your family present.

The difference is that polygamous men might read a book – to their children, take a walk – with their wives, and watch the big game with their sons – rather than with the guys.  I am not saying that monogamous men don’t do these things; I am saying that polygamous men must.

There are amazing plural families and amazing monogamous families. Of course, both can be dysfunctional as well. In either case the difference, I believe, is largely a difference in dedication.

No matter your position in life, or the type of family structure you are a part of, let’s raise healthy, strong, confident, self-sufficient children – and unapologetically so.  Let’s push back against the cultural suicide that is occurring. Let’s make this country and this world a better place!

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!

Happiness

“If they’re happy with her and they make her happy, then I’m happy.”  Bree 33:30 Season 2 Episode 6

This. This exactly.  So.many.times, this is the type of response I have wanted, but it has not been something that has been expressed upon disclosure by people whom I have had relationships with the longest. Rather, there has been outrage, upset, and hateful words and deeds.  There are literally 5 people, who are close family or long-time friends, whom I have disclosed to in real life that did not express some form of hateful judgment, or have their spouses want them to limit contact with me.

Why?  Why do people insist that others stay in a prescribed box, and not allow them to act according to the dictates of their own conscience?  Why wouldn’t they give latitude for grown adults to make their own decisions and live their lives as they see fit?

Surely, it can’t be that they think they are the only ones going to Heaven?  Because I don’t think that all that many actually are; regardless of whose signatures are on that piece of paper carried in their wallet or purse.  A thorough, actual review of the Bible never condemns polygamy as these non-scripture reading folk seem to be blissfully unaware.  They prefer to avoid the scriptures in lieu of pastors, preachers, and others dictating to them what they should believe rather than the actual Word of God.

I can only assume that those who react the most vehemently are either somehow dependent on what I do for them in order to be okay with their own lives, or else they are people who insist that everyone have the same belief system that they do.

Both points of view are frankly dangerous. They are the basis for either being unwilling to live one’s own life, or they are the basis for extremists to enact violence against others – as has happened through ages past. This is a possibility that we are very sensitive to, and there is generational sensitivity to this.  Sadly, many other polygamists I know have been the subject of persecution, discrimination, and various forms of abuse and even violence.  Not just at the hands of individuals, but also at the hands of religious and civil authorities as well (for example, the cases of Short Creek in 1953 and the 2008 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch.

Because of the history of and possibility for violence, I am all the more grateful, for those few who have expressed that they simply wanted me to be happy.  They are like beams of light on a dreary day.  They have created a small net of safety in the face of uncertainty, and I consider them true friends.  Their friendship is as precious as gold, and likewise untarnishable.

Gold

21 Day Diet

Vanessa’s gonna do it to get the “D.”

Nah, in this society, woman don’t have to try that hard.

I think the 21-day diet has less to do with pH and much more to do with commitment and character.

This 21-day alkaline detox diet is rather limiting.

Vanessa posted it on her Instagram

Here’s a screenshot:

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For a self-professed lover of meat, pizza, and cheeseburgers, this is quite a harsh project which will likely take a lot of commitment. It’s not just what she puts in her mouth.  It’s much larger than that; it’s a marker of her dedication to the whole family.

It’s not about the “D.” I mean, that’s a carrot to chase, and a focus initially, but this is about how she aligns with the familial direction in a much larger sense. This is a sacrifice to gain a family. Ashley and Dimitri have put their children’s hearts on the line, opened their home and their family, and maybe Vanessa’s resolve needs a similar test.

The truth will be known very quickly when the hunger sets in, and likely hangry comes out. She’s a better woman than I, but that has not been a demand made of me, and I assure you that my pH is fine.

I’m looking forward to seeing how she tolerates it. I just hope the previewed, Vanessa-sister-pressure doesn’t come out over marinated kale and roasted butternut squash.

Common Law Marriage in Georgia (or: Are the Snowdens Married? – Season II)

There are still questions about the validity of the Snowdens’ marriage.  I suppose this will probably come up every single season they are on the show.  So, I guess I’ll just plan on writing a blog post every single season about it (or not).

Lets talk about common law marriage in the Peach State since that is where they were living.  Of course they moved to California, so I’ll mention that as well, but first a little background.  GAA common law marriage is simply a marriage which is not officially documented by the state.  It is also often the case that common law marriages are not accompanied by any sort of ceremony (that is to say, a documented ceremony – by a church for example).  This of course does not mean that the people involved are not married.  It merely means that the state has not entered their union into the state’s archives.  Also of note is the fact that common law marriage is not the same thing as, “living together”, or even as, “living together for a long time (7 years or whatever)”.

If its not the same, then what is the difference? What is the main difference  between, “living together” and being married (whether documented or common law)?  Please don’t say, “a piece of paper”; you’ll make me both sad and nauseous at the same time.

I hope everyone would agree (at least everyone who is married, and therefore knows the difference) that the main difference is the commitment to the relationship.  hand heartThe main difference, and the thing that makes marriage different from “shacking up” (and better too), is the commitment to the other person and to the relationship.  This difference, this thing, this commitment, is something that the state cannot create nor control, and yet it is the key ingredient, the main ingredient, and is in fact the very core of the matter.  You could even say it was the heart of the matter.

How is this commitment demonstrated in the eyes of the law?  The requirements are essentially the same for both documented and common law marriages.  They are something like this:

  1. The parties must be eligible (age requirements, not too closely related, mentally sound, etc.).
  2. Both parties must be freely willing to enter this agreement i.e. they agree to be married.
  3. The parties present themselves to their acquaintances as married.
  4. They live to live together as man and wife.
  5. Must consummate the agreement.

There are several states which have laws explicitly recognizing common law marriage.  The details of the qualifications vary from state to state, but here they are: Colorado, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah (Utah has some interesting things to say about common law marriage and polygamy by the way – there’s another post there someday).

However, there is a snag in all of this given that, officially, common law marriage was “abolished” in the state of Georgia in 1997 – but it isn’t remotely so simple.  In the year 2010, the Supreme Court of Georgia actually decided to recognize a common law marriage anyway.  The link to the court’s decision is here if you are interested in the entire thing, but I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version.

The parties involved were Debbie Jean Ault and James A. Norman.  In 1986, Mr. Norman was newly divorced from his previous wife.  Three years later (1989), Ms. Ault began living in the same home as Mr. Norman (in Alabama), sharing a bedroom, and doing housework. They would both tell people that the other was their spouse, Mr. Norman had sexual relations only with Ms. Ault, and Ms. Ault would often call herself Mrs. Norman.  And, while they never actually had a marriage ceremony of any kind, Mr Norman would repeatedly tell Ms. Ault that, “in God’s eyes, you are my wife.”

A few years later (1998) they moved to the neighboring state, Georgia – together, of course.  By this time Georgia had abolished common law marriages; they were a thing of the past!  There they managed to live happily (or not) until 2008 when he filed a law suit against her demanding she pay him damages (for who knows what).  She responded that she would need money to do that, and that she didn’t want to be withgavel him any more.  So, she simply countered by filing for divorce, alimony, and an equitable division of assets. Ouch.

He said she couldn’t do that because, 1) they were never married to begin with and, 2) Georgia doesn’t recognize common law marriages.  The Supreme court of Georgia did not agree with Mr. Norman on either count.  Ms. Ault was awarded $54,000 as lump sum alimony.

Why did this happen?  Judges are usually very clever, and they will try to make decisions as narrowly as possible, so as to affect as little of the existing framework of laws as possible.  For them, the fact that Georgia had abolished common law marriage was inconsequential.  They did not even need to address this issue.  Rather, they looked to the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 1) which says that all the states must respect “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

Since the Normans lived together as man and wife in Alabama, and Alabama allowed common law marriages at the time (even tho their marriage was never recognized by Alabama), then it follows that the state of Georgia should honor the marital status which the Normans attained while living there. Tada!

Another obvious exception would be the case of couples who contracted a common law marriage in the state of Georgia prior to 1997.  These relationships would all be recognized as valid marriages if there were ever a similar challenge brought before the court.

Despite abolishing common law marriage, Georgia officially accepts them from other states, and accepts them in their own state prior to 1997.  So, what does this mean for a Georgia couple in 2019, that want to have a common law marriage?  It means that their marriage will also be accepted in Georgia, and it means the same thing in California, and in every other state in the union.justice

How could it be otherwise?  How could they have have equal treatment under the law otherwise? Equal treatment is protected by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the equal protection clause). There is no way the state could defensibly accept a common law marriage (along with granting all the privileges that accompany that condition) entered into on the 31st of December 1996, and deny one entered into on the 1st of January 1997.  You cannot give different treatment to people who are similarly situated.  The Georgia law would amount to discrimination based upon age.

The current law essentially says, if you were born in the 80s or later, you cannot contract a common law marriage, even tho your parents did, and your older siblings (who were born in the 70s) did.  It is ludicrous to think that the state can abridge a fundamental right at all, and marriage is absolutely a fundamental right – which means it resides with the people and not the government.  There is no logical way around it. If it were challenged, the law abolishing common law marriage it would obviously fail.  The only reason it is still on the books is because it hasn’t been challenged.

Common law marriage is at the very heart of the idea of marriage.  Marriage is a contract; an agreement entered into by a man and a woman for the purpose of creating a family and propagating the species.  The very core of the matter is: who decides that two people can marry?  The people themselves, or the state?  You can’t get rid of common law marriage by any legislation without also getting rid of marriage itself (and this would only happen in a totalitarian, Orwellian nightmare of a world).  It is the foundation upon which all real marriages are built.

The piece of paper – the government documentation – is only a wrapper placed around the core.  All documented marriages are also fundamentally common law marriages at their center ( I say “all” in the sense that the vast majority of them are – there are always a few exceptions, but this is beyond this post.  maybe next season, haha.).  The center is a man and woman casting their lot together, promising to stay that way, and beginning a family.

For the sake of illustration, let me make a comparison to another fundamental right: life.  For most people in the U.S., when they were born they (actually, their parents) were issued a birth certificate by the state in which they were born.  What if the State of Georgia made a law saying they were no longer going to recognize births in the state?  I know this sounds ridiculous, but stay with me.  The new law said that there would no longer be state issued birth certificates.  Would this mean that a baby born in Georgia, after the passing of this law, was not really born, or not really alive because they didn’t have official recognition from the state (or from the church for that matter)?  Of course not!  That would be crazy, right?  The child would be born regardless of what the state said (or didn’t say) about it.  Furthermore, that child would have all the rights that any other natural born citizen would have.

It is true that not having a birth certificate can make life more difficult when it comes to legal matters (and I personally know of some people who have experienced this), but that is a separate issue entirely.

If Georgia stopped issuing birth certificates, it wouldn’t stop people from being born. The state has no say about that.  May it ever be so!  Similarly, the state has no say about marriages.  They may decide not to issue papers, but it would have no effect whatsoever on whether the person was born, or whether a man and woman were married.

Unfortunately, my brother isn’t a polygamist.

When we began telling people we were polygamists, we told them in the wrong order.  We should have told my parents last, rather than first; as it turns out, my father has a big mouth, and couldn’t respect my simple request to allow me to tell people my news myself.  I asked him not to tell anyone for a month, and he promised me that month, and yet within 48 hours he had called both my bishop and his own bishop, confided in his friends and employees, and saddest of all, had announced my news to my brother, whom I really wanted to tell personally.

To his credit, he did call me afterwards and insist, “You should tell your brother your news.”  When I asked him why he was going out of his way to suggest that, he would only repeat himself.

So, I called my brother on the phone.  He was on a road trip with his wife, driving across the desert with spotty cell service.  Between me wondering what my dad had already told him and the phone call frequently getting dropped, the conversation took place in less-than-ideal circumstances.

After I finished telling him, my brother’s immediate response was the following: “What’s going on?  What do you need?  Do you need money?  Do you need help getting out?  Tell me what you need from me; tell me how to react, and I will.”

I answered that I didn’t need money, I didn’t want out of the situation, that all I wanted was his acceptance.  After he was convinced that I was safe, that I was being taken care, and that I was content, he stated his intention to be supportive.

And he has been.

This experience was what I thought of when I saw S2E4 (“Unforeseen Circumstances”) of Seeking Sister Wife.  Sophie Winder has a conversation with her brother about her polygamy, and he says he doesn’t understand it and doesn’t agree with it.

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Sophie says it sucks that her brother disagrees with polygamy.

However, she also says, “Unfortunately, he hasn’t chosen to live this lifestyle.”

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This is where Sophie and I differ.

I honestly don’t care whether my brother is a polygamist or not.  I also don’t care whether my friends are polygamists or not.  Naturally, if someone is a polygamist, that’s something unusual we have in common, which makes a friendship more likely.  But all I need from a brother or a friend is for them to be a supportive person in my life as a whole; I don’t need them to live exactly as I do.

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I’m friends with plenty of monogamists, and I don’t think it’s “unfortunate” that they haven’t chosen to live polygamy.  I still consider them to be “there for me.”

I definitely don’t think everyone should live polygamy.  Among other reasons, polygamy is extremely difficult.  In fact, Sophie’s brother cites that as a reason for not being interested in it.

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After the episode aired, Sophie published a post on the Winder family blog called “Live and Let Live.”  You can read it here.  You can also read Joshua’s thoughts on the same conversation here.

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