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!

Babysitters, Bedrooms, and Being in the present

I think this was the first episode my sisterwife, our husband, and I watched all together.  Sitting in Melissa’s living room in a row of recliners, laughing heartily, arguing, each of us noticing and pointing out different things, made the viewing of it a party.  Episode 2 of Seeking Sister Wife‘s second season (the one titled “Failure to Launch”) was extremely entertaining and definitely the funniest of either season.

Babysitters

The Alldredges left their 7 children at home for the first time and traveled to Niagara Falls.  They left them with some unnamed friends.  Here is a screenshot of the babysitters waving goodbye with all 7 children.

Waving goodbye
The Alldredges’ adult babysitters along with 6 of the 7 Alldredge children wave goodbye to Jeff, Vanessa, and Sharis.

Oh, wait.  I only count 6 children.  Where is their oldest child, 9-year-old Dain?  Maybe he had to go the bathroom or something.  *shrug*

TLC didn’t name the babysitters for you, but I will.  They are Taylor and Sara, some of our good friends.  They had their 4 children at the Alldredges’ house as well (who weren’t shown in the goodbye scene).  They actually have 5 children of their own now, since Sara just gave birth to a baby boy a few days ago!

Taylor and Sara were going to be one of the families in the first season of Seeking Sister Wife — they were under contract and everything — but as filming was getting closer they became uncomfortable with some of the things the network was planning and, although they’re still open to plural marriage, they felt inspired that it was not the right time/circumstances. They believe that (at least for them) such things are best left in God’s hands – not in the hands of TV producers. After everything was explained to the network, TLC terminated the contract, eventually replacing them with the Snowden family.

Taylor is one of the contributors to this blog.  His post called “Dateonomics” is one of my personal favorites.  In it, Taylor shows the mathematics of why polygamy being available is actually good for women.  I used his ideas just the other day to explain these concepts to a friend who wasn’t sure what she thought about polygamy.

One of the main ideas in the post is that if polygamy is allowed, then the women don’t have to compete with each other in order to get married, and they have a lot more men to choose from, so their chances of marrying a good man are much higher.  Instead of 10 men and 10 women in the dating pool resulting in every man getting a wife, polygamy allows the better men to score more women, potentially leaving some men unmarried.  This puts the pressure on men to step it up because they are the ones who have to compete for the women.  And in reality, there aren’t equal numbers of men and women in the dating pools: there are more women than men, due to various factors laid out in Taylor’s post.  And in a monogamous culture, even if the pool of men is decreased by a tiny number, that still means there will be females left single.  That makes dating analogous to a game of musical chairs: not everyone will get a spot, so you better play the game hard in order to not be left an old maid.  If I am not explaining this well, you should really check out Taylor’s article and see what you think.

Anyway, it was fun to see our friends on the show even tho they were just babysitters and not one of the featured families.

Bedrooms

The Alldredges’ flight to New York was Sharis’s first time on an airplane.  Once they arrived at their hotel, we find out that Vanessa and Sharis got separate hotel rooms, which gives the sisterwives privacy and allows them to keep up the same sleeping schedule they were already on.

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Sharis gets the hotel room key ready and Vanessa says, “I’ll just come check out your room first, and then I’ll go get settled afterwards.”
Alldredge sleeping arrangements
“When we travel, we get two rooms. That way, it’s just like home.  Tonight, I’m gonna be with Sharis, and tomorrow night, I’ll be with Vanessa.  And we’ll just keep on with our schedule.  It makes things real easy and gives the ladies some privacy, and it works.”  – Jeff Alldredge
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Vanessa tells Sharis she thinks her room is on the same floor, just down the hall*.

Normally my sisterwife Melissa and I drive separate cars, eat separate meals, and sleep in different rooms.  But when we’re camping or otherwise staying away from home, we do things differently: we typically get just one room or set up one tent for the whole family, including the children, we drive just one car all together, and we combine our meals, etc.  We like the closeness on occasion, and it simplifies things.  Yes, there’s not as much privacy, and yes, Joshua has to rearrange his sleeping schedule, but it’s not a big deal if it’s only every once in a while.

I know polygamous families who stay in one room or tent the way we do, and I know other polygamous families who require a room for each wife the way the Alldredges do.  I recognize different families have different preferences, and when the Alldredges stay with us, we give the wives separate bedrooms.  But next time we stay at your house, feel free to put us all in the same room.   😉

Being in the present

Vanessa Alldredge seems pretty excited to be in Niagara Falls and she’s looking forward to meeting her potential sisterwife in person. She says when they were courting Melina (as shown in Season 1 of SSW) her pregnancy made things difficult.

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“Last year, I was just in a different head space because of my pregnancy.  But this year, I’m feeling much more present in the relationship.” – Vanessa Alldredge

Vanessa is referring to the molar pregnancy she was going thru, which Jeff also mentioned in Episode 1.  The hormones of a molar pregnancy are many times higher than those in a normal pregnancy, so it makes sense that poor Vanessa was really sick.  She told me in detail about her experience and even shared ultrasound photos, which you can see in this blog post.

Bummer

Once again, I only had time to write up a fraction of what I wanted to share.  I made notes to write about the McGees’ synagogue kicking them out because of their belief in polygamy; their talking to their sons about Bernie’s “talking to another woman” and not only the sons’ reactions but also the reactions of the son’s friends; the McGee son mentioning again that a plural wife of his dad’s “wouldn’t be a mom per se“; Bernie being confident that when he has plural wives, the whole family will live altogether in one house; the Winders attempt to come out as polygamists in their community (Joshua wrote about it here); Sophie Winder calling herself Sadie’s second mom; whether a new wife needs to adapt to the family’s diet, the way the Snowdens expect; the Snowdens’ potential sisterwife being a Pisces; Ashley Snowden’s “Highly Meditated” tank top; and her inspirational quote “Anything in life worth having takes effort”, referring to her efforts to practice polygamy.

But alas, the 3rd episode has aired and I won’t let myself watch it until I publish this post, so I will go ahead and do that right now.  A recliner in my sisterwife’s living room is calling my name.

Oh, before I go, here are the numbers of the total amount of screentime each family had in episode 2.  The Snowdens’ screentime was double that of the Alldredges.  Playing favorites, I see:

Alldredges: 3 segments totaling 7 minutes, 9 seconds

Winders (2 segments): 8 minutes, 33 seconds

McGees (2 segments): 8 minutes, 37 seconds

Snowdens (3 segments): 14 minutes, 15 seconds

What do you think?  Did you notice a kid was missing in the Alldredge farewell scene?  Did you get a chance to read Taylor’s Dateonomics post yet?  If you were a polygamist, would you want to share a hotel room or get separate rooms when traveling?  What was your favorite part of this episode?  Is it obvious to you the Snowdens are TLC’s favorite family?

Cynthia Alldredge Was on Season 1 of Seeking Sister Wife!

There she is!

Cynthia Alldredge

For all the people who say that Jeff is trying to hide his first wife, Cynthia, there she is on the first episode of Seeking Sister Wife 😜.  This is a screenshot from 2 minutes and 29 seconds into the 1st episode of season 1.  The picture is cropped, but they maybe should have done a little photoshopping as well.  That mysterious hand indeed belongs to Jeff’s first wife.  She told us so herself.

Sorry if this was not the post you hoped it would be.  I just thought it was too funny not to share.

Thank you for making breakfast, Aunt Vanessa

In the first scene of “Let the Seeking Begin!” [timestamp 03:30], Sharis prompts her children to say thank you to “Aunt Vanessa” for making breakfast.

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Aunt is a cute way to have children address their other mothers, although it seems inaccurate, given that Vanessa isn’t really the aunt of Sharis’s children.  I suppose one could argue that Vanessa is their mother’s sister[wife], and that makes the title Aunt reasonable.  Further, even if I find it strange, let’s remember that Sharis is the one who grew up in polygamy, so what do I know?

Another common way for children to address their father’s other wives is to call them Mom [first name].  In one plural family I’ve seen, the children refer to all the women as simply “Mom.”  This is heart-warming, but it seems impractical.  Besides, using the title Mom instead of the title Aunt doesn’t solve the problem of inaccuracy.

What do we do in my family?  My children generally call my sisterwife “Ma-Melissa”.  (Or is it “Mama-lissa”?  Or perhaps “Mom-Melissa”?  I’m never quite sure, given the first syllable of her name. 🙂 )  Other times they might call her “Mama Melissa” but sometimes just “Melissa.”  The phrase “the mamas” is often used to refer to both of us, as in, “Please obey the mamas,” or, “Ask one of the mamas for help with that.”  (Melissa’s children are from a previous marriage and they have never called me anything but “Charlotte.”)

It would be interesting to take a poll and get some data on what the most common naming practices are in plural families and what the reasoning is behind them.

The relationship between children and their other mothers is something in between Mom and Aunt.  I think there ought to be a term, peculiar to the plural marriage world, to describe this something-in-between relationship.

What about Maunt?  Or maybe it ought to be spelled Mont??  Hmmm… I wonder if that word would ever catch on…