We just had to grab on to each other and figure it out.
– Sophie Winder
(In Season 2, episode 5 of Seeking Sister Wife.)
We just had to grab on to each other and figure it out.
– Sophie Winder
(In Season 2, episode 5 of Seeking Sister Wife.)
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.
Sophie says it sucks that her brother disagrees with polygamy.
However, she also says, “Unfortunately, he hasn’t chosen to live this lifestyle.”
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.
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.
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.”
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,
“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.”
“No! Stop. No! No! I can’t believe it!” Joshua put both hands to his face, not believing what he was seeing.
Colton Winder, standing between his wives, was approaching the local farmers market. Joshua, sitting between his wives, was watching it on TV. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seem him laugh so much and for so long.
“Must be touching at all times!” he roared with laughter, slapping his leg at the hilarity of Colton, Tami, and Sophie awkwardly clasping each other’s hands, white-knucklingly squeezing out the blood, and slowly making their way down the sidewalk. The Winders were about to come out of hiding, but for real this time. I didn’t see a single duck, but I did see lots of intimidating humans.
“I just can’t believe this!” Joshua laughed again, shaking his head.
But what started with Joshua’s hysterical laughter ended with both of his wives in tears. Did that just happen? Did the Winders, in the most awkward way imaginable, just tell the cheese vendor they are a plural family?
Part of this scene was shown again and again in the episode previews. We keep seeing Sophie confess to a perfect stranger, “I’m actually my husband’s second wife,” while Colton and Tami stand there nodding like bobble head dolls, and the vendor stares at them, looking quite surprised at what was just revealed to him.
But then… There’s a plot twist that makes this my favorite SSW scene thus far, when the cheese vendor confesses that he, too, is a polygamist with two wives!!!
The shock of that moment dropped my jaw. I did not see that one coming. That was unexpected. That was… Wait. Did that just happen? All I can say is, that was a wonderful tender mercy.
The episode shows all-too-brief excerpts from the conversation, which I would pay money to see in entirety, between the polygamous Winders and the polygamist cheese vendor. I was so touched by it that I starting tearing up. I looked over at my sisterwife Melissa and her face was red with emotion as well. God is so good!
After the episode finished, my sisterwife, our husband, and I discussed it until midnight. Joshua used the word “charming” to describe the Winders and what happened at the farmers market. Melissa called it “endearing.” Words failed me.
The Winders imagined a market full of enemies throwing tomatoes at them, then handcuffing them and putting them in jail. Instead, they ended up making a new friend. It was truly amazing. I loved it.
The second episode of Season 2 of Seeking Sister Wife is by far my favorite episode to date! There are so many funny moments! I just laughed out loud on more than one occasion. One was the very awkward conversation that Bernie has with his son John. Oh man, you just can’t make that stuff up! The confusion on John’s face was just priceless. Bernie, from one father to another, I think you handled it well.
Another time that got me laughing was actually in the preview for the next episode where Vanessa provocatively orders a piece of red meat on her first date with Dimitri. This, of course, was after she learned that the Snowdens are essentially pescatarian, as a matter of family policy. But she likes her steaks and cheeseburgers! Such a funny situation, and very bold of Vanessa. I know it sparked some interesting conversations in my house, and I am sure there will be more to come.
Perhaps the funniest moment, however, was the public debut of the Winder family. The situation was just too comical for words, and probably more funny for me because I know, first hand, the courage it took to do something like that! And yet, despite all the emotional buildup and bravery, there was no one to appreciate it but some ducks. It’s just too funny! It reminds me of that old saying about sounds and falling trees in the forest. You know the one: if a polygamous family comes out in the open together, but no one is there to see it…?
Baby steps, baby steps.
In all seriousness, I think divulging themselves to the ducks is an admirable first step! It means they have personally, and fully, embraced the reality of their own family, and are ready to take the next step, and that can be one of the hardest things to do. Honestly, this may have been the best way to do it. If they could go together, as a family (and those are not the same things), to an empty park (but where the possibility of being seen is a reality – where the sense and prospect of danger are real) a dozen times before actually going out where people would be guaranteed to see them, they would already have gone a long way towards conquering their personal fears. And of course, they have gone quite a bit farther than that now. What with being on national TV and all.
I remember, with a twinge of PTSD, our own efforts to announce the change in our family when we became plural. The fear and uncertainty were so intense at times!! And the losses were bitter and painful!! But it has all been worth it.
There was fear of the repercussions from so many angles! And it is the same for most, if not all other polygamous families. We faced social, familial, and religious shunning wondering what our neighbors, friends, coworkers, family, and fellow church members would say, or how they would treat us and our children. We were especially keen to the possible social consequences for our children – the decisions were horrible! There were also financial fears, and legal fears. We could go to jail, I could lose my job. Every. Single. Thing. that we had worked so hard to gain and build – our family, our home, my career, our children, our friendships, and our very reputations – was literally at stake. It could all so easily come tumbling down into a broken pile of smoldering garbage. Everything could be lost, and there was literally no earthly help or community that we could fall back on for support (however, we have built or received all of that community and support structure since). It seemed sometimes that it was us against the entire world (and us against ourselves at other times). Prayer was almost as common to me as breathing. I look back on those days with wonder, and almost awe, that we survived at all, and I thank God that he walked us thru that fiery furnace. Yes, the refining was intense, and our fears were not at all misplaced; yet, we were also given peace and courage sufficient to meet our fears, face them, and overcome them. It was an amazing roller-coaster ride!
We had letters written to us by family members accusing us of adultery and other sorts of gross wickedness. Similar letters were sent out to other family members, warning them of our dangerous influences. We had death threats against us, the police were called to investigate us, ecclesiastical leaders were called to discipline us, and child protective services were called (DCFS) to remove our children. But nothing came of any of these attacks. There was no weapon forged against us that prevailed.
Melissa’s children were even kidnapped by her parents for a short time. They were going to send her kids up to Washington State to live with their deadbeat father who is generally unstable, has lived in dozens of locations, is a known drug addict, owes 6 figures in child support, has been physically abusive, has multiple arrests, is into prostitutes, and has been married to 6 different women! Can someone please explain how that is better than a man being financially stable, providing for his children (in both emotional and financial ways) but being married and maintaining a healthy relationship with 2 women!? It’s crazy! Literally crazy! Eventually, they relented and changed their actions when they realized that they were the felons (kidnapping) and not us (polygamy was alegal in Utah at the time of the kidnapping – thank you Judge Waddoups!).
We were openly uninvited to family parties. I had family members that I hadn’t talked to in years, go out of their way to reach out to let me know that they disapproved of my life. We were all excommunicated from the church that we had been born and raised in. But when we kept on attending as non-members, my daughter was abused by her Sunday School teacher, and the church gave us legal notice that we were unwelcome in the most profound way possible. We were not even allowed to set foot on any church property anywhere in the world! The McGee family sadly describes a similar experience with their Synagogue (I’ll have a future post on this topic).
We literally had former friends place curses (in the name of the Lord – of course) upon us and our family. I’m not making this stuff up. I couldn’t. I can hardly believe it now.
I used to ride a van pool to work. It was convenient because the van would meet at a parking lot just one block from my house. Rain or shine I would always walk in between my house and the van pool. After we became plural, I remember being so grateful for the change in daylight savings time – just so I could walk home in the dark and not have to see my neighbors.
I thought about the 6th lecture on faith many times during those days. Especially verses 5-8.
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God.
– LoF 6:5
I remember having Jesus’ parable of the man building a tower brought to my mind so many times! Those words were a steady a source of strength and inspiration for me.
At some point, everyone needs to live an authentic life – in my opinion. The potential dangers and discomforts of the many forms of persecution are eventually outweighed by the desire to simply live rightly and face the consequences – whatever they may be. Sophie Winder expresses this in the first episode when she talks about not having to be the hidden wife anymore, and Tami mentions it in the second episode when they are planning their outing to the park for Sadie’s Birthday party. There comes a point when you are ready to just be done hiding. There is no need to act rashly or foolishly, but when the time is right you’ll know it. Hopefully, you will then have the courage to carry it out and see it thru to the end.
Despite all the hardships we endured, there have still been some good and true friends who have stuck by us while the false have fallen away. Also, there have been plenty of new friends, a thousand times better than the old ones. Some family members too, from the beginning, have maintained and reaffirmed their love and support of us, and that has been wonderful. There are even some family members, originally antagonistic, who have now come around in some ways, and our relationships are healing.
Things have calmed down significantly for us since then. The roller-coaster ride has slowed and transitioned from almost constant nausea to almost constant enjoyment. There are still ups and downs, but we are enjoying the view and the thrill of the ride much more now, and we’ve loosened up our grip on the safety bar – now that our fear of certain and sudden death has subsided. Even so, it has taken us years to fully come out into the public eye. Starting this blog has been another step for us, and I’m so glad Charlotte did it.
We told our friends and family one by one. Maybe there was a better way, but at the time it seemed like the most manageable way to handle all the upset and emotion. Like eating an elephant one bite at a time. And I suppose we are still not finished. When Melissa and I were married we had no public celebration, but we are finally getting around to doing it this summer! Let us know if you want an invitation.
I’m excited that the next season of Seeking Sister Wife has premiered! I was pretty surprised to learn that the Brineys weren’t going to be on this season. I knew April was living in Utah again but I assumed that her leaving Oregon would end up being nice juicy gossip for the TV show to capitalize on. Well, despite the Brineys not being on it looks like the show will have no shortage of interesting material.
I don’t have cable TV so on Sunday night I was trying to figure out how to watch. Luckily Amazon video has it, altho Season 2 costs a lot more than Season 1 did. I guess that’s how it goes when a show is more established. Either that or it’s the 13 episodes we’re expecting versus the 7 episodes we got in Season 1.
This season has our familiar Snowdens and Alldredges and we also get to meet the McGees and the Winders. I don’t personally know the Snowdens or the McGees at all. I know the Winders from Facebook but we’ve never met in person. I personally know the Alldredges as well as the Brineys. Last season I thought knowing both those families would be an advantage when it came to writing my blog, but as it turned out, I always felt the need to censor myself for the sake of our friendships. In fact, one time when Joshua wrote his opinion about a Briney situation, he ended up writing a follow-up apology post for the sake of his friendship with Drew.
This episode had plenty of interesting things to talk about. I made 4 pages of notes while watching, and I only had time to turn a fraction of them into a blog post before the next episode aired. Here are some of the thoughts I had about it while watching.
The McGees call themselves “Hebrew” or “Messianic.”
I find this interesting because we are somewhat in that category as well. We are a unique blend of Messianic and Mormonism so I’ve taken to calling us “Messianic Mormons.” We believe the Bible cover to cover, as Bernie McGee says they do, but we also believe the Mormon scriptures cover to cover.
How sad that the McGees’ house burned!
We once had a house fire, altho not nearly as devastating. Ours was 100% my fault. I left a batch of beef bones boiling on the stove while we went camping for several days! Obviously the water boiled away long before our return, and the bones smoldered, causing what’s called a “protein fire.” The professional from the disaster clean up company had been doing his job for decades and told me it was the worst protein fire he’d ever cleaned up after.
We came back from our camping trip and walked in the house and it smelled like a thousand burnt dinners. I realized immediately what had happened and I ran over to the stove, carried the pot outside, and set it down on the cement pad in the backyard. I removed the lid and what was left of the bones burst into flames! The lid had fit so tightly on the pot that no oxygen was able to access the bones. If we had been less fortunate, very likely our house could have burned to the ground while we were out of phone service. I have always said my guardian angel was sitting on the lid, keeping it tight-fitting enough to keep any air from accessing the smoldering bones.
Some of the cleanup included cleaning everything (and I mean every single book and toy and other items), replacing the countertops, repainting the entire house, “ozoning” all of our clothes and every room, and replacing items that were too close to the stove or stubbornly refused to give up their stench.
I can scarcely begin to describe the smell that permeated our home and everything in it. I used to hate the smell of smoke. I would avoid campfire smoke, and the minute we arrived home from a camping trip, I kept everyone from relaxing on couches or beds (because they would contaminate them) and instead they had to strip down in the laundry room (without their clothes even being dropped on the carpet) and get right in the bath or shower. But the smell of our protein fire was so much worse (not just stronger but much more terrible) that, I kid you not, campfire smoke now smells pleasant to me.
Not only did the protein fire smell awful, but it permeated everything like you wouldn’t believe. When we got home, we were in the house for half an hour with the doors and windows open and fans turned on, imagining that the house would air out and the smell would eventually dissipate, but instead the smell only grew stronger in our nostrils. We realized we couldn’t sleep there that night and we arranged to go to my parents’ house for the night.
When we arrived at my parents’ house, we learned that simply from being in the smelly house for a short while, we had picked up the offensive smell. I had brought some unworn clothes from our closets, planning to launder them in my parents’ washing machine before wearing them, but the smell traveled from the laundry room up to the kitchen and I was asked to move the clothes outside until washing.
The smell that got transferred from our contaminated bodies to our car during the hour-long drive took weeks to disappear. A rubber ball that had marinated in the fumes ended up getting taken to my parents’ house by one of our children. It was kicked around my parents’ backyard for a year, never losing its disgusting odor, before someone gave up on it and finally threw it away.
The experience was educational and in many ways it could have been worse. When we first bought the house, we had opted for a $10,000 deductible on our homeowners’ insurance, mostly out of habit, since we had liability-only car insurance and high-deductible health insurance. Some time later, my parents’ bedroom ceiling caved in due to unseen water damage, and I realized that even tho we might use doctors and car insurance less than the average person, our chance of needing to make a homeowner’s insurance claim was not lower than average, and when the time came that we needed to use it, we would be sorry about having such a high deductible. So, we called the insurance company and lowered our deductible to $1,000. Not long afterwards, the protein fire happened, and the cleanup required 2 weeks’ professional help, hotel stays, and replacing personal items. I don’t remember what the total bill was, but it was probably close to $10,000. Luckily we were only responsible for the first $1000.
I don’t think Paige is emotionally ready for the challenge of plural marriage. I wish I had time to elaborate, but Joshua already wrote a post about it called “Polygamy’s Jealousies and the McGees”.
However, I am quite impressed that she is willing to live in a camper while looking for a sisterwife, for the benefit of being flexible enough to move if that’s what the potential wife wants. In the cases of polygamy I have seen, the new wife joins the family and in doing so chooses to join the family culture and whatever setup the family has. When Enoch Foster married Lydia (a little of their courtship was shown on Three Wives, One Husband), she got to become a part of an amazing family with organization and resources that had been in the process of being set up for 2 decades. In her case I could see the real benefits of being the 3rd wife! I’ve never heard of an established family being willing to join the new wife, rather than the other way around. That part of this episode was pretty interesting to me.
I loved hearing the story of Paige’s conversion to polygamy. I want conversions to come from something inside or from God, not from another person using logic or scriptures to convince us.
The McGee boys are extremely charming. I love the conversation they have where younger brother Kyle says he’s looking forward to having another mom, and older brother John tries to figure out what that role is called.
Hey, boys, how about the word maunt?
Very often we hear about wives’ jealousy over their husbands. Much less talked about is the jealousy over their children. Paige McGee says it could possibly be hard for her to see her sons develop that relationship with her sisterwife.
In a country where so many children are raised by only one parent, I think it’s beautiful and extraordinary for a child to actually have more than two parental figures that love them and are invested in them and help raise them. I believe this has the potential to be a powerful advantage in the children’s lives. I would hope any jealousy over that issue wouldn’t keep a wife from pursuing polygamy. Moms ideally do what’s best for their children, consistently, whether they enjoy it or not.
Vanessa’s molar pregnancy is mentioned. I wrote about it in this post, which includes ultrasound images and details about Vanessa’s experience. If you’re interested in what happened, go ahead and read it over there.
The Alldredges discuss their “dream” home and the lodge they’re finishing.
They ideally want each wife to have their own bedroom wing (to “provide for some privacy”) but to share the main living spaces.
This is one example of many possible housing situations. The Winders have another housing situation of living in completely different towns. Our current house has separate living spaces but they’re connected on the inside, so family members can freely move about and be where they want to be, but the wives still get to be queens of their own castles. Personally, I prefer this and so do Melissa and Joshua. (We lived in different counties for 5 years before moving in together last year.) Joshua discusses housing arrangements in this post about the Brineys’ living situation in Season 1.
The Winders call themselves “Independent Mormon Fundamentalists.”
We don’t entirely fit into that category (for several reasons, but partly because of the whole “Messianic” thing mentioned above), but we have enough in common with Independent Mormon Fundamentalists (IMFs) to have some close friendships with people who consider themselves IMFs. “Mormon Fundamentalists” describes the belief system and “Independent” simply means they’re not a member of any organized group.
I find Colton’s story interesting — I’m paraphrasing but he basically said that since the early LDS Church believed in polygamy, it didn’t make sense to change that belief, so he had to either give up on the Church or really embrace the fundamentals. Colton goes into more detail about the different flavors of Mormonism and his family’s beliefs on the Winder family blog in this post and this post, the second of which includes some nice Winder family photos (including Colton with a beard).
Tami’s story is interesting as well, how she believed in plural marriage but thought it was something she wouldn’t get to practice until heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story of a couple who found out after marriage that they both believed in polygamy, were pleasantly surprised, and then started living it.
In the episode, as Colton’s second wife Sophie approaches, Colton says to his daughter Sadie, “Is that Aunt Sophie?”
The title “Aunt” is also what the Alldredge children use when addressing their “other mother”. I don’t think the title aunt or mom fits when referring to your mom’s sisterwife. There is definitely a word missing from the vocabulary of the polygamy world. My best idea is the word “maunt” — a cross between “mom” and “aunt.”
The Snowdens have a conversation about what happened “last time.” Joshua wrote a post about it.
There were many other things I wanted to comment on, such as Vanessa propping her phone up to take a family photo, even tho they were surrounded by professional cameramen. And the charming comment Tami Winder gave about how she was initially attracted to Colton for “his looks, obviously.” And the sad fact that our friends the Alldredges ditched us and moved to South Dakota. :’-( And Bernie’s overly optimistic statement that he doesn’t want to see hurt in his wife’s eyes again. And how I love that Ashley Snowden was nursing uncovered and then was wearing her baby on her back. I was also planning to give some observations about the obvious video editing that ended up making things awkward and unrealistic.
Well, I only had time to write up about a tenth of what I planned to. Such is life, but I want to move on to the next episode, so I’m going to go ahead and publish this post, incomplete as it is. See you in the next one.
Out of interest, here is the total amount of screentime each family had in this first episode (not counting the teasers like “Coming Up”).
Snowdens: 3 segments totaling 10 minutes, 43 seconds
Winders (2 segments): 10 minutes, 2 seconds
Alldredges (2 segments): 9 minutes, 36 seconds
McGees (2 segments): 7 minutes, 27 seconds
plus 4 minutes, 45 seconds of “Last season on,” “Coming Up,” and “And Later,” and the closing credits after the last scene faded out to total 42 minutes, 33 seconds in the episode.