Coming Out to My Family (My Aunt)

Below I have a copy of the message I sent out to my extended family when we announced our plural marriage. One of the problems with people’s reactions (and this is a fairly neutral problem on the positive-negative spectrum of reactions) to discovering our family structure is a failure to recognize it at all.

There may certainly be different reasons for this response; for example, they simply may not know what to say (out of shock or ignorance). Charlotte’s brother was in this camp. When she told him that I had taken another wife, he did not know whether to say “congratulations” or to offer to help her escape her abusive situation. Finding himself in this position, he said the most beautiful and sensible thing possible. Paraphrasing, he said:

“You tell me how to feel about it. I will feel the same way you do.”

Another possibility is that they fail to acknowledge the change due to force of habit. I think this happened quite a bit. After all, Charlotte and I were married for 11 years before Melissa joined our family. That’s a while to get used to saying, “Joshua & Charlotte” whenever a friend or relative was referring to my family. While this may not be intentionally rude, it can certainly be unthinking.

A final possibility is that they fail to acknowledge the change because they outright reject it. They are disgusted, repulsed, or saddened by it.

I’m not sure which category (as far as reasons go) this falls into, but my aunt had this sort of failure to recognize reaction when I made the announcement to my family. Here is the email I sent (this is the message I mentioned in my earlier post):

Jun 27, 2016, at 8:58 PM,
Dear Family,

The time has come to make an announcement about my plural marriage.  Some of you already know about this, and to some of you this will be news.  Rather than making individual visits to everyone, I’ve decided this venue would be the easiest way to get the word out.  Please feel free to send this along to family members who are not on this list.

You’ve probably got questions, so I’ll try to briefly answer a few of the big ones.  Yes, I am still married to Charlotte.  Yes, our marriage is happy (please feel free to call her about it: 801-***-****).  Yes, our kids are doing great!  Yes, there have been many difficulties and adjustments that have been made (and continue to be made).  Yes, my siblings all know about it, and they have been great – you can ask them questions if you like (you will probably get different
answers from each of them, LOL).  We entered into plural marriage a little more than three years ago when I married Melissa (some of you have met her already – some have not).  Yes, I love her (and Charlotte and the kids do also).  Yes, we are aware that it is a felony (and we find ourselves in good company with others who have also suffered for the sake of their religion).  No, we have not joined another Church.  Yes, we are aware that the LDS Church frowns upon it (and they already know about it).  Can’t believe it?  I know, and I don’t blame you.  I wouldn’t believe it either, were I not in my own shoes.

Why am I making this announcement now and not earlier?  I can only answer that we were not ready earlier.  It has been a long process of adjustment for ourselves, and for those we have told earlier.  For those of you who found out the news from other’s lips, and not my own, I apologize.  I would have preferred the news to be spread by us, but that is extremely difficult to achieve in this world.  Please take no offense.  The delay has had much more to do with us than with you.

We love you all, and wish you all many blessings.


To which my aunt replied:

July 1, 2016, at 4:39 PM

Josh and Charlotte–we love you and miss seeing you! Come to family stuff, ok? 

To which I replied:

Jul 4, 2016 1:43:52 AM

We will. But it won’t just be Charlotte and me 🙂 That’s why I made the announcement, you see?


Overall things have gotten better with our friends and family, and this is true for several reasons. Some of them have come around once they saw that we are not crazy, cultish, abusive, or weirdos (altho we are certainly not mainstream, we can pass for “normal”, haha). Plus, they can see that we are stable and committed, and that “this” is not going away. Other situations have gotten better because of lack of association. Some unhealthy relationships have simply been withered or pruned away, and this is alright because they have been replaced by better associations.

If you ever find yourself in my relative’s position, my brother-in-law’s response was the best. Don’t be unthinking, but rather acknowledge the change, otherwise it can come across as rude. If you are disapproving, it is probably best to keep it to yourself – since it does not involve your life nor your decisions. However, if you are disapproving and cannot keep it to yourself, go ahead and express your disapproval – whatever form that may take (worry, warning, scorn, etc.) – it is your right to do so. Nevertheless, speak your piece, and then hold your peace. Say it once and then shut up about it and get over it – if you want to keep relationships that is.

Sampson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:14-16), and everyday there are thousands of relationships destroyed with the same weapon…You don’t have to say everything that is on your mind.

The Etiquette of Wedding Invitations

“Are you the groom’s sister?” I am asked by a fellow wedding guest.


“Are you a friend of the bride?”

“Nope, not a friend of the bride.”

Cue an awkward silence while she decides whether to keep guessing, and I anticipate my ultimate answer, which will almost certainly be a surprise to her.

“So… Where do you fit in? How do you know the bride and groom?” she presses. It’s such a simple, natural question, so why do I cringe?

I give her a big, friendly smile and answer directly and without hesitation: “You know the groom’s mom? I’m her sisterwife.”

Her “Ohhh” response plus her body language tell me that this answer is, indeed, not what she was expecting. I give my attention back to the two babies I’m in charge of: one mine, the other my sisterwife’s.

The woman’s husband had commented on the little ones a few minutes prior: “Are they both yours? They look too close in age to both be yours.”

He was right, in a way. The babies are too close for both of them to have come from my own body; Melissa got pregnant when I was 6 or 7 months along in my own pregnancy. At their current ages, they’re obviously not twins, but that might change in a few years.

But he was also wrong, in a way, since I claim all 7 of our family’s children as my own. So to answer the question “Are they both yours?” is not so easy for me.

My sisterwife Melissa has 3 grown children from her first marriage. I’m not particularly close to them, unfortunately. Early in Melissa’s and Joshua’s relationship, when her first batch of children were teenagers, I dared to fantasize about being a second mother to them. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. However, the youngest son is friendly with me, and he invited me to his wedding in southern Utah.

Here’s a question for you: What should be done when a Christmas card, a graduation announcement, or a wedding invitation is being sent to a family with more than one wife?

Melissa and I have cracked the code.

Think about this: After you open the envelope, read the card, mark your calendar, and make a note to yourself to get a gift, where do you put the card?

On your fridge, of course. And you leave it up there until it’s no longer relevant.

That common habit is the basis of our rule of etiquette when mailing things to families with multiple wives.

If the wives live separately, you mail them each their own wedding invitation. If they live together and share a kitchen, just send one invitation. Easy enough.

But if they live at the same address and have their own kitchens (and hence their own refrigerators), here’s what to do: Mail to the household the same number of invitations as there are kitchens. That way, each wife gets to put the card up on her fridge. Go ahead and mail both of them in the same envelope and save yourself a stamp.

Melissa’s son understands this concept, so I got my own copy of the wedding invitation.

I found this sweet and thoughtful. I also realized that if he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have known for sure whether I was meant to be included in the invitation. His giving two copies of the invitation to our household made it clear that I was, for sure, invited.

Back to the wedding guest who found out I was the sisterwife of the groom’s mother. After she recovered from her initial shock, she approached me. Melissa was getting herself ready for the wedding ceremony, and I was tasked with getting her reluctant preschooler dressed in his handsome ringbearer suit, complete with a bow tie and suspenders.

I was also taking care of Melissa’s infant and my toddler, so my hands were reasonably full. The kind wedding guest helped me, all the while chatting in a friendly manner and showing that she was fine with what I’d told her. Never knowing what to expect when someone finds out about my polygamy, this experience was nice.

The wedding was one I wouldn’t have attended if I wasn’t a polygamist.