What happened before and after my friend asked if Joshua and Charlotte are siblings

I met Sophie* more than two years ago because of our shared interest in home birth.

I never told her my marital status.

It wasn’t relevant to a relationship.

She was interested in my head covering, so it was a point of conversation which led to sharing somewhat of my beliefs. I shared what we did with Biblical feasts and what, in the context of Mormonism, I have come to believe about them. Sophie was very interested in my points of view regarding religious and spiritual matters, and we had shared child birthing, feeding, and rearing points of view.

I wanted to go over to her home often, but life is just busy, and my plan to teach her how to make challah never got off the ground.

When our Chanukah party came up, and we had a Facebook invite list, I was mentally going through who I wanted to come to it and Sophie popped into my brain.

So, not really thinking about it beyond sharing our feast with her, I sent an invitation via Facebook and she responded positively.

I wasn’t really sure how to confront the polygamy issue, so I decided to wait until she was actually there and tell her face to face on my porch. I’m kind of in a place of just telling people when they are in circumstances that will lead them to find out anyway. It’s probably not the safest but it gives absolute clarity on where they stand, and I get to do it in a take-it-to-the-front format.

However, two hours before the party began, right in the middle of preparations, I got a phone call from my son who happened to be in town. I hadn’t seen him for 9 months. He is in the Army and been deployed to Afghanistan.  I really, really want to maintain this relationship for many reasons, but it’s kind of been on sketchy, tenuous threads and definitely on his terms.  So I opted to leave the party preparations, visit him, and get back as soon as I reasonably could.

Well, I didn’t give the heads up to Joshua and Charlotte because I thought I could get back early to take care of disclosure.

That didn’t work out.

I got a text from Sophie, asking for the address and I gave it to her.

As time ran later, I began to worry about getting back on time but there wasn’t a definitive point to leave and I finally just said that I needed to leave. I got in my car and checked my messages.

Imagine my absolute relief when the last text message appeared on my screen.

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I was floored. There are literally less than a handful of people who have reacted positively upon immediate disclosure. Sophie made #5.

So, I bawled my way home and walked into a huge hug from Sophie and a bunch of laughter and just absolute happiness about how it all went down.

*Name changed

 

What happened after my sisterwife’s friend asked if Joshua and I are siblings

Everyone at the party stopped talking and watched to see what would happen next. They all knew Joshua and I are not siblings, and they were curious to see how our new acquaintance would take the shocking news of real-life, in-your-face polygamy.

Just minutes earlier Joshua and I had met Sophie* for the first time and were getting to know her and her family. Melissa was supposed to have been there to make introductions, but a phone call had unexpectedly pulled her away from our Chanukah party before Sophie arrived. Melissa had texted Sophie telling her she would be gone and to “look for Joshua and Charlotte”.

So there we were, just chatting away. Joshua and Sophie made the connection that they both used to live in the south. She and I talked about Jewish feasts, home childbirth, and extended breastfeeding. Sophie said to Joshua, “This is a nice area! How long have you lived here?” He wasn’t sure how to answer because Melissa and I currently live in the same house, but we moved in 2 years apart. So which date should be given as his answer? I think he said, “Well, Melissa moved here in June, but we’ve owned the house for 2 years.” Sophie followed up, “So, were you renting it out in the meantime or something?” Awkward.

I started to realize that Sophie didn’t know that her friend Melissa was a plural wife, and that it wasn’t going to be Melissa that broke the news to her. At the same time, Sophie was trying to sort out what exactly my connection to Melissa was.

She gestured to Joshua and me, “So, are you two brother and sister?” That was the moment when our conversation got interesting to the rest of our party guests. All faces in the room turned to us as I tried to decide how to answer.

Our polygamy is not a secret (anymore), and we don’t lie about it, but we also don’t announce it everywhere we go. We like to tell people when it comes up naturally (altho, for various reasons, we occasionally make a point of going out of our way to tell someone). The awkwardness was simply the fact that it was Melissa’s friend, not my own, who asked the question.

I looked at Joshua and said, “She doesn’t know!” He gave me a knowing nod and I said, “And it’s up to me to tell her?” He laughed and said, “I guess so!”

I turned back to Sophie and said with a smile, “No.”

She said, “Oh, I noticed from the Facebook event invitation that you all have the same last name. Are you Melissa’s sister?”

The confusion was setting in. It was time for the truth to be told. I simply said, “No. Melissa and I are both married to Joshua.”

Then we all waited. We have had so many different reactions when people learn we are polygamists; we never know what we’re going to get.

telling someone you're a polygamist final

I was pretty surprised when Sophie got excited and spoke with a voice punctuated by exclamation points. “Oh! I had no idea Melissa was a polygamist! I love polygamy! That’s great! Are you guys Mormon? I wish the LDS Church still practiced polygamy!”

Our long-time friend Hugh* butted in on the conversation and teasingly said to Sophie, “Stop encouraging them!” I bantered back by telling Joshua to spit in his food.

“I have so many questions for you!” Sophie went on. And she really did. She was interested and positive and was a good listener. Her response was amazingly supportive.

That moment of truth, that moment when an acquaintance learns about the polygamy, is bound to make or break a budding relationship. Some of my friendships have ended over the issue of polygamy; other potential friendships have never really gotten off the ground. Quite frankly, it could just as easily be a non-issue: I’m happy to be friends with people who are single, monogamous, or polygamous — why do so many people care which I am? There’s a lot more to me than the fact that my husband has another wife. I am grateful for those people in my life who haven’t let my polygamy get in the way of knowing me personally.

*name changed

Y’all have your own castle

In the episode of Seeking Sister Wife called “Risky Business,” Ashley tells her mom Donna that she and Dimitri are starting to date again.

“When I’m doing something I know my mom won’t approve of, I just love telling her about it!” said no one ever.

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I think the conversation between Ashley and Donna went pretty well; here’s what Donna said [timestamp 33:23], and it is my favorite SSW moment thus far:

You a queen and he a king and y’all have your own castle, so you make your own decisions, and you do you.

– Donna (Ashley Snowden’s mom), Seeking Sister Wife, S1E2

What better response could you expect from a parent?  I absolutely love this.

Parents need to let go of having control over (or even having a say in) their adult children’s lives.  I’m happy for Ashley that her mom could be so mature and accepting of a lifestyle she wouldn’t choose for herself or her daughter.

I’ve had my share of similar dialogues.  They can be very difficult.  In our house, we’re not allowed to complain, but we’re allowed to say that something is “not my favorite.”  So I’ll just say… Conversations like that one are not my favorite.

When we tell people about our polygamy, we never know what to expect, and we have gotten a whole spectrum of responses.

Some responses were laughable, some were cringe-worthy, some were supportive, some were hurtful, and some were memorable enough that they’ve become classic stories in our family.  We’ve been cursed (literally); we’ve had people overcome with the Spirit and gain a testimony that we’re doing God’s will; we’ve had people shrug as if we just told them we like to eat spaghetti for dinner; we’ve had the cops called on us; we’ve had our Church leaders called on us; we’ve had DCFS (child protective services) called on us; we’ve had people stop talking to us; we’ve had people tell us about Dreams they’ve had about us; we’ve had people act shocked; we’ve had people nod and say, “Yeah, I figured.”  We can never be sure how a person is going to react, but we always learn something about the person by how they behave towards us after they find out we’re polygamists.

Strangers have been easier for me to tell than people whom I’ve known my whole life.  I suppose it’s because with a stranger I have nothing to lose: if they respond negatively, the relationship ends before it even begins.  But with a long-time friend or a family member, I’ve invested in the relationship and will suffer a great loss if they reject me.

And rejection has been in plenty.  Perhaps I will describe the depth of it in future posts.  For now I’ll keep it on the positive side and share one of my favorite stories of a person’s reaction to my polygamous status:

We were at a large gathering and were meeting a lot of new acquaintances.  Joshua and Melissa met this guy and got introduced as husband-and-wife, and 5 minutes later I met the same individual.  He asked who I was married to, and I pointed out Joshua.  He was confused and said, “But… I thought she was his wife…” and I just stood there nodding and smiling, and it slowly dawned on him what that meant.  He said, “So… You’re polygamists?!”  I confirmed and waited to see what his reaction would be.  Pause… pause… pause… “That’s awesome!

All these experiences, both positive and negative, help us figure out who our true friends are and who it is we want to continue having in our lives.  And maybe my sisterwife Melissa is right when she says, “We are a test for people, to see whether or not they will be kind to us.”