‘Sister Wives’: Meri and Kody Brown’s Therapist Calls Them Both ‘Exceptionally Controlling People’

Fans of TLC’s Sister Wives have been watching Meri and Kody Brown’s marriage deteriorate for several seasons.

Both Kody and his first wife have seemed guarded and standoffish as they struggled through multiple major rifts in their relationship—like a legal divorce in 2014 (so Kody could adopt his fourth wife Robyn Brown’s children from a previous marriage), difficult discussions about infertility, and a catfishing scandal in 2015, in which Meri flirted with a woman posing as a man online.

On the Apr. 5 episode of Sister Wives, “Baby Steps,” Meri and Kody tried at last to address their marital issues head-on with a counseling session in Las Vegas with Nancy Hunterton, their marriage therapist. The therapist warned the couple that their controlling natures might prevent them from being vulnerable with each other and building their relationship.

Janelle Brown, Meri Brown, Kody Brown and Christine Brown
Janelle Brown, Meri Brown, Kody Brown and Christine Brown | Ethan Miller/Getty Images for AEG Live

Meri and Kody opened up about their failing marriage in a therapy session

Although Meri and Kody didn’t seem to see eye to eye on many things during their counseling session, they agreed on at least one thing: Their relationship, as they had known it thus far, was over.

“The relationship between he and I is gone. It’s dead. It’s over,” Meri said definitively. The Sister Wives stars agreed that anything moving forward would have to be “something new.”

Meanwhile, Nancy called both Kody and Meri out for not putting forth enough effort to improve their marriage. The marriage therapist suggested that Meri’s guardedness and emotional reactions to confrontations had probably led to some of her breakdowns in communication with her husband.

“Your level of sensitivity and reactivity has been so great that getting to the deeper stuff…has been difficult,” Nancy told Meri.

As for Kody, Nancy pushed back on his insistence that he wasn’t willing to hear any criticism of his role in the breakdown of his marriage to Meri—at least not right now. “I don’t think I’m up for any criticism,” Kody admitted. “Are you serious?” Nancy asked incredulously, warning him that that might halt any progress the couple might have made.

“In this relationship, it’s gotten to the point where I’m just done hearing how I am wrong,” the Sister Wives patriarch explained.

Kody said he had tried to ‘rescue’ Meri and ‘be her Jesus’

Kody elaborated further on his complicated relationship history with his first wife, claiming that their past had made him feel “deceived” and emotionally “unsafe.”

When faced with confrontation or criticism, Kody claimed of Meri, “She goes completely into victim mode.”

“I will admit that,” Meri acknowledged, adding that she often felt she had to protect herself from hurt within her marriage as well as within the larger Brown family.

Meri’s alleged tendency to take on a victim role, Kody claimed, had made him feel responsible for her emotional welfare over the years. The dad of 18 said he had sometimes felt like he needed to “save” Meri, but he eventually burned out.

“I cannot be her Jesus. I tried doing that for years…I got a rescue complex,” the Sister Wives patriarch exclaimed. “All I’m trying to point out here is, it’s just exhausting sometimes.”

Nancy warned Kody and Meri about their equally ‘controlling’ natures

During the counseling session, it became clear that both Kody and Meri didn’t see the other as trying very hard to improve their relationship.

“Neither of us is being willing to see what the other person is doing,” Meri admitted when, during a written exercise from Nancy, they both struggled to come up with something positive to say about the other.

Kody, too, confessed that he had toxic tendencies when it came to conflicts with Meri. He admitted that he often walked away from arguments rather than engaging with people in confrontations, and seemed to hint that he knew this was a power play on his end. “It’s the big ‘screw you.’ It’s the big final say because I am walking away,” the Sister Wives star explained.

Nancy had her own take on the couple’s ongoing disconnect. “From my perception, you are both exceptionally controlling people,” she told Meri and Kody.

Turning to Kody, Nancy said, “I’ve never seen you not get your way in a significant decision.” She used the family’s recent move to Flagstaff as an example of how he often pushed his will onto his large family, including all four of his wives.

But Meri, too, was controlling in Nancy’s eyes. “I see you as highly controlling in a protective sense,” the therapist told Kody’s first wife.

Meri actually agreed with Nancy’s assessment of her, saying that she often felt she had to stay guarded to protect her emotions and the emotions of those she loved. “I’m very controlling to protect my environment, to protect me, to protect people that I love,” the Sister Wives star said.

Given the trait they had in common, Nancy thought it could serve as an icebreaker. Since Kody and Meri both admitted they sometimes struggled to know what to talk about—without either sticking to small talk and brushing aside anything more serious, or arguing about the past—their therapist had a unique suggestion. “If you two went to dinner and you just took the subject of control,” she ventured, “you might have a start.”

While the polygamist couple’s deeper issues obviously couldn’t be solved in a single session, Kody was grateful for the opportunity to try to work things out with his first wife. “This was really productive for me…I hope Meri is getting something out of it too,” he told TLC producers.