‘Sister Wives’: What Is a ‘Basement Wife’?

Sister Wives fans are watching Kody Brown and his four wives hash out their troubles in a series of tell-all episodes to cap off season 16. Understandably, Christine Brown’s decision to end her marriage to Kody remains the hottest topic. The term “basement wife” has been used several times when referencing Christine and her dissatisfaction with her marriage. So, what exactly does the phrase mean? 

Christine Brown insists that she was the ‘basement wife’

Christine has made her feelings about her marriage well known in recent months. The mother of six has opted to leave her decades-long marriage to Kody in search of happiness elsewhere. While Kody’s decision to withhold intimacy indefinitely ultimately forced Christine to leave, she was unhappy for years before.

Christine has repeatedly stated that she was the “basement wife” for many years of her marriage. The term isn’t known to most viewers of the series, but it seems to describe a certain type of dynamic in a plural marriage. At the very least, Christine has used the phrase to describe the dynamic in the Brown family. It is important to note that while living in a home in Lehi, Utah, Christine, quite literally, lived in the basement.  

What does the term ‘basement wife’ mean for ‘Sister Wives’ star Christine Brown? 

The term “basement wife” appears to reference the hierarchy that is, apparently, not uncommon in the polygamist lifestyle. The “basement wife,” as the Brown family uses it, refers to the wife that is lowest down in the pecking order or the wife tasked with putting the family above their own needs. At the very least, that appears to be the definition that Christine has assigned the term. 

Christine Brown on the set of the 'Sister Wives' Season 16 One-on-One reunion on TLC.
Christine Brown ‘Sister Wives’ | TLC

Along with “basement wife,” the Brown family has also used the terms “queen wife” and “head wife” interchangeably. The “head wife” or “queen wife” appears to be the wife in the leadership role. Meri Brown, Kody’s first wife, fulfilled that role for decades before Robyn Brown joined the family. While Kody and Robyn both insist there is no “head wife” in their family, Sister Wives believe Robyn currently holds the title. Meri is now mostly estranged from the Browns.

Janelle Brown insists there was no ‘basement wife’

While Christine is adamant that she was the wife tasked with keeping the family fed and running while neglecting her own needs, Janelle Brown, Kody’s second wife, is adamant that there was no “basement wife” in the family. During the second part of the Sister Wives tell-all episode, Janelle discussed the situation. In her interview with Sukanya Krishnan, Janelle, Kody’s second wife, stated that she never felt that particular dynamic was at play in the Brown family. When pressed, Janelle backtracked, suggesting that, at least, Christine never openly expressed those feelings until recently. 

Since Christine decided to leave the Brown family, Sister Wives fans have combed through old footage. Many went looking for hints of Christine’s unhappiness. They found it. Reddit users have found several moments from past seasons where Christine expressed her dissatisfaction with her role in the Brown family or how she was being treated. Christine now lives in Utah, close to several of her adult children. Kody remains in Flagstaff, Arizona.

RELATED: ‘Sister Wives’: When Will the Rest of the Tell-All Episodes Air?