This Is How a Polygamist Family Actually Operates (Including How Sleep Arrangements Work)

Polygamy is something many people in the country are aware of but don’t always understand. Polygamist families consist of one man married to several wives, and all of them (plus the children) live under the same roof.

We took a look at what it’s really like to live in a polygamist family.

A man marries one wife, then they actively search for the others

Kody Brown in his home.

Kody Brown has a unique family. | TLC

Polygamy is not usually just a man suddenly deciding he wants another wife. While that does happen, a lot of polygamist families actually search for wives together. After all, it needs to be someone that everyone can enjoy spending time with. In the case of the family on TLC’s hit show Sister Wives, Kody Brown’s first wife, Meri, actually introduced him to his second wife, Janelle.

Next: The women typically play this role in the family. 

The women usually care for the household and work as a ‘team’

Kody's three wives sitting on a couch as they talk to each other.

The wives work together to run the household. | TLC

In many polygamist families, the women take care of the household. Since polygamists tend to have several children, the household chores become amplified. In the case of one wealthy Arizona family, three women keep track of the chores in their 10-bedroom home and their 16 children while their husband works. But in some families, such as TLC’s Brown family, women do hold jobs. But Meri Brown did tell Oprah she was terminated from her job due to her polygamist lifestyle.

Next: The wives get privacy within their homes. 

Their homes offer separate living spaces that are connected

A wife carries her baby.

There are a few boundaries the family needs to set. | TLC

When polygamist homes are built, the women will almost always have separate bedrooms, but they sometimes have separate living spaces as well. In the Brown family, each woman has a separate living space where she can spend time with her children and be away from the other wives. Of course, the home’s size depends on finances, so not all families are lucky enough to have that much privacy. The wives will help each other make dinner in the family’s kitchen and use a communal living space together.

Next: Here’s how sleep arrangements work. 

The husband alternates where he sleeps

Kody with part of his family.

He spends nights with each of his wives. | TLC

The sleeping arrangements in polygamist families are something that are usually discussed when a new wife moves in. In most cases, the husband alternates where he sleeps. A sleep schedule is sometimes arranged beforehand, and it works in a way that allows the husband a chance to share a bed with each wife frequently so as to not leave any wife out.

Next: This happens more often than you think. 

Jealousy does exist

Kody looks over at his wife.

Things aren’t always easy. | TLC

It’s the age-old question when it comes to polygamist families: Is there ever jealousy? The answer is yes. Meri Brown publicly struggled with accepting Kody Brown’s newest wife, Robyn, into the family. But she told Oprah that she had those same jealousy issues with the other wives as well. She was able to look past them for the most part, but they still do come up. And the same can be said for wives in other families, too. In the case of the wealthy Arizona family, the Daily Mail reported that the first wife’s husband decided to marry another woman out of nowhere; he and his first wife had been together for 17 years. She did not take well to it.

Next: Not every woman loves her life. 

Not all women are happy in polygamist families

Finger art depicting a polyamorous relationship.

Not a lifestyle for everyone. | TLC

Not only was the first wife of the Arizona family jealous, but she was also very depressed. She said in an interview that the depression lasted about 15 years. She didn’t feel confident in her looks, she was getting older, and she was very unhappy with multiple wives in the house. Also, she claimed that those who say they don’t experience jealousy are not telling the whole truth. Jealousy is natural, but most wives are able to work through it. For some, however, it’s more difficult to get past.

Next: One man admitted he’d do this if he weren’t polygamist. 

One man said he would stray if he were in a monogamous relationship

A man looks at a woman while secretly holding hands with another.

It might be a solid solution for some people. | JackF/Getty Images

When the Daily Mail interviewed a different Arizona polygamist family, the husband said that he would likely have been unfaithful if it hadn’t been for marrying multiple wives. Polygamists believe that a man’s job is to father as many children as he can. Being married to one woman can only mean so many children, so men might be inclined to be with other women regardless of whether or not they could marry them.

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