The Latest ‘Sister Wives’ Drama Reveals the Hardships of a Polygamist Family

In a monogamous marriage, two people form a legally binding bond. If polygamy were legal in the United States, a husband could legally marry more than one husband or wife simultaneously. Even though it’s against the law, Sister Wives star Kody Brown has multiple wives. And things aren’t going so well with the one he’s been with the longest.

It’s impossible to live a drama-free life when you’re part of a family featuring a husband, four wives, and 18 children. The latest drama reveals the hardest part about polygamy: continuing to love each other when things fall apart.

Kody and Meri have struggled with their relationship for awhile

Keri Brown and Kody Brown sitting together.

Their relationship became strained. | TLC

The couple were once legally married but officially divorced in 2014, so Kody could marry Robyn and legally adopt her three kids. Despite agreeing to make the change from a legal to “spiritual” marriage, Meri felt uncomfortable and emotionally distressed.

Next: Kody made an announcement that changed everything.

Kody said he no longer wanted to be ‘intimate’ with Meri

Kody Brown during a segment interview.

This affected everyone. | TLC

Apparently, things between Meri and Kody were never quite the same after their divorce. In a 2018 interview, he revealed that he was no longer interested in being “intimate” with his first wife, which shook the whole family’s relationship.

Next: A polygamist family that stays together, hurts together.

Janelle revealed how their relationship impacted hers

Kody Brown and Janelle Brown looking at their baby.

Janelle’s life would be affected, too. | TLC

Janelle, Kody’s second wife, explained that polygamy isn’t like four separate relationships happening at the same time. Instead, they’re all intertwined. And when one starts to unravel, all the others suffer. She said, “You just don’t live in a vacuum. One relationship effects the other 100 percent.”

Next: None of the other wives was happy about the situation.

The whole family suffered from ‘broken hearts’

Kody Brown and his family.

The family was upset. | TLC

To Kody’s other three wives, watching the struggle caused genuine heartbreak. All parties claimed to love and care deeply for one another, so witnessing the conflict really did feel like watching close members of their family break apart.

Next: Staying neutral isn’t easy, according to the other three.

Robyn, Christine, and Janelle are ‘Switzerland’

Robyn is trying to stay out of trouble. | TLC

As Kody’s second, third, and fourth wives, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn say they have to remain neutral amid the steep romantic conflict. Janelle told People, “We love Meri, we love Kody. We have to be Switzerland constantly.”

Next: Is Meri legally obligated to stay with the family without a divorce?

Only 1 of Kody’s marriages is technically legal

Robyn Brown smiling in a dress.

Robyn is the only wife officially married Kody. | Robyn Brown via Instagram

Polygamy is illegal across the United States, but according to the law, the Brown family isn’t breaking any rules. Technically, Kody holds only one legal marriage, as of 2018, to Robyn. Janelle, Christine, and Merri aren’t his legal wives, even though he considers them otherwise.

Next: How do the Browns and other polygamist families really operate?

A man marries 1 wife, and 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. Although that does happen, a lot of polygamist families actually search for wives together. After all, it needs to be someone with whom everyone can enjoy spending time. In fact, 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. Because 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 the Brown family, women hold jobs. But Meri 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. And 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 to not leave any wife out.

Next: Is the Brown family above the law?

How the family gets away with polygamy

Wedding rings on a table.

The rest of the marriages are “spiritual.” | Paulrichstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Because only one of Koby Brown’s marriages is legal, and the other three are strictly “spiritual,” the government technically can’t do anything about it. Or maybe they just don’t want to deal with another highly publicized lawsuit.

Additional reporting by Julia Mullaney.

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