Becoming Sister Wives

Posted by Brette in Books

Ok, I’m coming out. I sometimes watch the TLC show Sister Wives. And I just read (ok, skimmed) their book. Not familiar? Here’s the deal. The reality show follows the life of one fundamentalist Mormon (NOT part of a Warren Jefs cult, but definitely much more mainstream in lifestyle) and his 4 wives and their too-many-to-count kids. I tuned in to find out what their lives were like and to watch the drama unfold as they left Utah because they were worried about prosecution, married the 4th wife, had a baby, and had to move into separate homes since they couldn’t find one big enough. I also got a kick out of it when the wives all joined a gym together to lose weight (see the one on the right side of the photo – her waist has been 100% photoshopped in which I find ridiculous: let her be a plus-size woman for goodness sake!). I also couldn’t stop watching because I was trying to figure out what was so fantastic about this guy that 4 women would all want to share him (I don’t have an answer to that yet. He seems ok, but I don’t know what’s so amazing). It was also interesting to see how they all lived in one big house that had separate apartments for each wife when they were in Utah. Now things have settled down a bit  and the show is a bit boring and I don’t watch as often.

But I was interested to read the book. Each wife takes a turn telling her own story: how she became polygamist, how she got married, and what it’s like to live this way. It was slightly fascinating, if repetitive. What married woman has not thought how fantastic it would be to have a wife?  Someone else to help with child care, cooking, transportation, etc. A built-in best friend. They share their finances and have family business meetings. They support each other and function as one big family. If I just had one person here with me during the day who could let the freaking dog out sometimes I think my life would be so much better! These benefits makes it sound like a good deal. And the sister wives do talk about how they never have to miss a day of work for a sick kid and often pick up groceries for each other and act as additional parents. There’s always someone able to go to the school concert or baseball game for their kids. And their kids have built-in playmates. I love all of that. They also say they like having some space and time to themselves when the husband is with the other wives.

But, they also talk about deep personality conflicts among their marriages and lots of misunderstandings, jealousies, and hurt feelings. Basically it sounds like being in high school again on some level. I was surprised to learn that all of the wives, other than the first one, came into the marriage with little or no dating/courtship and had hardly any history with the husband before signing up with him for eternity (they believe their marriages are celestial, lasting in heaven). I don’t know how they expected it to work without getting to know each other beforehand, but their religion discourages an already married man from spending too much time courting a new wife. That seems like a screwy system to me.

They don’t talk or think about each other’s intimate relationships with their shared husband (seriously? There have to be SOME things they are just DYING to compare notes on) and are uncomfortable and jealous when he shows affection to any of the other wives. I definitely couldn’t handle sharing my husband or having him rotate through my house only every 4 days! It doesn’t sound like a great way to live at all.

The book satisfied my nosiness though – I wanted more details and this definitely offered them! If you’re interested, get it from the library if you can. It was a quick read for me, but it really did tell me a lot about their beliefs and the truth about living in a polygamist marriage. I know a lot of people are appalled by this lifestyle, but I’m pretty much a “to each his own” kind of person, so if it works for them, go for it.

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12 Responses

  • Living Large says:

    Ugh. I almost didn’t click on this post. I really detest reality television and hate it even worse when people who have no talent except to have some sort of “car wreck” (i.e. I don’t want to look but I cannot help it) life “writes” a book that was probably ghost written and extends their 15 minutes of fame. Sorry for the soap box, but I really cannot stand this side of our society these days.

  • TLC shows keep getting stranger, don’t they? I remember when TLC first started and it seemed like the focus was more on education.

  • I loved watching Big Love for a glimpse of the lifestyle..

  • Brette says:

    I watched that too!

  • I often daydream with other female writer friends about being sister wives. In some ways, it would make life a LOT easier to have someone to help carry the load (women, that is – most men don’t really share a lot of the burdens of women’s day to day chores and life). Especially during trying times – financial woes, illness, etc. But I guess we’re talking more commune than sister wives. It would be weird to share a guy.

  • I’ll admit it. I watched for a while myself because I found it fascinating. I haven’t really watched since the move to Nevada, so I don’t know what happened after they moved into different houses, but I truly wondered / feared that the separate houses thing would destroy the family. For me, having separate houses made it MUCH more like a man with multiple wives / families vs a big, unusual family under one roof.

  • I watched Big Love and have heard of this show, but not seen it. I don’t tend to watch “reality tv”.

  • merr says:

    I have never seen this show and will likely never watch it. I keep seeing books and shows about polygamy, though. I have watched Big Love and like other, enjoyed that. I, too, thought that TLC was more about education (we do not get that channel).

  • Brette says:

    Yes, that’s definitely true, although they are trying to create family businesses together and now are trying to buy 4 houses in a row. Apparently the wives like having their own but they want the kids all together, which makes sense.

  • Brette says:

    Yes, I feel the same way. In theory, having other people (no, make that other wives) to share the business of running a family would lighten the load. But it’s just icky to think about your husband having 3 other wives.

  • I tried to read a similar book about a year ago (Love times three? or something like that) and couldn’t get past the first chapter because it was fake happy “we all love each other and everyone should do this” type thing. This book sounds a lot more interesting.

  • Brette says:

    Yes, it was pretty honest – more than I expected because the TV show isn’t as open about this.