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One husband, four wives…oh my!

October 19, 2010

I’m fascinated by TLC’s “Sister Wives.”

If you haven’t seen it, the reality show follows a polygamist Utah family consisting of one husband, four wives and thirteen children (plus three stepkids). As the show opened, the husband had only three wives, all of whom lived happily in one large house divided into separate living quarters for each wife and her children. The husband rotated on a regular schedule among the three wives. Early on in the show, he announced to his children that he was courting a fourth future wife, and TLC showed scenes of his wives kissing him goodbye as he left for his date.

What struck me first was the seeming normalcy of the home life and how well-adjusted and happy the wives appeared to be. Aside from a few small spats of jealously, mostly involving the prospective fourth wife, the wives liked one another, supported each other, helped each other and generally acted like, well…sisters.

Now I’m sure that like many people in reality shows, the people involved want to present only the positive. I get that. So they’re not going to display negativity while cameras are rolling. But after watching a few shows, my inner amateur armchair psychologist kicked in and another thought struck me: the wives get along so well because of the nature of plural marriage.

At least in this plural marriage, companionship and connection have shifted from husband and wife to wife to wife.

Normally in marriage, a husband and a wife develop mutual interdependence and draw support from one another. They’re companions who become each other’s significant other. But when a man works sixty plus hours per week and then divides his time among four wives and sixteen children, he isn’t going to be able to provide the support the wives need…hence they turn to each other for companionship, support and emotional intimacy.

They become each other’s primary family and he becomes a visiting relative.

It’s no wonder that the wives get along so well and support each other.

Just my mental meanderings…but I remain fascinated.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 20, 2010 5:26 pm

    I have to admit I got hooked on this one too. However, I was lucky to get hooked just as the finale was being aired and they did a complete season marathon. It was interesting and I think you really did hit on an important point. Wife #3 said she wanted to marry the FAMILY not the man – which is what you’ve suggested here. It’s the tie with the “sisters” and not just the love relationship with the husband. I don’t know if I could live the way they do, but if it works for them then I’m happy for them. At least these ladies chose their life, unlike some of the sects where the life chooses them whether they want it or not.

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