The idea of a man with four wives seems straight out of the Old Testament, but the tradition still goes on today, as America learned from the popular TLC show Sister Wives. The show follows Kody Brown and his four wives Merri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn, as they live their plural marriage lifestyle with a dozen and a half kids between them.
While the Browns surprisingly have things in common with families across the country, they also live a very different existence. They follow an unusual but old-school religion, yet they still enjoy the modern conveniences and raise 21st-century kids. To keep his big brood organized and functioning, Kody lays down some rules. Let's face it, it's definitely a patriarchal system that means that the husband is in charge, but some people might be surprised at how the family is set up.
Here are 20 insane rules Kody makes the sister wives follow.
Most people would think that deciding on a wife would be all up to the husband, but that isn't true of the Browns. The wives have all voted on when to invite a new woman into the family. On the show, Kody has said he followed his wives' lead and that it was one of them that introduced him to all of the others.
Watching your husband with another woman can be off-putting, even when you are part of plural marriage. So Kody has instituted a no public displays of affection policy when more than one wife is around. Even though they know that things happen behind closed doors, they don't have to see any of it and that can keep jealousy at bay.
Many couples have a hard time making sure that they spend quality time with their spouse. That can quadruple in a family like the Browns. So they all make a point to stick to the schedule. That doesn't always mean a four-day rotation, especially if there are big events like birthdays or things for the kids, so Kody has a big job trying to share his time four ways.
On the show, all of the wives agree on the principle of honoring the first wife. That means Meri, the first woman who agreed to share her husband. But that seemed to be harder in recent years, especially after Meri and Kody officially divorced to allow him to marry Robyn and adopt her kids. Things took a turn for the worst after Meri got catfished in an online relationship, but technically the rule still stands.
Despite the patriarchal set up to the family, the women aren't expected to be at home barefoot and pregnant. In fact, they make their own money. Janelle has always had a job outside of the home, so the others helped with her kids. Robyn started a business called Sister Wive's Closet, and Meri and Christine sell LulaRoe clothes. One recent bone of contention came when Meri wanted to buy her family home and turn it into a bed and breakfast, which she eventually did.
Having a family with multiple wives is part of the Browns religion. They are members of the Apostolic United Brethren, which is a sect that is no longer condoned by the Mormon church. Kody grew up in the church, as did all four of his wives. They left Utah because there were warrants out for their arrest for bigamy, so they continued to have church services in their homes after they moved.
Being a sister wife makes it hard to leave a marriage. Like any relationship, there are ups and downs, and for a time Janelle reportedly moved back in with her mom, which she attributes to postpartum depression. Recently, Kody thought that Meri was going to leave when she bought her mother's childhood home, especially since their relationship was strained after her catfishing drama. But that would mean not only leaving her husband but her sister wives and lots of kids. She toughed it out and stuck around.
Life in a plural family can be interesting for the kids. The 18 children in the Brown clan basically have four moms. While they leave with the woman who gave birth to them, the kids have to listen to all of the wives. The kids have different relationships with each mom, and that can be good and bad, depending on the circumstances.
Even if you voted on a wife joining the family, weddings can be really awkward. Kody's weddings to Janelle and Christine were really small, and the other wives weren't invited. But the one with Robyn was a big deal, and it was weird. Since PDAs are usually not allowed, it had to be tough to watch your husband have that first dance with someone else.
The Browns consider themselves one family, but they have four different households to deal with. In the past, they have lived in one house, but when they moved to Las Vegas, each wife set up their own house, and they did that again when they moved to Arizona. The family has invested in land in Flagstaff, and at this point, it isn't clear if they are going to build one big house there or one for each wife.
In any relationship, fights can happen, and that's especially true when you add on the drama of plural marriage. But Kody doesn't get involved much in the tiffs between the sister wives — they work things out on their own. That has been on display in recent years on their television show with lots of long talks and some sisterly bonding.
While Kody's name is on quite a few deeds, that doesn't mean that he has a home base. The houses are considered the wives' property, but that's not the case for Kody. He basically packs a suitcase to visit each wife, although he probably keeps some essentials at each home. It's a bit of a nomadic life for the patriarch.
While each of the Brown women has her own income stream, they don't keep that money to themselves. The family pools its money and budgets the monthly household needs. Everything else comes to a vote. That was evident on the TLC show when Merri wanted to use some of the family money to start her bed and breakfast, and it also comes into play when they buy their homes.
Kody and his wives grew up with their parents in plural marriages, but they are allowing their kids to decide on their own if the lifestyle is for them. So far, four of the kids have gotten married and none of them have chosen to have a sister wife. But there are more than a dozen possibilities of that in the future.
Having someone to complain about your husband with is the best part of having girlfriends. But when you are a sister wife, there is one topic that is off the table. The women do not talk about doing the deed with Kody. That would just be weird to compare what goes in different bedrooms with the same guy. They all admit that they get jealous, so they just don't talk about it.
A year or so ago, Kody and his many wives moved to Flagstaff, but that doesn't mean the women were happy. Pretty much everybody — except for Kody — wanted to stay put in Las Vegas. But the patriarch pushed, and eventually, everybody packed up and moved. Reportedly, Robyn decided to push for Arizona because her son was going to college there, but no one was on board with the idea initially.
With such a strict religious background, you might think that divorce is a bad word for the Browns. But it's not as taboo as you think. In fact, three of the four sister wives have been divorced. A lot of people know about Robyn's divorce since Kody adopted her two older kids, but Janelle was briefly married before Kody as well. And Kody and Meri got divorced themselves so that he could officially marry Robyn to do the adoption.
Having a new baby is a special time for a family, and that is also true for the Browns. Obviously, the mom takes on the brunt of the work with a newborn, but the sister wives also play a role in welcoming the baby to the family. On the show, people have been able to witness that with the birth of the three youngest Browns.
The only way that the women of Sister Wives can make it work is to be selfless. That's part of the patriarchal pact that they entered into with their marriages — they need to put their own individual needs last. That means that they worry more about making their fellow sister wives happy than themselves. It's a good trait in a friend, and we guess it helps out when you share a husband.
We've talked a lot in this article about the fact that the Browns like to think of their family as a democracy. They put a priority on voting on things like finances and even when a new wife joins the family. But there is one vote that means more than all the others combined — that's Kody. Ultimately, their religion and beliefs dictate that the man is the head of the household, and what he says goes. That's not unlike many families where the husband's vote counts as a 1.5, but Kody can outvote four with one shake of his head.