If you haven't yet tuned into the TLC show "Sister Wives", you should. It's been a long time since I've watched a reality TV show that's both simultaneously horrified and challenged me. And as much as the show kind of makes me go "blech", I also can't help but be impressed with the honesty and love with which this family (and at the end of the day, one wife or four, this is one big family) navigates its way through life.
The show follows a husband and his three wives as they seek to add another wife to the family. The first three wives have been together raising their family for over 17 years (wife 1 for 20 years, wife 2 for 17 and wife three for 16). One common theme shared among the wives is "choice." They each repeat on numerous occasions their choice to live within a polygamous relationship. Each also talk about how a polygamous relationship is a way to "make [me] a better person," and that they can't imagine living outside this sort of family structure.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that people living within a certain lifestyle don't find their lifestyle to be strange. I probably also shouldn't be surprised that a family can still be functional and loving despite what should be a completely dysfunctional situation. So I had to sit and seriously question, "What's really wrong here?"
And it came to me pretty quickly: it's yet another situation where women are forced to put up with the tomfoolery of a man because it's supposed to be the woman's "job," "calling," or "duty." And that pisses me off.
(Before I go any further, it's important to note that the polygamy portrayed in this series is NOT the same as an open relationship, which usually originates with an original couple or pairing, who both mutually agree that one or both parties may seek relationships outside of the original bond. True open relationships are often discussed at length between the original couple, with the couple working together to establish how far the separate relationships go. Open relationships are usually not full of wild sex origies, but are more commonly individuals pursuing separate relationships outside the initial pairing. In stark contrast, in the relationship shown on Sister Wives, only one party is ALLOWED--literally--to have more than one relationship. If one of the wives on this show decides to take a lover or pursue another mate, she would be an adulteress.)
Now, it's not as if these women don't feel they have choice. In fact as I mentioned earlier, each woman talks about how she chose they lifestyle she is in (and on the flip side, one even mentions the possibility of choosing to leave the relationship). But I can't help but feel it's a "choice" like choosing between blue and light blue, without ever knowing that green, yellow, purple or orange exists.
I really couldn't stand one recent conversation where Kody (the husband) and Meri (Kody's first wife) are celebrating their 20th anniversary. During the course of their celebratory meal, Meri discusses how she feels jealousy over the newest woman entering the family. Kody is quick to play the "that's not fair" card, since apparently Meri first mentioned adding his fiance, Robyn, to their family months before when they met her at a party. Then he basically puts the kabash on the conversation since it was "too late" because he had all these feelings now, and besides, it was Meri's idea in the first place.
(Er...what? So, you can't just have one less wife? A-hem, carrying on...)
Meri then asks him to consider what it would be like if she started giving attention to another man. Kody says it would be "abhorrent" and he can't even think about it. And then, to cap the whole conversation off, he reminds her that this is the life she chose. Which is akin to saying, "Get over it."
Look, here's a family that's made a polygamous relationship work for years. And to be fair, it doesn't seem like anyone in the family (namely, the kids) is overly damaged or suffering from clear mental or emotional stress. Kudos to them, but it seems to be a life that is wildly beneficial for the man (just like most things since, oh, forever), while it's something that's intended to "teach" the women to be better people inside the relationship. It would be more acceptable to me if the women also had the option to look for other mates outside the initial relationship, but it's clear that that particular choice only belongs to the patriarch of the family.
Have any of you seen TLC's Sister Wives? What do you think of the series?
PS--The Boyfriend has been warned about my views on sharing him with a few of my closest sister wives. It's "no."