When people think about a typical American marriage, an image of two people comes to mind, not three, four, or five.
Polygamy is a union consisting of more than one husband or wife. Even though the practice is illegal in the United States, polygamists are undeterred. However, they're not the only advocates.
"The percentage of Americans who find polygamy to be morally acceptable has more than doubled since 2001, according to new results of a Gallup survey tracking opinions on key moral issues since the early 2000s. In 2001, only 7 percent of Americans deemed polygamy morally acceptable. Now, 16 percent say they do not find it objectionable," a 2015 article states.
Polygamy is inside the homes of every American. Well, every American who owns a television set, not to mention a DVR. The Learning Channel, dubbed TLC, supports the practice enough to give it airtime. TLC's Sister Wives is about one man, Kody Brown, and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Robyn and Christine. The family raises a total of eighteen children together, from ages thirty-two to five.
With one man, four women, and a gaggle of children, online rumors are bound to be interesting. Maybe the rumors are even true. A cheating scandal, divorce, and coming out are discussed within the show's seventh season, but the family's secrets run deeper than their skin-deep storylines. They struggle with hardship and heartache off-camera, but they also celebrate their joys behind the scenes, too.
The Browns may be different, but their highs, lows, and middle-of-the-road parallel any other American families. However, unlike most of the familial population, their lives are broadcasted on TV.
15 Meri's Lesbian Lover?
Meri is Kody's first wife, and she is also his first ex-wife. They divorced in September 2014 after decades of rocky, relational issues. When they were legally separated, Brown married his fourth wife Robyn, and he adopted her three children. Meri found herself in a state of vulnerability, so she sought comfort in online dating sites. She was falling in love with a purported man, but he turned out to be a she. "During an emotional time earlier this year, I began speaking with someone online. I never met this person and I regret being drawn into this situation," Meri says. She was catfished by Jackie Overton, a woman who exposed their conversations for clout. Meri's heart was shattered, and she's still picking up the pieces today.
14 Sexual Orientation Shocker
Meri's only biological daughter Mariah, is a lesbian, and during a sit-down interview with an ABC correspondent, the collegian talked about her struggles with sexuality. Mariah's inner conflict with love and sex was a reason why she shamed the LGBTQIA community. "The 21-year-old says she was fighting the truth about her sexuality for years. Mariah says her parents preached acceptance both at home and in public, but growing up in the church, she feared the repercussions of coming out as a lesbian. Suppressing her feelings for so long, Mariah says she became homophobic," the narrator states. She was in emotional pain then, but now, she's in a much healthier and happier headspace. She's dating Audrey Kriss, her colleague who also attends Utah's Westminster College. If they ever get married, I may have to crash their wedding.
13 Kody's Wives' Lives Between The Sheets
The four women are in a polygamist marriage because they believe in the practice. However, they still grapple with the unsavory realities that come with splitting a husband four ways. "Many sister wives like to banish from their brains, the fact that their husband is having sex and full intimate relationships with his other wives, but that becomes unpleasantly difficult when a sister wife becomes pregnant," the article reads. During the year 2011, Robyn was pregnant with her husband's baby, and Janelle was dissing her female counterpart low-key. She thought the younger wife was "helpless," but was Janelle speaking the truth or embellishing a lie? Kody showered his new bride with attention and affection all the time, so his lack of intimacy with Janelle caused the working woman to poke fun at the fourth wife. Janelle had to make lemonade from lemons, somehow.
12 Kody's Verbal Abuse
Kody seemed like the fun dad who was always present for his family and friends, but reality shows are far from reality. Kody and Janelle's then 16-year-old son, Hunter, was deemed a "raging testosterone monster" by his own father. Kody was probably making light of his teenager's emotions, but what wasn't funny was Hunter's detachment from the family. He and his siblings fought constantly, and a few of them talked about how angry and indignant he acted. "He just has this attitude of my parents are stupid and I am God," Kody says about his son. The young man was seen barking orders at his mothers, telling them to "get off their lazy butts" so he could go fishing. There's no excuse for bad manners and poor behavior, but Hunter was a hormonal teenager surrounded by an eccentric father, nagging mothers, noisy siblings, and a crying newborn. Cut him some slack.
11 Robyn's Friend Outs Kody
Apparently, Kody's only the fun dad for the TLC cameras and crew. Robyn's friend, Kendra Pollard-Parra, talked trash about Kody to In Touch. "It's worse than ever. The family is arguing constantly. They pretend to be happy for the show, but the family is a mess. [Kody is] definitely seeking another wife right now. He wants a younger female, basically what Robyn used to be. The first time he met me he said, 'You're so pretty. I'm looking for another wife!' Robyn was laughing, but I was like, 'Ewww!' He'll most likely drop one of the other wives. Kody's main goal is to keep the series going and to make money. He's a snake," Kendra dishes to the magazine. When gossip rags cite unnamed sources in their articles, I take the content with a grain of salt. However, I can't believe I saw a named source in the flesh. Maybe she's being honest, or maybe she's making quick cash, or maybe she's doing both. I don't care about the truth; I just want to know what the Brown family will do next.
10 Less Money, More Problems
Before their fame, Kody and Meri filed for bankruptcy in 2005, and they only had a total of $15, while their five bank accounts were already drained dry. "They owed $229,873 to different creditors, including a loan on their home in Montana, car loans, and $40,000 in credit card debt. The Brown family wasn't able to get out of paying off all of this debt. When the Brown's settled their bankruptcy, they were told to pay $187,885 of the loans and debt back. It looks like Sister Wives is doing that for this family," the article reads. The husband and wives have a tremendous amount of responsibility to shoulder, and even though Janelle works, the other wives are stay-at-home mothers full-time. If their television show was ever cancelled, the Brown family could deal with their humble and harsh beginnings again.
9 Sketchy Business
Kody, Meri, and Janelle brought in extra income. While the other women, Christine and Robyn, watched the children, the other three parents were working outside of their home. "Meri lost her job because of her involvement with the show, and Kody was vague about his employment. Janelle, at least for the first few years of Sister Wives filming, was the big bread winner for the Brown family unit. Janelle ran a business called E Z Pantry, which aimed to 'provide, market, design, sell or trade in the food storage industry,' a particularly lucrative market in the fundamentalist Mormon community," Bustle reports. They have entrepreneurial spirits, but their main source of income is probably from their reality show, which can be a cash cow. They just have to be responsible with their money, and secure a plan B. Their series won't last forever.
8 A Catfish or Moby-Dick?
Meri's catfish has moved from the small screen to Almost Meri'd, a memoir about her time with Meri, the secrets she learned, and the dirty details of her victim's polygamist lifestyle. "She told me in one really bad argument she was pregnant with her daughter and her sister wife grabbed her by the shoulders and kneed her right where the baby was. She said it angered her so much and worried her that she did not want to see or talk to that sister wife for months. And she didn't. She said she kept her distance and learned to become civil," Jackie claims. Who knew the Brown's were so violent? Hopefully, Jackie's lying.
7 Meri Slept With Jackie?
Meri's catfish also claims she and the sister wife had a romantic affair, and the pair even spent the night together. According to Jackie, Meri is a freak. "Overton and Meri engaged in a physical relationship. 'I will say we were both very shocked. Very happy. Satisfied. Neither one of us had done what we did in bed that night. Never. And it was amazing.' The book published 'a picture of [Meri] provocatively eating a banana. She's a fan of giving that [sexual] experience,'" according to Overton's Almost Meri'd. The two women cultivated their relationship for six months before the former betrayed her partner. Even though Jackie's book is supposed to be a tell-all, her excerpts smell fishy.
6 Kody Is Selfish In Bed
Apparently, Kody only sleeps with his fourth wife, Robyn. The claim comes from, you guessed it, Jackie. The woman wrote about Kody's sex life (or lack thereof) with his other three wives. "Within those golden pages are explosive details about what it's like to be married to a man who is also 'spiritually married' to other women and legally married to another. Kody is reportedly only sleeping with his legal wife Robyn. He spends the bulk of his nights with her, which has caused major jealousy issues within the other wives, especially Meri. So, she revealed these so-called feelings and secrets to [Jackie], because she reportedly had one foot out the door from the Brown compound," according to an article. Meri was starved for attention, and she was tired of living in a loveless marriage. She wanted attention from Kody, and if he was emotionally unavailable, then she was going to look elsewhere.
5 Kody's Not A Polygamist
Technically, Kody doesn't practice polygamy. He always said Meri, Janelle, and Christine were his "spiritual wives," and he wasn't lying. The man is now only married to Robyn, which was a point of contention within the Brown household. His other two wives wanted to wear white, too. However, Kody can't risk losing his freedom. "Unless Brown is legally married to all four of his wives, it would be difficult for the state to press charges against him for bigamy; 'spiritual marriage' isn't something governed by the law, and it could easily be argued that interfering with that was interfering with Brown's right to freely practice his religion," an article reports. If Kody actually had marriage certificates for women other than Robyn, then he could be prosecuted and imprisoned. The man may be goofy, but he's not stupid.
4 Kody's A Supreme Court Case Hopeful
Kody wanted to take his legal troubles to the Supreme Court, but the Court denied his request. His fate was based on the verdict of not justices, but a judge. "The Browns sought to argue before the high court that Utah's law banning polygamy infringes on their right to freedom of speech and religion. The family said they should be able to challenge the law because the threat of prosecution forced them to flee to Nevada and still looms over them when they return to Utah," an article reports. He was scared of the state's legal threat, but Utah has a history of overlooking plural marriage, as long as the union is free of domestic violence, child abuse, or any other crime. Kody and his family may be okay. They just have to play by their state's rules.
3 The Brown's Familial Ties
Kody and Janelle are still involved in their spiritual union, but Janelle was previously married to Adam Clark Barber, Meri's brother, while she was dating Kody. She had known Meri for a few years before she met Kody, and even though Janelle's interest in Meri's former husband was initially weird, she was still welcomed into their home. "'I met Kody in the fall of 1989, even though he may not remember it. When he walked into the room I looked at him and had that feeling of remembering something I had forgotten. It was a singular experience.' According to Utah's Salt Lake County court documents obtained exclusively by Radar, Janelle and Adam, now both 46, finalized their divorce on June 8, 1990 after nearly two years of marriage," the article reads. Janelle had love for her ex, but she fell in love with Kody. Their union was meant to be.
2 Mariah's Drinking Habit
The Duggar patriarchy, mainly known from their show 19 Kids and Counting, are very conservative, religious Christians. They don't believe in premarital sex, homosexuality, abortion, or alcohol. The Brown brood is very strict about their religion's rules, too. However, they're not as radical as the former family. Mariah celebrated her 21st birthday with cakes, candles, and several alcoholic beverages. She and her older brother, Logan, went bar-hopping. When he posted pictures of their fun night, people were confused; they thought Mormons weren't supposed to imbibe. Logan responds, "It is typically discouraged in Mormonism, but I'm not Mormon. I can't speak for Mariah, but she is a responsible adult. Cheers!"
1 The Brown's Familial Ties Part II
Kody and Janelle had an unconventional relationship from the beginning. When they started dating, she was already legally married to her first husband, which is Meri's brother. Their hookup was surprising since Janelle was cheating on her former spouse, so her loved ones were disappointed in her, except for her mother. She not only encouraged her daughter's relationship, but she decided to experiment with the practice of polygamy, too. "Janelle's mom, Sheryl, was actually intrigued by the polygamist concept and married into it with Kody's father, Winn Brown, just three months before Janelle and Kody 'wed.' Winn was a polygamist, husband of three," an article states. The women received backlash for their decisions, but at least they followed their hearts. Hopefully, they're happy in their respective romances now.
Sources: USA Today, The Huffington Post, ABC News, usmagazine, tlc, thedailybeast