As the new season of Sister Wives kicks off amid rumors that Kody Brown and his first wife Meri have split, we sat down with a former polygamist to discuss why she thinks they’re just that: rumors.
The former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has chosen to remain anonymous to keep her responses as frank as possible.
Eight years ago, she left her husband and moved away to raise her children alone.
Today, she shares the reasons she thinks it’s so hard for Meri Brown to do the same (minus the children).
Monsters and Critics: So, first, explain your own situation. How many sister wives did you have?
Ex-sister wife: I had an arranged marriage to a man almost 20 years older than me. He had two wives when I married him and I was his last.
M&C: How old were you?
Ex-sister wife: I was 20.
M&C: Do you think that [having an arranged marriage] changes your situation, as opposed to Meri, though? Because she willingly married Kody and then she encouraged Kody to marry Christine and Janelle.
Ex-sister wife: I feel like we had the same beliefs regarding polygamy. While I had an arranged marriage and she chose Kody, I feel like that doesn’t affect the trials in a polygamist marriage.
Our beliefs were that we had to live polygamy to get into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.
M&C: The celestial kingdom?
Ex-sister wife: That was the highest degree of heaven. So, basically, you suffer hell on earth to get into heaven.
M&C: Is polygamy hell on earth?
Ex-sister wife: Yes. In my experience, it was hell on earth.
M&C: So why don’t you think Meri has left him then, if it’s so hard?
Ex-sister wife: I feel like it’s because she doesn’t want to go to Hell. The real one.
It’s Meri’s beliefs keeping her with Kody, because she wants to be rewarded in heaven and, in my opinion, unless she loses her faith, she’ll stay with him.
I also wonder if she stays because she doesn’t feel like she has any other options.
M&C: How were you able to make the decision to leave?
Ex-sister wife: I lost faith. My beliefs changed. But it still took me 14 years to walk away.
M&C: And how was it for you when you finally left? Were you worried you wouldn’t be able to support yourself?
Ex-sister wife: I was. And I had no family close by, other than my brother, who helped me tremendously, and my cousin. I had their help and I feel like, if you don’t have that support, it’s so hard.
Meri comes from a polygamist family and her family still lives in it, still believes, and I don’t think she would have the support she needs from them to leave.
And I feel like, with Meri, just watching her show, her daughter already has so much anger towards her. Just with the catfishing incident. And I feel like, if Meri left Kody, I don’t think her daughter Mariah would forgive her.
M&C: Really? Because Mariah is very, very liberal. You can see from her social media posts that’s she very feminist. So I wonder how she reconciles that with polygamy because, and we can’t speak for every family, in the Mormon religion, polygamy is all about the man, even if they like to pretend it isn’t. So you have to wonder why Mariah would be angry at her mom for wanting to leave that behind.
Ex-sister wife: Yeah, thinking back on older seasons, I find it very interesting that Mariah had such hard feelings toward her mom. Being as liberal and open minded as she is, she was still so angry at her mom for going outside of her relationship with Kody to find comfort and love.
M&C: She was so furious, but that shows how pervasive it is, because you can still be so open-minded and “worldly”, and in the back of your head, you’re still like, “Oh, but you’re in this polygamist marriage so you have to commit.” You don’t realize how much growing up in that lifestyle affects you.
Ex-sister wife: Yes, it affects your mind. Mariah blames her mother, rather than being like, “Yes, mother. I can understand you need to go find love because dad has all these wives and you’re not getting what you need.”
M&C: She still sees this perfect polygamist family. It’s, “Oh, you chose to do this. You’re in love. Our family is so great, why would you leave that?” She might not realize that, actually, there are a lot of issues.
Ex-sister wife: So many issues. A lot of times the children are shielded from that and I know that’s one reason I stayed as long as I did, to protect my children.
Then I realized they weren’t getting what they needed, either. Because it’s not like they have a deep love, Kody and Meri. Kody has pieces of his heart to give to each wife. He does not have a deep love with any of his wives.
M&C: So, you don’t believe his catchphrase that love is multiplied not divided?
Ex-sister wife: No.
M&C: It’s a load of horse s**t?
Ex-sister wife: It’s a load of horse s**t.
Sister Wives airs Sundays at 10/9c on TLC.