Sister Wives TLC True Story -- 'I Married My Younger Sister's Husband'
The Browns, by the way, belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which practices polygamy. (Before we go any further, most Mormons do not.)
Last night Kody wed Robyn, his newest and youngest wife (above, second from right), while the other three helped plan the festivities / seethed with jealousy.
Think for a minute: Can you imagine what it actually feels like to share the guy you love with three other women? To watch as he says "I Do" to another one, too? Or to fall asleep alone three nights out of four, knowing he's in the bed of his other wife (or other other wife) right across the hall?
As one friend put it, "My sister and I can't even share a sweater."
It sure got us thinking. Each night, this same scene plays out in polygamist bedrooms across America, but what is it like to be a real-life sister-wife when the cameras -- and the paychecks -- aren't there?
So, we decided to ask one. Not only is she a plural wife, she's married to her younger sister's husband.
Meet DoriAnn, right, a mother of 12 who, at her younger sister's request, took her husband's hand. But that's just the beginning of the plot twists.
We first discovered her as the star of "Sister Wife," a riveting documentary short about her plural marriage that debuted at Sundance last year to rave reviews. (You can watch the trailer below.)
Directed by Jill Orschel, the documentary itself is only 10 minutes long. In it, DoriAnn immerses herself in a hot bath while describing getting married to her sister's husband -- an event which, we should add, would require us to take a lot of hot baths. Cold ones, too.
As you're about to see, love triangles are never easy, even if you believe God is personally connecting the dots. DoriAnn has been divorced (once) and married (twice), and her current relationship has engaged her in a lifetime of questioning.
Just how do you wind up marrying your younger sibling's man while she's still very much married to him? The answers aren't obvious, but they sure are fascinating.
Going in, you should know this: Divorce in DoriAnn's religion is rare. Marrying for love? Unheard of. At the moment, DoriAnn and her sister don't speak much. She believes bringing a third wife into the marriage might help heal their situation. And she chose to tell Lemondrop her story to help people understand polygamy -- and its limits -- a little better.
Hear her out. Your own relationship problems might seem infinitely easier, and you'll learn why -- surprise! -- she believes polygamist husbands have it roughest of all.
Lemondrop: You grew up in the Mormon fundamentalist church. Can you tell us a little about your family and your faith? We're curious: Why, in your branch of the religion, is it customary for a man to have multiples wives?
DoriAnn: I was born in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah -- it's on the border of the two states. It's a small town where everyone knew everyone's first name and last name and went to the same church on Sunday.
One of the defining events of my childhood was a tragic accident. Two men's deaths in our backyard which left my mother and father traumatized for most of our lives. Alcohol became my parents' anesthesia. I experienced my mother's faith as pure and everlasting, with no beginning and no end. My father's faith seemed to me to wane into skepticism and shame, and then blame seemed to gradually take over. Between these two conditions, my father was not a healthy candidate for another wife, so my sister and I only witnessed plural marriage outside of our own family.
To my simple understanding, having multiple wives has been a teaching among certain factions of Mormon society for the last three generations. In order to get to the highest level of heaven -- and have the right to be a mother and father for all eternity -- one has to fulfill a mandate to live the law of Sarah in this life.
This law requires that a woman, usually the first wife, give another woman of her choosing unto her husband in marriage. Placement marriage is held in the highest regard and those who are able to practice this principle are revered as the most faithful among the people.
A woman's duty is to turn herself in when she is ready for marriage and pray for a knowledge of who will be willing to receive her place in this man's family, then place herself under his mind and will for her life and take directions in all things. A man's duty and faith requires him to take whomever he is given and honor and regard her by having children with her and providing emotionally, spiritually and physically for her and all of his other family members equally in all things.
You mention in "Sister Wife" that you come from a long line of practicing polygamists. How many children were in your family? Do they all practice polygamy today?
Yes, I come from three generations of polygamy, though my mother and father did not live in polygamy while they were married. My mother had eight children with my dad and one more as a plural wife in her second marriage, after they divorced. My dad had seven more children in another relationship with an adopted sibling who was one year in age from me. So, there is only me and my sister who have engaged in this belief system.
You married, for the first time, as a teenager. How was that match arranged?
I was 16 when I chose into a monogamous marriage, and was an only wife for 14 years. My parents left our hometown when I was 15, and I was married at 16 in Central America to my first husband, in a different fundamentalist group that was a little more lenient.
And how was it decided that he would be your husband?
He came to me and asked me to marry him, and I prayed about it. Then we fell in love, and we got married, but I still felt torn between two worlds. I felt in my soul that at some time missing pieces were yet to be addressed fom my past.
You were his only wife. Why did he not choose to take others?
Actually he didn't: His father had three wives, and we were looking at plural marriage for many years. The woman that I wanted to share my life with chose another.
And you really wanted him to take another wife?
For me, I think it was monotonous, just the two of us, and I was really looking forward to a third party to bring more companionship, and to have the companionship of another woman. I had kind of become despondent in the marriage at that point. We were living in the Yucatan. There was a lot of poverty. It was a hard life.
When did you start having children?
I had my first at 19. By the time I decided to get a divorce -- 11 years later -- I had eight. I chose to remarry at age 32 as a plural wife.
To your sister's husband. You say in the movie that you then knelt down in prayer before your religious leaders. What did they say? Were they in favor of your divorcing and marrying him instead, given the circumstances?
Actually I knelt down for 10 years trying to reason with myself to stay where I had been, and not inflict a divorce on my children's lives, as I had myself experienced.
It was a conflicting time for everyone involved. Our religious leaders at the time were placed in an uncomfortable dilemma. It is never easy to be involved, or even witness, a family divided and a rematch accommodated. This is a very rare occurrence among polygamous societies.
It was a big deal for my family. And by becoming a plural wife, a big shift into a new level of conformity, something me and my eight children from my previous marriage were not accustomed to.
To us, the hardest part to digest is sharing a mate with your sibling. Do you know any other sister-wives who are married to the husband of their biological sister?
Yes, though it seems to be a rarity among the different communities of polygamists.
My sister and I have had 11 years of jealousy, insecurities and strife, with very little to say because of the pain we have been trying to survive in ...
Being a biological sister-wife seems to be an extra added conundrum, in my opinion, though I have seen other sisters who seem to get along just fine.
But in "Sister Wife" you mention, explicitly, that this was an agreement that was proposed to you by your sister. Can you explain why she suggested you marry her husband as well?
Yes ... I have one brave-hearted sister who came and found me and reminded me of our religion's agreements, in spite of what she was going through every day. She lived with a man who was in love with her sister from day one.
I went through the divorce and went through the protocol of our society to go into marriage with the one who is my inner heart and soul.
Whoa, we weren't expecting that. How was this connection with your/her husband first established?
Because of the accident. Everyone in our community tends to their own business, but after the accident, my mom found places to go and spend her time, with other families. My sister wasn't born yet. As little, tiny children my now-husband and I made a connection.
This is something I have only begun to witness and let myself accept. Falling in love and choosing a mate is greatly discouraged in this particular community, to help keep men from running around hounding women, a condition that was the case back in the early 1830s.
I can answer this question more honestly now than at any other time in my life. You see, I am no longer afraid to admit that it was perfectly innocent that two little children experienced a soul connection at 3 years old while my mother, me and little brother stayed day after day at my husband's house after the tragic accident I mentioned above, to receive the comfort and solace she needed after such a traumatic event.
We, in our innocence, grew a relationship, though this was later conditioned out of us. We had gone our separate ways and married in our separate comfort zones. This was all done from the fear of offending God for allowing our hearts to feel that which is not the way back to Godhood.
So, as you grew up, there was no such thing as dating?
It's not even an option in our community. You try to stay away from that no matter what. It is something that's discouraged. Even in marriage, it's a distant friendship because you see each other once in a blue moon because of all the responsibilities and your limited time with the man.
The religious beliefs that we live under are beyond unreasonable on women, children and the men. Maybe not for someone that can live a life logistically, but I am all heart.
Most people shut that off. To survive, many have shut that down.
But why in the world would your sister agree to this arrangement?
She is merely trying to be the kind of wife you were born to be, and that is to invite women in.
On one hand, I admire her. On the other, I cringe at how much she expects of herself to please him, because I'm not like that.
So many questions! Where do you all live now? Do you co-mother your children? What do your sister's children call you?
We all lived together for two years, then we lived on the same lot for a few more years, and, for the last four years we have lived in separate communities. I have birthed twelve children and between the three of us we have 20.
Yes, we do co-mother the children, though because of some of the pretty big differences we have about child rearing, it is only occasionally. The definite distinction of child rearing techniques is probably the biggest barrier that has come between us. I am called Mother DoriAnn or Aunt DoriAnn.
And how do you manage raising your own children, given the restrictions?
Our teenagers right now are going there in the saddest way. They're breaking out of it. They're going to break out, and their kids are going to take it even further than they did. They do it from a place of hiding, from a place of rebellion. It's broken many of our hearts to see some of our children -- not all, but some of our children -- drink, or use alcohol or drugs so they can understand who they are, not who someone says they will be. Or to give away sex so someone will give them some attention.
That's many of our greatest sorrows. A group of us have formed a healing arts center to facilitate a place to explore self-expression through painting, dramatic arts, dance, music, life skills and more. We are raising funds. There are many areas to explore who we are not through breaking out, but through self-exploration and expression...
And, we're so curious, how did your husband learn to meet the needs of two wives?
It's just a tough job, sweetheart. I can't even imagine what it's like to be the man. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I think the women have it easier than the man does. He has the roughest job of all to try to juggle that many relationships, and provide for that many people. It's just utterly unreasonable.
Through the years, I've watched him become very angry and frustrated with the expectations that are required of him, and he becomes -- more and more -- at times he can be so difficult to be around, because he's so frustrated. It's probably the ugliest job in the whole situation.
In the beginning, how was it for you and your sister?
Then, we were in a much more innocent place: This was new to us. We had seen this all around us, but we had never lived it in our own home. We were innocent and in wonderment about how this might be possible. We saw it all around us our whole lives, so it must be possible, but now -- this isn't eternal -- but right now we're in a stance of, this sucks.
But you both love your husband.
Yes, there's a lot of appreciation. He's an incredible friend. He's seen the worst of me, the absolute worst, and I don't think anyone can get to know their worst until they share someone with someone.
What is the hardest part of sharing someone you love with someone else?
Probably learning to keep a balance of who you are as an individual soul, where your balance is, in and of yourself, and in the family relationship and your balance in your service to the community and the world.
When you see him with someone else, it kind of gets your attention, and you get pulled ... it's kind of like little kids in the sandbox, where someone has the toy that everyone wants. That's kind of how the man feels. And he wants to be by himself!
And you do feel intense jealousy. You describe it so viscerally -- and beautifully -- in the movie. One of the things that was incredibly hard to watch was your description of how it felt to overhear your sister being intimate with your husband: "Every night, back and forth. And every night that he was with her felt like a wound that started to fester."
Alas, yes, the second-most unreasonable expectation I have ever run across, in each and every day of my existence, is the three-letter word S-E-X, the ultimate human ability to utilize the body for its greatest sensory fulfillment.
I have yet to meet one human who is thrilled to share a sexual partner (and I imagine there are a rare few), in this imperfect world with our imperfect bodies. This is to say the least possible on this subject!
Does that ever get easier over time, or do you still feel, as you describe in "Sister Wife," rage?
It does. It takes a long time, but I promise you, it becomes something not nearly as sensitive as the first years.
What do you think the biggest gift that being a plural wife has brought you?
For me, it would be a fast track to intimately knowing myself. All of me, the negative and the positive. And it feels like a fast track, a university of life skills that had to happen overnight. Much more has been required of me than I could have ever imagined was possible for a human being. If you could have told me then who I would be know, I couldn't have comprehended it. It requires development, fast and hard and quick: emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually.
For your children, when they get of age, what do you want for them?
Where I am now is that we all have to go through the ego -- specific experiences for our own growth. I would share my experiences with them openly, just like I'm sharing with all of you now, nor would I want to influence them either way. I would be very open and let them experience their innate right to choose, to the best of my ability, as I go along my own journey. I want them to seek happiness, whatever that is for them.
Do you think your husband will ever take another wife?
I do. I wish it weren't so, but I think he will.
It's our conditioning. It's all he's ever known.
Does having two wives instead of, say, 11 affect how he's seen in the community?
I would say absolutely.
On "Sister Wives," the show, the women seem to say that, despite everything -- the jealousy, the competition, the spite -- the women really are close.
It's a beautiful thing -- that's what I longed for, because that's what I saw as a child growing up. That's the most beautiful part of the whole thing. That is the gift -- that circle. Yes, the camaraderie of the women and the children is bar none.
But achieving that closeness -- understandably -- has been difficult so far for you and your sister. Do you think that if another wife came in, it would somehow bring you closer?
I think if it were with a person who understands us better than anyone else. I think providence has a hand here. We've been told, both me and my sister, over and over, that because there are only two of us, that's the hardest part. After three, the competition fades.
Have you watched "Sister Wives"?
I haven't. I watched a bit of "Big Love," and it annoyed me and turned me off. I deal with the idiosyncrasies of our lifestyle all day long, every day. Believe you me, I don't want to watch it on the screen when I finally have a moment once in a blue moon to sit and relax with a good movie.
Carrie Sloan is the editor of MyDaily. She, too, has a younger sister, but that's where the similarities end.
See the trailer for "Sister Wife" below. To find out how you can buy the movie, click here.
More on Sister Wives:
-- Escape From Polygamy: "I Was His Favorite Wife, But I Couldn't Take It Anymore"
-- Read More About the Making of DoriAnn's Film, "Sister Wife"
-- What Happened in the "Sister Wives" Season Finale?
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