The Brown family has become the face of polygamy for the United States since they began visiting their viewing audience each week on the TLC program Sister Wives. This week, the family brought a darker side of polygamy to their fans, where polygamy is not simply undesirable, but outright abusive.
Polygamy, Blended Homes
Is there a “good” side to polygamy, as Maddie indicated on the teens’ trip to the Holding Out HELP: Helping, Encouraging, & Loving Polygamists outreach? Well, in the case of the Browns, it does seem to work for them. In this day and age, family after family is split apart by divorce, many times with multiple divorces, and blended families are becoming more and more the norm. Most often, the mother will retain custody of the children of divorce, and the father will typically have some form of visitation. But, he certainly does not usually parent his children consistently, on a daily basis, as many single mothers would agree. In the Browns’ situation, those multiple marriages just happen to be all in one family instead of torn apart into separate units. The mothers work together, and the father has free access to all of the mothers, all of the children, making it easier, no doubt, to build relationships, although with so MANY children, it has to make relationship-building more difficult. But, still, it is hard to say that today’s broken-home norm is “better” than a positive plural marriage situation.
"Bad" Polygamy or Bad Situations?
On the other hand, there are many abusive plural marriage situations, as demonstrated by the representatives of Holding Out HELP. Warren Jeffs is an excellent example of polygamy gone wrong, way wrong. Jeffs made himself dictator of his community, declaring himself the “prophet,” and abusing women and children physically, emotionally and sexually. But, again, there are single-couple homes all over the U.S., struggling with the same situations, where children are being abused, and the adults—both men and women—are abusing their children and each other. For many reasons, people are afraid to leave these situations, and need help from the outside, whether they are in single-family households or in a plural marriage situation, and groups like Holding Out HELP, which helps individuals, sometimes entire family groups, leave a bad plural-marriage situation, are needed.
But, again, is there a “good” side to polygamy?
For some, polygamy may be wrong for religious reasons; perhaps it is wrong for personal reasons. For others, seeing the Browns may make it seem okay. Perhaps it is a question that only has an answer when one goes family by family, evaluating the success or failure of specific plural marriage situation. Perhaps it is a question that can only be answered, ironically, from an individual perspective. It does appear to work for the Brown family. Still, does that make it “right?”
Ultimately, when it comes to abuse in plural marriage, is it polygamy, or is it the people?
For information about Holding Out HELP, visit their website online.
Video: TLC/Sister Wives