A scenario you probably don’t see in your future.
Unless you’re a Fundamentalist Mormon like Kody Brown and his four wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, on the TLC show Sister Wives.
They practice polygyny, a part of polygamy in which the man courts more than one wife. Together they live under one roof and raise twelve children, basically a real life Big Love. Kody met his first wife, Meri, about 20 years ago, three years later he married Janelle, and a year after that he married Christine. Most recently he married Robyn, which set the premise of the show’s first season. It seems like it would be complete chaos, right? Three women sharing one man (and adding kids to the mix) could be a very overwhelming situation. But for those of you who haven’t watched the show, it’s far from the petty catfights you’d imagine. No, there isn’t any hair pulling or face slapping. Sister Wives is about a family that just had more people involved, a situation that drew many in front of their TVs every Sunday night (including myself). And sex is never a taboo topic on the show. Kody spends each night with a different wife— they have a schedule.
Many people have been quick to criticize the family, and I understand why, since it is something that we’re unfamiliar with. But after watching the show and consulting with experts, I found there are in fact valuable lessons to be learned from these polygamists.
Here are the 4 Love Lessons to be learned from the Sister Wives:
Lesson #1 Keep your relationship exciting
“I just fell in love. Then I fell in love again, and I fell in love again,” — Kody Brown
Sure, from a man’s perspective, falling in love with three different women and not having his penis cut off is a pretty good deal. But honestly, it’s an unrealistic situation for most of today’s population. The question is then: how can you keep your man falling for you over and over again?
“It’s important to make that a priority,” said Liz Langley, a sex and relationships writer. “When relationships start to get stale, people wonder ‘why can’t it be the way it used to be?’ Relationships naturally change because we change chemically.”
The first few stages of a relationship, Langley said, involve heavy attraction, craving, and romantic love. When those feelings, which are caused by the hormone dopamine, fade, a person in the relationship can take that as a sign that the relationship isn’t working out. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
“When we first fall in love everything is new,” Langley said. “Keeping that novelty may be as easy as planning something to surprise them… doing things that bring a little unexpected excitement.”
And Langley said, it doesn’t have to be costly or elaborate— especially on a collegiette’s™ budget.
“If they mention a movie they love, wait a couple of weeks and rent it for them after they’ve forgotten about it. It’s a small thing you can do together but it shows you were listening.”
Focusing on the happiness and satisfaction of your partner is important in a relationship, but you might see the best results by enhancing your own life.
Perhaps you’ve been interested in the rock climbing classes at your campus recreational center? Or maybe it’s joining the winter ski & snowboarding club that’s on your mind this winter? Don’t let your relationship bog you down from doing the things you want to do.
It’s important to keep your life exciting and interesting, as well, which will essentially add variety and excitement to your relationship.
“Focus on other areas of your life so you don’t rely on the person for everything,” Langley said. “Keep it exciting for yourself so that level of interest is there and you’re excited to share new things [with your partner].”
Langley, who teaches belly dance classes for beginners, recently choreographed a dance for a friend to show off for her new husband— an activity that’s interested her friend for a while.
“She’s learning to do something she always wanted to learn,” Langley said. “They don’t have to be grand gestures, just simple, fun things that show you care.”
Lesson # 2 You can have it all
“I never wanted to just be married to a man…There’s too many things I wanted to do, to be free for.”- Christine Brown, Kody’s third wife
In the show, Christine claimed she had the chance to go back to school thanks to the help of her fellow sister wives.
As collegiettes™, we may not be faced with the challenges of balancing a career, children, and marriage, but we do face the difficulties of maintaining academics, friendships, a social life, and a relationship. Being a young woman in a relationship and keeping your independence can be tough but is definitely possible.
Langley said to remember to keep your own goals in mind in a relationship.
“What would you want your life to look like if your partner wasn’t in it? Remember what makes you happy besides them and don’t drop those interests. For one thing those interests are probably part of what attracted your partner to you as a confident, well-rounded person in the first place,” Langley said. “For another it’s easy to lose one’s self in love. I’ve certainly done it, but when you start coming out of the initial starry-eyed phase you don’t want to wonder where all the other parts of your life went.”
College is definitely a time in life when you’re very likely to fall in love for the first time. Even though you might be in love with your partner, Langley said, you can’t forget about the other people you love, such as best friends and family members.
“Make sure they know they’re still important to you,” Langley said. “It’s no fun to be around someone who talks about nothing but their relationship. Keeping up your other interests and obligations keeps you energized and even-keeled.”
Lesson # 3 Communicate with your partner
“We’ve taken it as an opportunity to open up our communications, make sure we’re being real with each other all the time … to kind of protect against some pitfalls,” Janelle Brown, Kody’s second wife
A relationship between two people can be tough enough, but imagine adding a couple more to the mix. It’s important that these people are honestly communicating with each other at all times to avoid any hurt feelings.
Perhaps your boyfriend lives on the same floor as his ex-girlfriend. Or maybe your ex-boyfriend is going to be at your uncle’s birthday party because their parents are friends. It’s important to be able to keep lines of communication open in a relationship to discuss tough situations like these.
“It’s one thing to keep a little secret. But when it comes to the relationship, it’s pertinent [to keep lines of communication open],” Langley said. “It’s great they [polyamorists] can show other people how to be brave in that way. They’re not afraid to say something that they might get mad at you for… they are a good example.”
It’s like the old saying that your mother told you: honesty is the best policy.
Lesson #4 Overcome jealousy
“But jealousy for us, is an opportunity to grow…Jealousy for me is about insecurity. I’ve had to grow up and say ‘I have a lot to offer, I’m an equal partner here.’” — Janelle Brown
We’ve all experienced jealousy in a relationship, that fierce feeling inside that just wants to scream. Whether you’ve had a boyfriend who still talked to his ex-girlfriend or maybe he had a really good “girl friend,” you might have found yourself feeling like you wanted to rip her head off. Well Janelle is right, jealousy is about insecurity and fear. And that ugly green monster won’t help you in any type of relationship.
“Jealousy can be about fear of being replaced. I think the only way to overcome that is to look at your self and ask ‘why am I worried about this? What am I worried about in myself that I’m letting this other person undermine me?’” Langley said. “If you are cool with yourself and doing the things you want to do and fulfilling yourself, you are going to worry less.”
And what do you do if you come across a Kody-aspiring man? A dude who’s too cool to be tied down to just one chick?
Let him go.
Dr. Carole Lieberman, psychiatrist and author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, said to follow the footsteps of the future princess Kate Middleton.
“One of the things she [Kate] did was when William wanted to go out to clubs and was dancing with other woman, the average good girl would have whined and sulked. Instead, Kate let him go,” Lieberman said. “Then she started being seen with other guys and he came back to her. He realized he didn’t want to take a chance on losing her. That’s an example of something that a woman can do with a man like this.”
Liz Langley, a sex and relationships writer
Dr. Carole Lieberman,psychiatrist and author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets