I drove up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to meet a polygamous family: Rich and his three wives, Julie, Brandy, and Angela, and five kids plus a dog. By U.S. standards, that’s quite a big household and it definitely felt that way. Kids were running all over, showing off in front of our cameras. The yard was full of a million different toys and the pantry was crammed with so much canned food, you might think Armageddon was coming.
You can see Rich and two of his wives in the photo; the third, Angela, was at work when I was there.
I was interested to know what it’s like to be a woman in a polygamous relationship. I spent a long time talking to Julie, about her experience. She writes a blog. It’s worth a look.
Polygamy is relatively rare in the U.S. and mainly associated with the Mormon population, even though their church has officially banned the practice. But Julie is a bit of a different story. She didn’t come to polygamy from a religious perspective (her parents, who are more traditional Christians, have cut her out of the family since she became a polygamist), but she says, because she was lonely. She was married before and ended up spending a lot of time on her own, dealing with all the housework.
For her, polygamy was the answer.
But she was also pretty honest about the downside. Life can be chaotic and sharing a husband can be tough. “Cat fights” amongst the women are common, mainly about who Rich spends his time with — but, surprisingly, not who he shares his bed with. Each of the wives has her own room and Rich does a rotation, so usually each wife gets the evening and bedtime with him every third night.
Rich told me that it’s his right to be a polygamist. There’s an attitude now among some polygamists that because gay marriage has become legal in some U.S. states, polygamists should be the next group to earn that right.
I’ve been checking out some online blogs written by women in polygamous marriages. Escape from loneliness seems to be a recurring story. I sent a few emails back and forth with a girl who blogs as Megan. She went through a really rough time as a kid and when she was 17 just wanted to settle down and have babies. She said no males her age in her area were ready or stable enough to have a family, so she opted instead for polygamy.
This is what she says about her decision: So I married Steve and my family and I accepted the sex and the patriarchy as part of what I chose to do all on my own. Because even with the things that are hard, this is still almost a dream compared to what I left behind.