“Seeking Sister Wife”
In 2018, TLC announced the release of a new reality show named “Seeking Sister Wife.” Executives at the cable television channel hoped to capitalize on the success of a similarly themed show “Sister Wives,” which followed the lives of a polygamous family in the United States. The new show had a similar premise, but differed in its portrayal of a different aspect of polygamous life and its inclusion of several polygamous families as its cast.
“Seeking Sister Wives” is a reality television show that follows polygamous families in their search for their patriarch’s latest wife and showed the family’s adjustment to a new member of the family if they succeeded in finding a suitable wife. A typical episode on the show features the patriarch and his wives discussing the qualities they seek in an additional wife, the search for the woman who meets the criteria, and the courtship process. If the courtship is successful, a wedding follows and fans watch as the new wife adjusts to life with her new family. The show has had three ‘weddings’ in its four seasons.
Since it premiered in 2018, the American reality series has featured 11 polygamous families in their quest for a sister wife. One of the families, which captured the hearts of fans of the show and had them glued to their television screens for two seasons, is the Alldredge family, one of three polygamous families featured in the pilot season of “Seeking Sister Wife.” At the time, the family comprised family patriarch Jeff Alldredge, and his two wives Vanessa and Sharis, living on a farm in Utah.
In the first two seasons of the show, Jeff, Vanessa and Sharis Alldredge embarked on the search for a third wife to join their family. In the first season the family courted Melina, who was friends with Jeff’s younger wife Sharis. When Melina was first introduced to the show’s audience, viewers and fans of the Alldredge family immediately noted that she would not be a good addition to the family, and at the end of the season the family arrived at a similar conclusion and announced that the potential relationship between them and Melina didn’t work out.
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In the second season, the family courted Jennifer. Regrettably, she was exposed as a compulsive liar. She canceled a meeting with the family to experience how her life would be if she joined them, and lied that she had been taken to surgery. She also went along with a story that her sister had concocted to avoid living with the Alldredges since she was not willing to live in the family house, which did not have running water. Jennifer’s blatant lies and hesitation when asked to live with the family for some time lead the family to terminate their courtship at the end of the season.
Their revelation that she would not become part of their family was the last fans saw of them on television, since the Alldredges didn’t return for the third season of “Seeking Sister Wife,” which aired in 2021, or the fourth season the following year.
The family patriarch decided to pull out of the show after a disappointing two seasons. However, his failure to find a suitable sister wife to join Vanessa and Sharis wasn’t the reason for his decision. Sharis revealed that Jeff’s source of contention with the show stemmed from his disagreement with its direction. He felt that the show had become too sexualized, and was unwilling to become part of it, and portray his family in that manner. Fans lauded his decision since the love and respect he and his wives displayed was in conflict with the direction the show had taken.
Jeff Alldredge was a fan favorite in the show. The reality series’ target audience favored Jeff for his likability, considering him emotionally available and more approachable compared to other husbands in the show, who were extremely controlling and didn’t show any flexability. He doted on his two wives and their children, shared some of the struggles he and his family faced because of their lifestyle, and was openly affectionate towards them all. When he didn’t find a third wife in the show, fans hoped that his luck would change in the third season, and were disappointed when he and his family didn’t return to the show.
In his first appearance in “Seeking Sister Wife,” it was revealed that Jeff had another wife, Cynthia, but the two were in the process of dissolving their marriage, so the family wouldn’t discuss Cynthia and her children in the show. While some fans took the Alldredges’ word and forgot about his first wife, a second group claimed that Jeff, Vanessa and Sharis were deceptively presenting Vanessa as the first wife and Sharis as the second, while they were the second and third wives, respectively. Furthermore, the disgruntled fans were concerned that Jeff presented himself as having seven children, while in reality he had eight children with Cynthia, and therefore during his time on the show, he had 15 children, but was essentially denying the existence of his children with his ex-wife when he referred to himself as a father of seven.
Since leaving the show, Jeff has kept a low profile. However, occasional updates from Vanessa and Sharis has allowed his fans to follow what he has been doing over the past four years. Jeff is still spiritually married to Vanessa and Sharis, and found and married a third sister wife two years after leaving “Seeking Sister Wife.”. The decision caused a significant and unprecedented financial implication for the family, since Donna, the new sister wife, had a 3-year-old daughter from a previous partnership. Upon marriage, Jeff intended to live with Donna and her daughter on his family property in Utah, but unfortunately the child’s father filed for custody, dragging Jeff and his family into a battle that drained the family’s resources, prompting Jeff and his two wives to start a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the associated legal costs. His woes continued when a year later, Donna left him. The reason for the sudden end of the marriage after a short time remains a mystery, since neither Jeff, his remaining two wives or Donna revealed why the marriage ended. Currently, Jeff lives in South Dakota with Vanessa, Sharis, and their children; he spends alternate nights with Vanessa and Sharis.
Jeff’s two wives in “Seeking Sister Wife” are married to him spiritually, but not legally. His only legally wedded wife was Cynthia, who didn’t appear in the family’s reality television series, except when her hand appeared in a picture of Jeff, Vanessa and Shari on the show, from which she had been cropped out. The family revealed that the marriage between Jeff and Cynthia was in the process of dissolution after Cynthia left the family years erlier, with the eight children Jeff had fathered. The first Alldredge wife and her children didn’t want to be a part of the show, and the other members of the family respected their privacy, and didn’t mention them beyond the initial explanation that Jeff had an older family. Although little is known of her life, Cynthia contributed to Jeff’s defense, albeit inadvertently, when fans accused him of dating women half his age – he was 44 years old when he met Vanessa, who was 22. Revealing Cynthia’s existence addressed this accusation by revealing that Jeff didn’t wait until he was in his 40s to start dating, as previously alleged.
Vanessa is Jeff’s second wife, after Cynthia, but is his first spiritual wife. Her story had fans intrigued since it reveals an overlap between “Seeking Sister Wife” and “Sister Wives.” The two met in the home of “Sister Wives” star Kody Brown, who has been in a polygamous marriage with several women in the past. The two families were close, and would spend time together before the Browns moved to Vegas. Vanessa and Jeff hit it off immediately, and ‘married’ in 2008. Together they have three children – Dain, Zahra and Sebastian who are 14, 11, and five years old respectively.
Vanessa dedicates most of her time to her large family. Since the children are home-schooled, she spends a lot of time on their education. The sister wife also plays the role of the primary family matriarch, following Jeff’s separation from his first wife. Fans got a glimpse of her duties in this role in the show, when she led the search, communication and interactions with the two women she hoped would join the family. After leaving the show, Vanessa continued in the role, with her actions leading to the inclusion of Donna as one of the sister wives. She lives in South Dakota with Jeff, Sharis and the eight children they are raising together.
Sharis was 18 years old when she met Jeff – the two married in 2009, one year after Jeff married Vanessa. She’d grown up in a polygamous family, in which her father had two sister wives. A year after the televised life of her family on “Seeking Sister Wives,” Sharis revealed that growing up surrounded by two living mothers and her father influenced her to choose polygamy. Her early experience and marrying into a polygamous one influenced her decision to accept TLC’s proposal to feature her family in the show. She hoped that appearing on the reality show would help raise awareness of polygamy, and help change America’s negative perception of such unions.
However, the decision exposed her, Vanessa, Jeff, their children and later Donna and her daughter to danger, since Utah does not recognize polygamy as a legal union. Consequently, Sharis, whose childhood was marred by the fear that the state would discover that her father was polygamous, was eager to move to another state when Jeff made the call to move the family to South Dakota. When asked about the reason for the move, Sharis cited an unfavorable political climate in Utah, which made their polygamous lifestyle dangerous after they went public with the series. South Dakota has a more favorable political climate which doesn’t criminalize polygamy.
Sharis had a difficult time in 2021 when she and Jeff were trying to expand their family, revealing that she’d suffered two miscarriages over a span of nine months. Eventually she fell pregnant again, and delivered a healthy daughter, as announced on the family’s Facebook page in April. Currently, Sharis and Jeff have five children Daniel, Dalinar, Misty, Serenity and Chloe who are turning 12, ten, eight, seven, and two this year. She home-schools the children together with Vanessa.
Every Sunday, Sharis bakes challah, her signature-branded loaf of bread, for the family. She shares her passion for baking with Vanessa and the children by organizing ,faux baking competitions in which the children create “pastries” using play dough, while the mums play the judges based on the TV baking shows they watch as a family. As she shares her passion and hobbies with her family, and publishes glimpses of her polygamous family on social media, Sharis hopes that people will continue to respect her life’s choices, and understand why she embraces the union.
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After a disappointing sting on “Seeking Sister Wife,” the Alldredges continued their search for a third sister wife to fill the void left by Cynthia, even after leaving the TV series. They succeeded when in 2021 the three welcomed Donna and her three-year-old daughter into their family, after a lengthy court process, during which the family asked for financial help from fans. On 2 June 2021, Sharis took to Facebook to announce the sad news that Jeff and Donna had parted ways, barely a year after their ‘wedding’. Since fans never knew Donna as well as they know Vanessa and Sharis, they didn’t build a connection with her. She’s kept a low profile since leaving the family, and little is known of her whereabouts, the status of her custody battle for her daughter, or the reason behind her separation from Jeff and the Alldredge family.