Season 17 of “Sister Wives” had fans of the show shaking their heads at the irony that Kody Brown, a serial polygamist, was forced into monogamy after Meri, Janelle and Christine all announced the end of their marriage to him in an explosive tell-all session. While two of the sister wives celebrated their separation from Kody, and declared that they are happier without him, Meri, his first wife, is melancholic and remains open to the possibility of a reconciliation with him. Here is a quick breakdown of the events that led to the deterioration of Meri’s relationship with Kody, and drove her to an emotional separation from him years ago.
The Sister Wives
In September 2010, “Sister Wives” premiered on TLC, an audacious show that promised to take fans inside the homes and daily lives of an American polygamous family. The show centered on the life of the Brown family patriarch Kody, the three wives he married in the 1990s, and their new sister wife, Robyn, who married into the family in the first episode of the show. Kody, a Mormon, is a member of the Apostolic United Brethren Mormon sect, which encourages adherents to take multiple wives.
Meri was the first of the four of Kody Brown’s wives in the reality television series. The two married legally in April 1990, then barely three years later, in January 1993, Kody married Meri’s first sister wife, Janelle. However, since American laws prohibit any person from marrying more than one spouse, Janelle and her subsequent sister wives, Christine and Robyn, were married spiritually.
Janelle and Kody have six children, Logan, Maddie, Hunter, Garrison, Gabriel, and Savanah. She has an interesting relationship with Meri since she was previously married to her sister wife’s brother for a few months. Janelle was in the middle of a bitter divorce when she met Meri’s suitor, Kody. She maintained a good relationship with Meri’s family, despite the strange twist of fate that had her marry her former sister-in-law’s husband.
Christine and Kody have six children, Aspyn, Mykelti, Paedon, Gwendlyn, Ysbel, and Truly. After Christine’s marriage into the family in 1994, Kody did not take another wife until 2010, when he married Robyn, the only wife to whom he is married to date. Together, Kody and Robyn have two children Solomon and Ariella and Kody adopted her children from a past marriage.
The premise of “Sister Wives” promised fans the typical family drama, insight into the dynamics of a plural marriage, and the justifications of polygamy, which is considered criminal in some states, from the perspective of a polygamous man, women who share a husband, and the children who are raised in the union. The show did not disappoint, particularly when the first three wives started to voice their disappointment over their husband’s blatant preference for Robyn and his children with her. Their simmering disappointment bubbled over in several instances over the past five years, which led to the disengagement of each one of them from their ‘husband’ and later their (spiritual) marriage.
Meri and Kody’s love story began in the late 1980s. Meri grew up in a polygamous family in Utah in the 1970s and 80s, with a father, mother, a few stepmothers and several siblings, and knew that she wanted to marry and raise her children in a similar setting. She and Jody were introduced by her friend, who was his sister, when Meri was 18. She and Kody, then 21 years old, hit it off immediately, driven by their mutual stance on plural marriage. They married a year later in 1990, and got started on building their dream family, albeit atypically since they first courted and took in two wives before they had their only child together.
In 1995, Meri welcomed her and Kody’s daughter, Leon Brown. From birth, Meri and Kody socialized and raised Leon as a girl, unaware that the environment they created for her was extremely rigid, and restricted her ability to express herself in any other way. Last year, Leon broke free of the restrictions of her gendered upbringing, and let the world know that they are transgender and their preferred pronouns are they/them. Meri handled Leon’s coming out well, and responded with a declaration of her support by sharing a picture with Leon, captioned “You are my sunshine.”
Meri shares a strong bond with her sister wives and the rest of the family. In the 13 years in which the show has been on TLC, fans have watched the other wives, particularly Janelle and Christine, look to Meri as an older sister and friend. For instance, when Christine announced her decision to leave the family and split with their husband, she was more worried about the move’s impact on her relationship with Meri and Janelle than she was remorseful about the end of her marriage. She hoped to remain friends with Meri. From their tell-all session in the last episode of “Sister Wives, “ Meri has remained close friends with Janelle and Christine, who have since left their plural marriage.
— Meri Brown (@MeriBrown1) May 16, 2017
Meri’s emotional separation from Kody started early on in their marriage. Kody revealed that their marriage was difficult from the beginning, adding that he did not get along with Meri, and admitting to bringing in Janelle to dilute the troubled union. The fact that he brought Janelle into the same house he shared with Meri did not help, nor did the addition of a third wife in under five years. As Kody spent more time with his new wives, he spent less time with Meri, widening the emotional gap that had begun to form soon after their marriage. Fortunately, all three women started having children, which diverted Meri and Kody’s attention from their failing union to raising all children collectively.
Raising a family only put a band-aid on the strain, and eventually, the cracks in Meri’s marriage grew too big, and the emotional distance between her and Kody teetered on permanent. A change in their marital status in 2014 incinerated the couple’s emotional connection completely, although none of the partners admitted it to each other at the time. In 2014, Kody talked Meri into divorcing him legally, but remaining married to him spiritually since he wanted to adopt Robyn’s children from a past marriage and the court would only grant him guardianship if he was legally married to Robyn. Meri agreed and Kody married Robyn legally in the same year.
Sister Wives' star Meri Brown shares a cryptic message on Instagram, following the news her decades-long relationship with Kody is over.
Posted by Entertainment Tonight on Tuesday, December 20, 2022
The extent of Meri’s emotional separation from Kody became evident a year after the divorce, when she fell victim to a catfish. Estranged from Kody, Meri turned to the internet seeking an emotional connection. She believed that she’d found a man who would fill her emotional void in a business tycoon named Sam, and began exchanging romantic messages and pictures with her new love interest. She kept her internet lover a secret from Kody and her sister wives, until she discovered that she’d been catfished after learning that Sam was really Jackie. She moved to end the relationship immediately, a move that infuriated the catfish promoting her to share the dirty messages and pictures Meri had sent. The aftermath plunged her and Kody’s relationship into a permanent abyss of emotional disconnect, as confirmed by Kody, who said he wouldn’t stand in Meri’s way if she decided to date another man.
From Close Distance to Permanent Separation
After the catfishing scandal, Meri and Kody remained married spiritually but their relationship was purely platonic. According to Kody, the couple got along well and healed from the troubled relationship they had lived through for years. However, he admitted that though the platonic nature of their relationship was enough for him, it wasn’t fulfilling for Meri, who had no love in her life unlike him.
Meri has a different recollection of their relationship since the catfishing scandal. She accuses Kody of stringing her along, despite having decided that he no longer wished to be married to her. She only learned that he’d checked out of the relationship a long time ago when she called him on their anniversary in 2022, only for him to inform her that they were no longer married. Though difficult, the words led Meri to join her fellow sister wives Christine and Janelle in ending their relationship with Kody permanently.
The deterioration of the emotional connection between Meri and Kody has come full circle after years of a troubled relationship. Meri has cut all emotional ties to Kody but remains open to the possibility of a reconciliation should he wish to rekindle a romantic and emotional relationship with her. However, she isnn’t spending her time wallowing in self-pity over the end of her marriage, but is learning how to love herself, nurturing her relationship with her child and supporting them in their recent bold decision, and spending time with her best friend, who has been her main source of support in the past year.