Without a doubt, the Browns have become one of the most famous families in the US, since “Sister Wives” premiered on TLC on 26 September 2010. More than two million people watched when this polygamous family was first introduced to the public and, good or bad, the interest in them hasn’t waned in the years that followed. As the show chronicled their daily lives, one can see how Kody Brown juggles having four wives and 18 children in his life. Being part of this family has its perks, as most of them attest to, but like all marriages, theirs were not without its problems. With the revelations in its 16th season, its loyal viewers have begun to wonder how long the Browns can keep their family intact.

Meet Kody Brown and the Sister Wives

Kody Brown – Husband to four women, Father to 18 kids

Kody grew up on a ranch in Northern Wyoming and was raised in the Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) faith. His religion doesn’t practice polygamy, but its principle is something he knew he would embrace.

When he was 20, his parents converted to the Fundamentalist Mormon religion – at 21, Kody started going to this church.

In the beginning, he claimed to love each of his wives ‘wholly, passionately, and eternally.’ Kody believed he shares a destiny with each one and they are meant to be together in one family. Loving four women at the same time might be hard to understand for those outside their faith, but Kody said he loves his wives for different reasons, but doesn’t love one more or less than the others. He found peace in Meri’s home, talked business with Janelle, and enjoyed the lightness of being together with Christine. Robyn offered emotional honesty that forces him to deal with things he would normally avoid. He admitted that he’s unsure if his wives could fulfill all his needs and vice versa, but their bond is something he would need for the rest of his life.

Meri Brown – First Wife

She’s from California; her family moved to Utah when she was five, and her parents were devout followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After years of studying the principle of polygamy, Meri’s father eventually took four wives after her mother, and Meri has 27 siblings. Her family was generally a happy one, so she thought she would live the polygamous lifestyle as well.

She met Kody through his sister, and they became friends and were inseparable; he said strict abstinence made their relationship more meaningful. They became engaged on Christmas Eve in 1989, shared their first kiss on New Year’s Eve, and married on 21 April 1990; she was 19 and he was 22. They settled in Wyoming; both knew there would be other wives in their family, but they enjoyed a monogamous relationship for three years.

Janelle Brown – Second Wife

She grew up in Utah, and was raised in the LDS faith. Janelle had no idea that polygamy is real until she met her future husband, Adam, who belonged to a polygamous family. They were married for six months, then called it quits as they weren’t romantically, emotionally and spiritually compatible.

After the divorce, her in-laws continued to look after her, and she remained close to them including his sister Meri. Kody enjoyed a platonic relationship with her, but soon realized they were destined to be together. He casually broached the possibility of them being in a relationship, but she rejected it at that time.

Janelle fell in love with the polygamous lifestyle and said, ‘I loved the idea of a sisterhood, the notion of companionship, and the possibility of a family that could grow in so many different ways.’ Kody’s father tried to set her up with Kody’s brother, but she preferred Kody as he was the kind of father she envisioned for her future kids. She approached him and said, ‘I think I belong in your family,’ which Kody was pleased and relieved to hear. If Meri had any misgivings about Janelle, she didn’t voice them. It was a short courtship – they dated only once and shared one innocent kiss, before they were married in a spiritual ceremony in 1993.

Their first year of marriage was a struggle, as Meri and Kody didn’t know how to incorporate Janelle into their lives. She lived with them more as ‘an eternal houseguest than a wife.’ During their eighth year of marriage, and after giving birth to their fifth child, she suffered postpartum depression. When she and Meri had a big fight, she and her kids went to live with her mother for months. She found a house of her own, and built a life for herself; she went back to school and earned a degree in accounting. Kody later stayed at her house when it was their time to be together. What she had with Kody before was friendship and an intellectual connection, so this gave them the chance to enjoy their moments alone and to know each other on a ‘more intimate and spiritual level.’ She later rejoined the family when they moved to Utah.

Christine Brown – Third Wife

Christine was raised in a polygamous family, with her father the head of their church.

She was 17 when she realized that she wanted to be part of a plural marriage, but as a third wife. Being a first wife never appealed to her, as she believed it would be too much work and require self-sacrifice; she’s independent and liked her freedom too much. Being a second wife was also not an option for her, as she considered it as a wedge that comes between the couple, so it’s an uncomfortable position. Christine said that the third wife is in a blessed position, as she ‘makes peace between the two wives.’

As Christine, Kody and Meri all belonged to the same church, it was inevitable that they would meet during gatherings. He made quite an impression on her and she started to have a crush on him. He said that there’s an undeniable spark between them, but that he didn’t want to explore this yet, as Meri made it clear to him that she wasn’t prepared for him to court Christine, who at some point became her friend. Kody admitted to being young and superficial back then, so when Christine did something that grossed him out, it cooled the attraction he felt for her.

After three years of friendship, a short courtship followed, and then they were married in 1994. Kody felt overwhelmed when it dawned on him that he’s bringing Christine to a household full of tension – Meri and Janelle didn’t get along, and then on top of that, Janelle was pregnant with their first child. However, her positivity and kindness brought peace to their situation. She lived with her sister wives for three months before opting to live in a different house, as she wanted to deepen her relationship with Kody.

Robyn Brown – Fourth Wife

She lived in Southern Utah, and grew up in a polygamous family – her mother was her father’s second wife. Robyn married a guy from a prominent family in the community, and had three children with him. She said she was misled and mistreated by him, so they separated after seven and a half years, and were divorced.

There was an instant attraction between her and Kody when they first met. After seeing her only a handful of times, Kody already felt an emotional and spiritual connection with Robyn.

Meri was drawn to Robyn as well, and became interested in having her as a sister wife. After getting consent from all his wives, he invited Robyn and her kids to his home to meet the whole family. She immediately fell in love with them, but it took a while before she fell in love with him.

They were having financial difficulties, so their wedding kept being delayed, so Robyn’s family was unable to move to Lehi, Utah to be with Kody. It only pushed through in 2010, when the TLC network said they would pay for the wedding; at that time, he was already in discussion with them about doing the reality show. She had a difficult time being a fourth wife, as her sister wives became jealous of her relationship with Kody.

“Sister Wives” – The reality show

On coming out as a polygamous family

Those in a polygamous marriage avoid going public about their unconventional lifestyle, as most people regard it in a negative light.

Being on a reality show means opening oneself to public scrutiny and Kody knew he was putting his family at risk when he agreed to do the show; he and his wives could lose their jobs, and his children could be bullied at school. However, he said that he was tired of hiding, lying about his life, and living like a second-class citizen. He’s proud of having a ‘wonderful family – a perfectly happy family – with beautiful wives and beautiful children.’ He believed that the world was ready to hear their story.

On living under one roof

By the time the show started, Kody had three wives. At that time, he had been legally married to his first wife, Meri for 20 years and they have one child named Mariah, aged 14. He has had a ‘spiritual union’ with Janelle for 17 years and they have six children, aged five to 15, and then with Christine for 16 years; they have five kids, aged six to 14, with one more on the way.

They lived in a 3,000-square-foot house that was built for a polygamous family, as it had three separate apartments.

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It allowed them to live close to one another but with each wife having her own space – Janelle lived on the left side while Meri was on the top right and Christine at the bottom right. Their relationships as a family improved significantly, and the sister wives learned to accept each other’s differences.

On Robyn and her kids joining the Brown family

Kody was married to all three women before the children were born, so they grew up with three moms. The news that Kody was courting a woman was met with a bit of apprehension, as it was the first time it happened in 16 years. Although their kids liked Robyn, having a new mom and siblings felt weird to them, and most of them said it would take some getting used to. The three wives liked Robyn as well but they were all settled in their ways, so adjusting to having her and her kids as part of their family was difficult. Kody divorced Meri in 2014, so he could legally marry Robyn and adopt her children.

On relocating to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2011

Plural marriage is illegal in 50 states so when they came out as a polygamous family through the show, the government of Utah launched an investigation into their family; the Browns then moved to Las Vegas to escape anti-polygamy laws. They couldn’t find a place that would suit them, so each wife has her own house where she and her kids with Kody have the opportunity and space to bond individually with him. However, the houses were close enough that they could still function as a family.

The Sister Wives in 2022

‘Love should be multiplied, not divided,’ Kody said as a way to explain his polygamous lifestyle in simple terms. His wives have been fully committed to the principle of marriage, but the reality of sharing a husband was far from what they envisioned it to be. They thought they knew what they were going into and even had grand expectations on what it would be like, but once they were living the life, they couldn’t handle it.

Each one struggled to find a place in the family – every time a new wife joined the family, there would be jealousy, insecurity and resentment. It took them years to find a balance, and live in relative peace. However, the addition of a fourth wife has brought changes none of them wanted or were prepared for.

On the latest season of “Sister Wives” aired from 2021 to 2022, it was revealed that the Browns were falling apart, although it was a long time coming. Patience was wearing thin, and giving up has become an option. They have been living in separate homes since they moved to Flagstaff, Arizona in 2018, which it caused the family to drift apart. The pandemic made the situation worse, as the safety protocols prevented them from spending time together. Not all agree on the rules that Kody set for them, to keep everyone safe. With each wife and their respective children doing their own thing, being together even during the holidays wasn’t possible. It didn’t seem that they all belonged to one family anymore.

They bought a 20-acre property in Coyote Pass where they could live together, but they couldn’t seem to agree on anything when they were discussing the plans for it.

Christine had reached her limit, and didn’t want to stay married to Kody. She said that she’d been struggling the whole time they were in Flagstaff, and feeling that she didn’t matter or that she didn’t have his support; she wanted a partnership and a different life than this. Her Instagram post in November 2021 revealed that she’d left Kody after 25 years. She and Kody agreed to co-parent their kids; their youngest was only 11 at that time. He issued a statement on his Instagram: ‘Although we are moving forward on different paths, we will always remain committed parents.’ Based on her Instagram posts, people could see that she’s finally happy and thriving.

Meri’s relationship with Kody has been in a dark place for quite some time. As a first wife, she has been having issues with her sister wives since the beginning of their plural marriage.

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Being in a loveless ‘spiritual union’ with Kody after their divorce might have played a role in her being involved in a catfishing scandal in 2015. He later made it clear to her that the most they could ever be are friends – distant but amicable.

Janelle has been at odds with Kody over many things, as she said, ‘I get really antsy if I feel like I can’t make the choices that control my own life.’ The most recent disagreement they had was about the rules that she needed to follow in her house during the pandemic, so that he could come and be with them. Nothing has been resolved, since their adult kids’ opinion on the matter differed from their father.

Robyn’s relationship with Kody is the only one that has flourished over the years; many believed that she received preferential treatment from Kody. He’s primarily staying with her during the pandemic, but contrary to what others might say that this is what she wanted, it’s not. This wasn’t what she signed up for in a plural marriage, although she wanted some independence as well.

In a polygamous family, the relationship between the wives is just as important as the relationship between husband and wives. When the sister wives aren’t getting along, it affected their marriages as well. For the Brown family to live in harmony, it all boils down to how committed each of them is to the family and in making things work. Clearly, this is far more difficult than any of them had imagined.

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