When “Sister Wives” first premiered on TLC in 2010, one of the more common questions people had centered around how the family dynamic worked. Kody Brown had some rules in place for his four wives: Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn.
As in any family that is raising children, there must be a set of plans for how things work to help all members know what works best for everyone. It’s also especially important so children know what is expected of them. When you consider the Brown family had four wives, one husband, and 18 children, it’s not difficult to see why organization is key.
Yet not all of the rules centered around organization and some actually protected the emotional well-being of the wives. Additionally, some of the rules were placed for the wives’ preferences. Still, some rules seemed over the top and not surprisingly seemed to have Kody’s wishes at the forefront. Incidentally, by 2023, three of his four wives left him. Christine left him in 2021, Janelle announced that she and Kody were separated in December 2022, and Meri and Kody jointly announced that they went their separate ways in January 2023.
In the early years, all major decisions had to be a group effort
Whenever big decisions had to be made, the wives and Kody would gather to discuss the matter so all wives could offer their input. Often there were considerations especially when it came to the children and opposing schedules that never entered Kody’s head so having the wives troubleshoot possible problems was helpful.
Many times, wives would agree with each other and they would oppose Kody together. This wasn’t something Kody enjoyed and he would grow visibly frustrated when he couldn’t get his own way. This was one major issue that led to three of his wives exiting their marriages.
After Christine left him in 2021, he essentially demanded that his remaining three wives, Meri, Janelle, and Robyn conform to a patriarchal marriage where he is the primary decision-maker. “I’m going to be the head of my household again, and so I’m not going to be circumvented in that. And so, if everyone’s willing to conform to patriarchy again, I guess,” he said in an episode of “Sister Wives” (via Insider). He told his wives that if he didn’t feel like the head of his household when other people were around, then he wouldn’t have family get-togethers anymore. “I’m at a point now in my life where I don’t have time to waste on people who won’t respect me or treat me with respect.”
All the wives are considered mothers to all the children
One of the sweet parts of “Sister Wives” is how so many of the children are bonded to the other wives which may stem from their rule that all the wives are thought of as mothers to all the children. While the biological mom is, of course, the primary caregiver, the children were expected to listen to all adults equally.
When the kids were very young, Christine Brown was the stay-at-home mom for most of the children, especially Janelle’s six kids. Janelle worked outside the home and her kids relied on Christine for their caretaking needs during the day. It’s one of the reasons why Janelle’s six kids, Logan, Hunter, Garrison, Gabe, Maddie, and Savanah think of Christine as their other mom.
On the flip side, Christine’s kids, Aspyn, Mykelti, Paedon, Ysabel, Gwendlyn, and Truely looked up to J anelle as a role model for a working woman who was headstrong and often took care of the family’s financial matters. Now, as adults, both sets of kids retain very close bonds with Janelle and Christine. Currently, the “Sister Wives” relationships with each other range from good to strained.
Wives have their own kitchens
Meri, Janelle, and Christine Brown once lived in one home and shared a kitchen, which caused a lot of strife. When they were starting as young wives Janelle felt abused by Meri in the kitchen because Meri was very bossy. By the time “Sister Wives” premiered, the Brown family lived in a huge house that had separate but joined apartments. Each wife had their own kitchen in which they fed their own kids.
In a Season 19 episode, Janelle and Christine who had already been having problems with Kody decided to go visit their adult children for Thanksgiving, an unprecedented occurrence, so Meri, Kody, Robyn, and her kids spent the holiday together. Meri came over to Robyn’s to help her cook, which disturbed Kody. “I would never again, for the rest of my life, ever want to have wives sharing a kitchen,” he said (via Us Weekly). “There is a tendency from what I’ve seen to be this vying for power and position or relinquishing power and position to get along.”
Though Kody was happy they worked well together, he didn’t want that happening anymore. “Personally, out of just knowing women’s nature, I don’t give a damn about what polygamists believe about what you should do with wives to make them grow and become celestial,” he said. “I never want to see my wives sharing a kitchen ever.”
A wife’s bedroom is off limits to other wives
Though the Brown family shared an unconventional lifestyle and opened the doors of their homes to cameras, they remained very private when it came to their sexual relationships. Even amongst themselves, they tried their best to be very discreet so that no wife would feel unnecessarily jealous of another. For this reason, they banned public displays of affection in the presence of each other so no one would kiss or flirt with Kody if another wife was around.
When it came to their individual bedrooms, the rules got even stricter. They agreed to never enter another wife’s bedroom unless invited in, whether one was sick, in labor, needed help with children, or in a similar situation.
This rule protected the wives from knowing anything about the intimate relationship that Kody had with the wives. Never was that so apparent as in Season 3 when TLC cameras had the women tour all the bedrooms and the wives became visibly disturbed when they noticed something on Robyn’s nightstand, which turned out to be a condom. Though they obviously knew that Kody had sex with the other wives, no one wanted to see visual proof.
Supporting each other was a must
In the early seasons of “Sister Wives” the family all came together to support the polygamist lifestyle together and back each other in public. They also came together in private to pitch in with childcare, helping each other move, family celebrations, and financial expenses.
While all families should commit to supporting each other, things can get hazy when the family consists of multiple wives. Oddly enough though Kody maintains that all he ever wanted and expected was for his wives to support each other, his wives often felt unsupported by him.
In the Season 17 tell-all, “Sister Wives: One on One” Christine said, “That’s just what it comes down to. I think he has a favorite wife and that’s why all of this is like it is.” Host Sukanya Krishnan put Kody in the hot seat and ask him straight out if he has a favorite wife. “You know, that’s the most unfair question,” said Kody. “Because you don’t have any idea what work she has done, what she has done as a person, the sacrifices that she’s made, the games that she hasn’t played. It’s not about a favorite, it’s about finding favor.”