Polygamy Drama: Behind-The-Scenes Stories Of Sister Wives

In January 2020, Sister Wives launched its 14th season. This controversial show features Kody Brown’s polygamous relationship with his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn. While some of the drama occurs on the show, even more happens behind the scenes. For instance, Janelle’s mother married Kody’s father, and Kody allegedly only lives with one wife. See how well you really know the Brown family.

Kody Is Legally Married To Only One Wife

The cast of Sister Wives arrives at the production of
Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic
Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic

Although the show is called Sister Wives, Kody Brown is only legally married to one of them. This is Robyn, his most recent “wife.” He calls the other three wives “spiritual unions” so that his relationships are technically legal.

So why did he marry just Robyn? According to Kody, it was so that he could legally adopt her three children. But rumors about this legal marriage have caused strain on the other spiritual unions, with other wives feeling less important than Robyn.

He Was Legally Married To Meri First

Kody and Meri are pictured on their wedding day.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

Kody Brown met his first wife, Meri, in 1990. The pair were legally married for 30 years until they separated so that Kody could marry Robyn instead. According to the family, Kody switched legal wives so that her children could have the same benefits as the rest of the family.

But it seems that there are some relationship issues, too. In 2018, Kody said that he does not desire to be intimate with Meri or even cohabitate with her. Perhaps their divorce had more happening behind the scenes.

The Four Women Barely Know Each Other

TLC's promotion image shows the four sister wives against a red background.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

In 2014, the Sister Wives season finale was a special called Sister Wives Tell All. While the four wives took a road trip to San Francisco, Meri admitted that they barely know each other. All are so busy with their individual lives that they rarely hang out or talk.

The other wives confirmed that this was the case. They also admitted that they feel uncomfortable when Kody spends time with another wife, or when he calls another wife in front of them. It seems that they are not the single family unit that is portrayed on the show.

According To Rumors, Kody Only Lives With Robyn

Kody and Robyn Brown embrace.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

A woman who catfished Meri came out with some controversial statements about the family. For instance, she claimed that Kody spends most of his nights with just Robyn. Meri told her that Kody hardly spends any time with the other wives, who often complain about it, according to this woman.

This has not been confirmed. However, the rumor has some support in that Robyn is the only woman officially married to Kody, and she was the final wife to marry Kody, 16 years after his previous legal union.

Meri Had An Affair With The Person Who Catfished Her

Meri Brown sits down to interview on Sister Wives.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

In 2015, Meri entered the limelight after she cheated on Kody. She had an online affair with a man–or rather, who she thought was a man. The “man” was actually a woman who was catfishing Meri for unknown reasons.

“I never met this person and I regret being drawn into this situation,” Meri told People, “but I hope because of it I can help others who find themselves in similar circumstances.” Kody and Meri eventually made up, but some fans believe that tensions still exist between them.

Janelle Was Once Married To Meri’s Brother

Kody and Janelle smile and pose for a photo together.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

Long before they joined the Brown family, Janelle and Meri were related. Janelle was married to Meri’s brother, Adam Barber, from 1988 to 1990. She and Meri were sisters-in-law. Oddly enough, Meri introduced Janelle to Kody.

According to the family’s book Becoming Sister Wives, Janelle attended a family get-together with Meri and Adam. There, she met Kody, and the two became sister wives instead of sisters-in-law. Janelle and Adam did not have any children together, and her union with Kody has lasted for 27 years so far.

Janelle’s Mother Also Married Kody’s Father

This old photo shows Kody and Janelle's wedding when they were younger.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

Meri was not the only member of Kody’s family that Janelle already knew. Three months before Janelle and Kody married, Janelle’s mother, Sheryl Usher, married Kody’s father, Winn Brown. Winn was also a polygamist, and Sheryl was monogamous before the marriage.

According to Janelle, her mother was one of the few people who supported her polygamy. Winn Brown passed away in 2013, and Sheryl died in December 2020. The two remained married until their deaths. Although Sheryl reportedly had some issues with Winn’s other wives, they eventually got along.

Kody Proposed To One Of Robyn’s Friends In Front Of Her

Kody and Robyn appear concerned during an interview on Sister Wives.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

During an interview with In Touch, Robyn’s close friend Kendra Pollard-Parra claimed that Kody proposed to her. She claimed that Kody said–in front of her and Robyn–“You’re so pretty. I’m looking for another wife!” Robyn only laughed at it.

Pollard-Parra claimed that Kody was searching for a fifth wife and that he would soon “drop” one of his other wives. ” He wants a younger female, basically what Robyn used to be,” Pollard-Parra asserted. However, Kody has yet to “drop” any of his wives or marry another woman.

Their Happiness Is An Act

Kody Brown and his wife and daughter film Sister Wives on Plymouth Beach.
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

Sister Wives was created to tackle prejudices against polygamous relationships. Although the family seems happy on the show, interviews suggest that this is not the case. In 2016, Robyn’s former friend Kendra Pollard-Parra exposed some secrets during an interview with In Touch.

Pollard-Parra revealed that the wives consistently bicker with each other and obsess over Kody. She also claimed that the wives “pretend to be happy for the show.” “The family is arguing constantly,” she said, claiming that their relationships with Kody are “a mess.”

Their Church No Longer Welcomes Them

The Brown family hangs around Plymouth Beach, 2011.
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

In 2017, the Sister Wives family got kicked out of their church. Initially, the family attended the polygamous Apostolic United Brethren Church in Utah. But they no longer attend that church, reportedly because of the publicity of their show.

During an interview with Radar, an insider said that their portrayal on the show–along with Meri’s catfishing scandal–removed the family from the church. “When the Browns sit there and put themselves on TV but won’t discuss the real issues they face and instead look for ratings, of course people in the religion are going to get annoyed at how they’re being portrayed,” the insider said.

Janelle Left The Family For Two Years

Kody and Janelle look down at something while on camera.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

In the Brown family book, Becoming Sister Wives, Janelle wrote that she had left the family for two years. After giving birth to her fifth child, she sank into postpartum depression. She wrote that this depression doubled from financial stress and a fight she had with Meri–“one of the worst we’d ever had.”

Janelle and her kids moved away from Kody and lived in their own house. When Kody moved to Utah, she initially did not want to “give up the peace and independence [she] had found.” However, a large house with plenty of space convinced her.

Not All Of Kody’s Children Are Polygamous

Maddie and Caleb walk and chat on their wedding day.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

Although a few of Kody’s children have entered polygamous relationships, not all agree with it. Janelle has expressed that none of her children desire polygamy. “We’ve talked [her and Kody] and none of my kids are gonna live our lifestyle,” Janelle told ET.

Kody and Janelle’s fourth daughter, Maddie, married Caleb Bush in 2016. It was featured on the episode “Maddie Gets Married.” Like her siblings, Maddie expressed no desire to be polygamous, and she and her husband are entirely monogamous. The family seems to allow their children to make their own choices.

Allegedly, Kody Rarely Sees His Daughters

Some wives and their daughters on Sister Wives joke around on the premiere of Mamma Mia.
Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic
Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic

Some fans have noticed that, on the show, Kody spends more time with his sons than his daughters. According to some witnesses, this is true in real life as well. With 18 children to look after, Kody spends much of his free time “roughhousing” with his boys.

In October 2020, several of his daughters had a “prom photoshoot” to commemorate the dance they might have had. Kody did not attend, landing him in some hot water. Fans accused him of quarantining with his “favorite wife,” Robyn, and ignoring several of his daughters.

Kody And Meri Went Bankrupt In 2005

Meri speaks with her husband Kody during an interview on Sister Wives.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

Before Sister Wives aired on TLC, the Brown family was struggling. In 2005, Meri and Kody filed for bankruptcy. According to Radar Online, they owed $230,000 in debt, with $137,000 in mortgages. The family also owed $8,000 to Home Depot and $1,300 to Best Buy.

The Brown family struggled with this debt for at least two years. In 2007, their case was settled, and they only had to pay $188,000. Fortunately, Sister Wives started airing in 2010, and the family had few money troubles after that.

Ironically, Their Lives Are Incredibly Lonely

Kody sits with all four of his wives on a couch.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

Although the sister wives once lived in a big house, they are now separate. Meri, Christine, Janelle, and Robyn all stick to themselves, rarely speaking to each other. Meri goes outside for “daily errand running,” but the other wives are not as active as she is.

In May 2020, Meri also admitted that she felt “lonely” and “sad” when she visited her daughters without her husband. She also said that, upon returning home, her house felt “quiet and lonely.” As Kody spends more time with Robyn, the other wives feel left out.

They Moved To Vegas For The Ratings

Kody and his wives announce that they are moving to Las Vegas.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

In 2011, the Brown family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, to escape their church and community disagreement in Utah. Or at least, that’s what the show said. Christine’s aunt, Kristyn Decker, claimed that the Brown family played up the Las Vegas move for ratings.

“They talked about moving to Vegas to escape Utah’s anti-polygamy laws long before they did,” Kristyn told Radar Online. “That was their plan, and they used the State coming after them for ratings. That’s my strong opinion.” As with many other claims about the family, this has not been confirmed.

Meri Started A Business Without Her Family

Meri smiles in front of her bed and breakfast that she recently opened.
The World News Daily/Pinterest
The World News Daily/Pinterest

In 2017, Meri opened a bed and breakfast–without her family. Initially, she asked Kody and the other wives for a $40,000 loan to start the business. When Kody declined, she earned the money herself through her partnership with Lularoe.

Meri opened her bed and breakfast, called Lizzie’s Heritage Inn, in Parowan, Utah. She told Us Weekly that she did not open the inn to be independent or alone. “It was just something that I needed to get done,” she said. Although the business is far away from their Flagstaff home, Meri is still operating it.

Some Believe That Kody’s Wives Are “Obsessed”

Kody sits with his wives during a TLC panel.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Some fans have expressed concern that the wives seem “obsessed” with Kody, mainly Robyn. After their wedding, Robyn had an artist draw Kody with her three kids. Some interpreted this as Robyn acting as if he were their father all along.

On top of that, Christine admitted in interviews that she often felt jealous of the other wives. Insider information from friends and family indicate that jealousy and arguments between the wives are common, which concerns fans. Some believe that the wives are a bit too fixated on Kody.

Robyn Said That Kody Has Self-Centered Obsessions

Robyn and Kody Brown pose for a photo for sister wives.
TLC/Sister Wives
TLC/Sister Wives

Throughout 2020, Robyn made several posts on social media calling out Kody’s “obsessions.” According to her, Kody gets fixated and certain topics and will not stop talking about them. “When Kody gets fixated on something, EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION GOES TO WHAT HE IS FIXATED ON,” she tweeted.

Kody did not seem offended by Robyn’s tweet; he even retweeted it. Christine also claimed that Kody has obsessions, to which he replied, “You called me exactly as I am.” Apparently, he acts far differently than he does on the show!

Kody No Longer Advocates For Polygamy

Kody talks to a producer during the filming of Sister Wives.
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

In 2020, season 14 of Sister Wives premiered. The family moved to Arizona, and during one episode, Kody dropped a bombshell of perspective. “I’ve told friends recently that I didn’t want to be an advocate of plural marriage anymore,” he told his wives.

Kody said that, over the years, he has become more aware of the unstable dynamic of polygamy. Many wives feel inferior to others, and arguments frequently occur. “I am more aware now than I ever was before the apparent and obvious unfairness in the relationship,” he said.