Plural Marriage is His Thing, Should She Make It Hers? - Relationship Advice
I'm writing to you because I am in real need of an outsider's opinion. A little background I am 36 and never married. I want to have children, and I want to be part of a family. I am dating a man that has 3 wives. One is legally his wife but they all live together as husband and wives. They all have children with him. They are not mormons. Just so you know, when he married his first wife they were both 25 years old. his second wife was in her 30's when they met and married, and his second wife was in her late 20's when they met and married. I do not want to give too many details. But I want you to know that there is no abuse here. I want to know what you think of this. You seem to be very understanding towards alternative lifestyles. Yet you have such a strong sense of values as I read in your hubs about cheating and stealing. I would like your opinion on this as an outsider. He is a good person, hard worker, good provider. All of his wives and his children all seem very happy and content. I am considering being a part of it but it's so strange to me. Can you please share your opinion? I'm asking you not to publish my email address. Thank you.
I never share email addresses or the names on them, never worry.
First I really want to say that I am not qualified to advise you or counsel you on this very huge life decision.
I will share some of my thoughts though since you've asked for them.
My husband was raised in a very oppressive christian home. He was taught ridiculous things like that dinosaurs didn't really exist, the bones were planted by the devil to confuse us. That the earth is only 6000 years old. That safe sex is a sin. He never received decent dental or health care and didn't go to college because his family didn't have the money yet they could afford to give a percentage of their income to the church every week. I could go on and on about the way he was raised; the things he missed, the things he suffered through, the price he still pays today for the insane decisions they inflicted on him. This was all perfectly legal and never questioned by society.
In the United States, adultery is handled on the state level. In the few states where it is illegal, it is very very rarely prosecuted. Think about this: a man can marry his wife and have children with her, have a secret affair with a mistress, get her pregnant, and never be charged with a crime. Yet, if he invited this other woman with the consent of his wife to live with them, and he supported her and the child, and referred to her as his second wife, he would be prosecuted.
That doesn't seem fair to me.
I believe that what consenting adults agree to do in their relationships is nobody else's business. If they want to be plural, if they are gay, if they feel comfortable with power exchange, if they choose not to have children, if they decide to give their faith to some insane oppressive religion - it's their choice. Freedom doesn't just apply to situations you happen to agree with.
But, and this is a very big but, one person's freedom can not infringe upon the freedom of another.
The real question we need to ask ourselves is where does that line fall.
I have the freedom to open a liquor store, or a newstand that sells triple X magazines, I have the freedom to go shop in MACYS. I have the freedom to work as a construction worker, or open a business in my home. Right? Well, not always. I do not have the freedom to open a liquor store on the same block as a church. I do not have the freedom to open that newsstand with the adult material within so many feet of a school. MACYS can not open their doors in Paramus NJ for example, on Sundays because of Blue Laws. I can not begin my workday at 6:00am as a construction worker if it violates a noise ordinance. And I can not open a business in my home if my home is not zoned commercial.
There's a certain building that comes up under this umbrella as a topic of discussion around me often. And it floors me how many people just don't get it.
All of the above represent the fact that, simply put, you may have the freedom to do most things, but you can't do them whenever or where ever you want. You can't build that thing that you're allowed to build in the place you want to build it, if it violates a Blue Law, or it's near a school, or it's near a church, or during a time that violates a noise ordinance... or if there should be some kind of regulation to protect the sanity and safety of the community. You can't just do something because you are "free." You have to work with everyone around you. Either everyone is free, or no one is free.
Julie, let's take it one step further to pull in your situation. Some of those rules and regulations make sense, some are outdated or cater to a religion that many of us do not respect. But I think we can all agree that those impositions, those laws, were devised with the intention of harmony. They were created so that children would be safe, people would be respected, sleep wouldn't be disturbed. These laws were created to insure freedom while protecting freedom at the same time. And it's tricky.
Think of it this way. Put three little kids in a room and tell them they are free to do anything they want to do, with no restrictions. Then start the countdown to the crying. You will have three screaming children pointing fingers at each other in a matter of seconds.
Now, put those same three kids into a room and tell them, they are free to do anything they want, but they can not bother or upset each other.
The peace will last longer but you will still eventually have the crying. The reasons will vary. One may say, he is upset because another child hit him. Well clearly, that isn't allowed and you'll rule on that in favor of the cryer. But another may say they are upset because one of the other kids is singing. You compromise on that one, you have to make it fair for both so you say, no singing while kids are trying to sleep, but other than that singing is ok if it's not loud. And then there's the kid that is upset because "That kid is wearing purple." You must see no harm comes from this, and you rule in favor of the purple child.
Plural marriage between consenting adults, in my opinion, is nobody's business but theirs. I wouldn't judge them even though it's an option that isn't for me. But it's not that simple. There are other's involved. Namely, the children.
And what a can of worms that topic opens up. You have children being raised legally and without question in this country by crazy christian families that aren't doubted or questioned, like my husband's parents. It isn't right that those wackos weren't questioned. You have gay couples wanting to adopt children and meeting resistance and judgments in exactly the same way as plural families. My reaction is that gay couples should be allowed to adopt of course. But is it the same for children in a polygamy home? You have a guy that cheats on his wife and has a kid with his mistress falling within the law. There's no way in hell that should be all right. You have Christian Scientists that don't take their children to the doctor when they are sick. You have all kinds of extremists who are allowed to raise their kids with ideologies that are dangerous and harmful. And have you ever watched Wife Swap? Kids are being raised by tree huggers that won't let them use toilet paper, Inn keepers that force their kids to work, and stage moms that spray tan little girls.
Julie, I have thought a lot about this and I have come to a conclusion that surprised me. I would probably question whether or not many people should be allowed to raise children in the ways I've mentioned above that have the law on their side, before I would question a plural family. I believe the law in this case as in many other cases needs to be seriously re-examined. And the best example of that I can give you is: infidelity should be a prosecuted crime long before consenting adults using terminology like "second-wife."
There are laws on the books to protect us from each other and from ourselves. There are rules and regulations designed to keep us free, and to keep us respecting the freedom our neighbors have the right to enjoy as well. Some of them work, some of them don't. It's not fair that my husband's brother was hit by a car when he was a little boy and wasn't taken to a hospital because the family had no money, yet wrote a check to the church the next day and decided all they had to do was "pray" he would be healed. It's not fair that a guy can lie to his wife and have a secret mistress, but not agree with his wife and have a second wife.
Julie, right now in this country polygamy is illegal and please know that I would never advise you or anyone to do anything illegal. You asked my opinion, and there it is. I'm fine with the idea of consenting adults making choices that concern only themselves. I'm confused about how I feel about the children, but that's not just regarding plural marriage children. That's regarding pageant children, scientology children, christian fundamentalist's children, lots of children. If as a society we're going to question the choice of plural marriage, and the rights of those willing adult participants to raise children, then we also need to re-examine many other choices and rights.
I want to give you one more opinion though, Julie. And that's my opinion of you in particular. Your email calls me an outsider twice. I think subconsciously you're saying I don't understand. But I don't think it's the polygamy you feel I don't understand. I think it's your loneliness.
You chose certain wording, and you omitted certain words. He's a good guy but you didn't say you're in love with him. There's acceptance in their home but you didn't say you accept it. Julie I think you are lonely. I think you are feeling your time clock ticking. It feels like you have found an option. And with an open mind you've considered it. Good for you, it's always good to think, and to see, and to be aware that life sometimes has a path for you that you hadn't considered. However in your situation I think you aren't a polygamist.
Julie, if you said you believe in the merits, you have faith in the idea, and you can't imagine living any other way I would be saying something different here. But you didn't express any of those things. Julie, I don't think you really want this. I don't think this is right for you.