Commentary Jamaica Magazine

The Case for and against Big Love

So HBO has a series called Big Love which is about a family of polygamists.  Now on the series, you get to see all the advantages and disadvantages of living in a blended polygamist family.  The clear advantages to this situation is always having help with children.  That alone is worth having a whole host of sister wives.  And while there are television series and reality shows about this facet of life, there is very little that looks into what allows a woman to enter into this type of relationship and how at the end of the day she truly values herself and this experience she has chosen.

Here is my fascination.   All these women married to polygamists chose this option.  Interestingly, most of the women I’ve seen are very traditional – leading me to wonder at the choices they had “outside” of this chosen relationship.  Women who don’t see themselves with many options will often choose the option available to them in fear of having no option at all. Hence why so many women stay in failing and unhappy relationships. They would rather be in any relationship than no relationship at all.

Second, let us picture the typical “enlightened woman.”  She’s educated, accomplished, confident and fully aware of her potential, her worth and the role she plays and plans to play in the world.  She has an agenda.  She has her choice in relationships and some will work and some won’t. She may get married, she may have children, she will probably have a career, but she’s always aware of her worth.  If she’s in an unhappy situation, she usually has a reason and it’s usually a means to an end … a part of her overall plan.   How likely is this woman to be a part of a polygamist group?

I fall into the above category.  I consider myself to be somewhat selfish and narcissitic.  I know who I am, like myself immensely and don’t’ much care if you have issues with me.  Self preservation on physical,e emotional and psychological fronts is critical to my existence.  Granted it took me 40 years to get here, but here I am!  I’ve been married for ten years and have tried to picture myself trying to figure into a marriage with two other women.  I suppose the issue is that I AM selfish and don’t particularly care to share.  Why would I want anything less than what millions of other women have … one man dedicated to me and me alone. Why would I settle for one-third of him.

And with all the advantages of a polygamist marriage – at the end of day, you are getting 1/3 of your partner.  I am trying to see the advantages in that.  For so many years men hoodwinked women into thinking that they were lesser beings than they were.  It took women forever to become educated, vote, work, control the size of their families, determine if and when they chose to be pregnant, and finally, be recognized as bright and intelligent beings.  Men left the running of the house to women while they fathered children near and far without often having any responsibility for raising them – even if they were legally married to the women to these women. Entering into a life of polygamy just seems to me to be a return to this life. 

Okay so, why don’t we delve into this whole scenario.  Let’s not even bring the children into the argument – because there are huge advantages for childrearing in such large households.  This is akin to what occurred in many cultures where there were always aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents to help in child rearing.   Instead, I’d like to pose a philosophical question – If you believe that you are a unique and special person who has a right to be valued and honored – why would you accept 1/3 of a relationship or a second best scenario for yourself.  What really is the difference between your husband sleeping with a sister wife vs sleeping with your best friend?  Your best friend – who probably is god-parent to your child and babysits for you on occasion.  Most of us have a female friend who’s our “wife” – she’s the one you talk to about what ails your marriage and she helps you get through the rough spot until you no longer want to take a heavy blunt object to your spouse head.  So this woman is as close to you as your sister wife would be.  How would you feel if your husband started sleeping with her?  Not so great I imagine.  So why are we okay with him sleeping with no one of your friends, but a great big whopping two or three. 

Interestingly, I’ve always wondered why is it only the man’s prerogative to take multiple wives.  He’s a single man trying to support multiple households. Unless he’s a millionaire, at some point, you have to compromise on what you will be able to afford.  Even a wealthy man supporting one wife and three children will have less stress than a wealthy man with three wives supporting nine children. What will my child have to given up for the sake of the whole? 

Now it would seem to me that if a man can have multiple wives, so too the wives should be able to take another husband.  But that’s not how polygamy works – men call the shots which negates the decades that women have fought for equality and the right to be treated with dignity.  God judges all of us equally, he doesn’t judge women and men any differently so someone needs to tell me why within polygamy a woman cannot take another husband.  Of course that might create some issues with  knowing which child belonged to whom if the woman were sleeping with multiple men.

Now I know the bible is going to be thrown at me because polygamy was popular then; however, so was crucifixtion, the stoning of criminals and human sacrifice. Why do we embrace some standards and not others.  Men have happily rammed these issues down the throats of women for years and I would hope that women would be smart enough to see through this smoke screen. But still we have women who engage in polygamy and not all of them are ignorant – many of them should know better.  What I’d love to explore is the “why” behind their actions.  Do they see something I don’t?  Or, are they just like many of the hordes of insecure women out there who will be willing to settle for something rather than have nothing.

About the author

S. M.Williams