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Life in Polygamy

Life in Polygamy
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Everyday Living

Housing Arrangements
There are two common house arrangements among polygamist families:

The first arrangement is to have all family members living in one house. Often sister-wives (or also called co-wives) and their children will have their own separate floor from the other wives and children.

The second type is to have separate houses for each sub-family. In some cases, as is in the HBO series Big Love, the houses will be right next door to one another or in the same neighborhood. In other cases, families may be spread out across cities and, in some families, across states.

Schedules for sleeping arrangements are very common among polygamist households. Often times, sister-wives either schedule amongst themselves or with the husband where and with whom he should sleep and spend time.

Chores and Duties
Chores and household duties vary largely from home to home. Each family deals with different financial, environmental, and social issues. However, sister-wives have often reported that each wife typically contributes to something they enjoy doing or do well.

In Colorado City, Hildale, and some other polygamist communities, children often contribute to household duties or work in family businesses. Girls will baby-sit their younger siblings and take on a sort of motherly role in the family.

Sister-wives often take up jobs to support the family income. Children, particularly young boys, will stop their education early and work in family businesses or within the community.

Wages are often compiled and place into a family fund. Members help to support the family rather than themselves.

In many polygamist families, especially in Colorado City and Hildale, children are home schooled or taught by another family within the community. This is to keep the children from being exposed to 'worldly' thinking.

Marriage and Sex

Dating and courtship vary amongst polygamist communities. However, there are some basic commonalities.

A man seeking to date or marry a woman, especially when he is already married, requests permission through the woman's parents or through the leader(s) of the community.

For example, in the FLDS church, marriage is primarily arranged through the prophet.

In Centennial Park (a polygamist community that broke off of the FLDS) arrange marriage through the priesthood council, a body of elders in the community who are religious leaders.

Marriage Ceremony
There is very little written about the actual marriage ceremonies performed within the various polygamist communities. I asked some members who had lived or were currently living in Hildale whether they had atteneded a marriage ceremony and all of them said no.

However, two individuals did comment that some husbands (if marrying a plural wife) will take another wife with them on their honeymoon. The reasons for this are not precisely known and this may be exclusive to the FLDS community.

Sex, Jealousy, and all that fun stuff
As mentioned earlier, sleeping arrangements are often set according to a schedule that either the sister-wives make or that the husband and wife make together.

Jealousy is often a problem that occurs in polygamist marriages. However, this is viewed by many as more of a difficulty to overcome. There is no set way in which to deal with jealousy. One woman described to me that one way she dealt with her jealous or hurt feelings was by praying for the relationship for her husband and sister-wife. In her prayer she would say, "I give them their love and God bless it."

Fear of Living in Polygamy

People living in polygamy have several fears about living the principle. The first and most obvious fear is that polygamy is a felony in the states of Utah and Arizona. However, polygamy has not been prosecuted in over 50 years.

The larger fear is in dealing with unfriendly neighbors or acquaintances or individuals who are hostile towards polygamy. In the case of one woman I interviewed who lived in a polygamous marriage, she said that when their local Bishop realized that she and her family practiced polygamy he tried to get them evicted from their apartment.

Another fear is when one of the wives decides to leave the marriage. She may manipulate the family by threatening to expose them as polygamists.

Family Economics

Many people often wonder how many polygamist families support so many people. For many families it has proven to be no easy task.

Many families receive government benefits and welfare. Plural wives claim themselves as single mothers with many dependents. They gain thousands of dollars in benefits from programs such as WIC, Medicaid, food stamps, and many other programs.

There are several other ways families save money. For example, they build their own homes with the help of members in the community. Much like the Amish, they get large numbers of people together to build homes in short amounts of time.

Another way families earn money is to have some of the wives work within or outside the community or to own their own family businesses.