It had been more than a decade since TLC launched “Sister Wives,” which chronicled the lives of Kody Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn. Unsurprisingly, their unconventional marriage was much talked about, as not only was polygamy illegal in all 50 states of the US, but it was also frowned upon by most people due to the controversies associated with such a practice. The Brown family agreed to do the reality television show in the hopes of changing the negative notion that the public had over polygamy. They claimed to be one big happy family, but from the start, one could easily see the discord among his wives that affected his relationship with them as well. Lately, viewers are wondering if there is some truth to the rumors circulating on social media that Robyn and Meri are in love.
All about the Brown family
Kody originally belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) before converting to the more liberal sect of Mormon Fundamentalism that followed the early Doctrine of Celestial Plural Marriage, as it was believed to be instrumental in one’s spiritual growth. He believed that it was his calling.
He legally married Meri in 1990, and then had spiritual unions with Janelle in 1993, Christine the following year, and Robyn in 2010 – his courtship of and marriage to his fourth wife was featured in season one of the TV series. He has 18 children combined; one could only imagine how he was able to manage such a large family without any wife and any child feeling neglected. He once said that it was all about being committed to what he considered as a sacred way of life, and his belief that he shared a destiny with each of his wives, and that they were ‘predetermined to be one family.’
The Browns lived in Lehi, Utah in a house that was perfectly suited for a polygamous family, as it allowed all of them to stay together, but still be independent of one another. This made things very convenient for Kody as he could be within easy reach of everyone should there be a need, even as he followed a schedule on which wife he should be with. Being around each other helped foster closeness among siblings, regardless of who their mother is.
After “Sister Wives” was introduced in 2010 at the media tour of the Television Critics Association, the Lehi Police Department began their investigation of the family, because it was considered a felony to be married to at least two people at the same time, or married to one and co-habiting with another adult under the state’s bigamy law. Kody’s only recourse was to move the whole family to Southern Nevada in 2011, where nothing could prevent a married person from living with someone else, provided that they weren’t married to each other as well.
It was a decision that was difficult for everyone. Kody and his wives would have to start over, find work and make new living arrangements to sustain their lifestyle. In mid-2018, they relocated to Flagstaff, Arizona. Since leaving Utah, the wives lived separately from each other, and it had taken a toll on the closeness that they once shared and worked hard to achieve. Soon, it became apparent that Kody was enjoying a monogamous relationship with Robyn as he became emotionally distant from his other wives.
Exploring the relationship between Meri and Robyn
The relationship among sister wives was complicated and continually evolving. Sharing one husband was never easy, no matter how one would look at it, as jealousy would rear its ugly head. Unless one didn’t feel this destructive emotion at all or only stayed in the relationship for convenience or practicality, then it might work. Adjusting to the reality of being a part of a polygamous family took time, effort, and willingness of all the parties involved. Many were wondering what went wrong with the Brown family. Looking back on how it all began would help people understand why Kody and his wives were in the situation they were in at present.
Meri taught Sol how to suck through a straw! pic.twitter.com/8IDiVqDE
— Robyn Brown (@LuvgvsUwngs) October 25, 2012
Meri on marrying Kody
Meri Caroling Barber was born on 16 January 1971, to Bill and Bonnie Barber. She was five when they moved to Utah from California, as her parents studied the principle of plural marriage, and later converted to the new faith. She then grew up in a large polygamous family after her father took on four more wives, and she ended up with over 25 siblings. For the most part, it seemed that everyone was happy with the set-up, so it was inevitable that she would follow the lifestyle, even though her biological parents never pressured her to do so.
She was 18 when she first met Kody at church, and had got to know him better as his sister was a good friend of hers. It soon became apparent that what they had going was more than friendship – they were passionately in love, and believed that they were soulmates. He said that their love story was the kind that one saw on TV and in movies. It didn’t bother them that they didn’t have much money, or that they had no concrete plans for the future because all that mattered was that they had each other. They were married when Meri was 19 and Kody was 21 – everything was so exciting, and they led a carefree life.
As happy as they were, they agreed that they would have a plural marriage.
Robyn on marrying Kody
Robyn Alice Sullivan was born on 9 October 1978. Her mother was a second wife, who had a wonderful marriage with her father, and Robyn wanted that kind of relationship with her future husband. At 21 years old, she married someone from their faith, and her in-laws were spiritual leaders in their church. As she was misled and mistreated by her husband, their marriage ended in divorce nine years later; they had three children together.
After the divorce was finalized, she went to visit a cousin in Lehi, and they attended church together; Kody was there, and her eyes were drawn to him. She was fascinated with the way he engaged others as ‘there was something peaceful and comforting about the way he conducted himself.’ She said it was not an exaggeration that when their eyes met, she felt as though she had been ‘shot with a bolt of lightning.’ A month later, her cousin introduced her to Kody, and the attraction was still there, but nothing came of it. Robyn found Meri to be sweet, and believed that they would be friends. It was during a church event that things changed between her and Kody. As she danced and conversed with him, it felt like they were the only two people in the world. For his part, Kody said that he was ‘transfixed by her spirit’ and added, ‘I couldn’t deny the spark I felt—not the kind of spark you feel in your loins, but something deep and transcendent.’
The trauma from Robyn’s previous marriage made her hesitate to enter into another relationship, much less marriage, but if she joined a family, she knew she would be a plural wife. Being older and a divorcée with children, she had accepted that she would never be the first wife, but to be the fourth wife was daunting. However, her cousin convinced her that the Browns were good people. Any doubts she might have had banished upon seeing how Kody cared for his kids, and how love overflowed in their family.
What it meant to the family to have Robyn as the fourth wife
Kody sensed a spiritual connection between himself and Robyn, just as it was with his other wives, so it was only a matter of time before she became part of their family. It was important that everyone, particularly his first three wives, be on board with this. It had been 16 years since he last took another wife, and this new development in their lives wasn’t exactly welcomed by all of them. Adding another wife and three kids into the mix would change the dynamics, and it would also mean each wife’s time with Kody would be reduced. At this point in their lives, Kody believed that his family was stable, and that his wives and children were happy. He found it absurd that Robyn would threaten the peace that had settled into their home.
Their polygamous family didn’t have an easy start. It was a blissful three years of marriage for Meri and Kody. When he took Janelle Schriever for his second wife, they all had a rough time with it – Meri had known Janelle as the latter had been married to her brother for two years. Kody and Janelle’s relationship was more intellectual than romantic, which greatly relieved Meri, as she found this easier to accept and handle. She said, ‘If they had been the same kind of couple Kody and I were—I would have had a lot more trouble making peace with the idea of her as a sister wife.’ However, since they had different personalities, they didn’t get along, and it placed Kody in a tough spot. Janelle felt uncomfortable living with them, especially seeing how affectionate they were toward each other. As Kody and Meri didn’t know how to incorporate a second wife into their lives, Janelle felt like a houseguest instead of a wife. When Kody had to travel far because of work, Janelle moved out.
When Christine Allred came as the third wife, Meri was jealous because she had seen how Kody was not just smitten but in love with Christine. With Christine’s outgoing and goofy personality, however, she and Meri easily became friends. She stayed in a different house for a while, so that she could experience having Kody all to herself. It was only when they all lived together in one house that they learned how to be a family.
With Robyn, Meri and Kody discussed at length how special she was. When Meri once voiced out her misgivings about Robyn joining their family, Kody told her that the emotional and spiritual connection he had with Robyn was undeniable, and couldn’t be undone by any insecurity that they might have had. ‘This person whom God had brought into our lives was meant to be there,’ he said.
Janelle was overcome with emotion, and with tears welling in her eyes and her hand on her chest, she said, ‘Oh my goodness. There’s something special about this. This is supposed to happen.’ Christine liked Robyn, but had some doubts about having her as part of their family, although remained supportive of what Kody wanted.
Are Meri and Robyn in love?
When Meri met Robyn, she immediately knew that the latter would be part of their lives; she was drawn to Robyn and wanted to be friends with her. That time was the absolute lowest point of her marriage, but she was the one who encouraged Kody to pursue Robyn. However, once the courtship began and the two explored what they had on a deeper level, Meri felt left out and unwanted. She said. ‘Robyn’s presence transformed from something that filled me with joy to something that made me extremely lonely.’ Meri felt that Kody was shutting her out of his life. The couple consulted a marriage counselor, who worked with plural families and knew the intricacies of such a lifestyle.
Robyn helped Meri as she struggled with her emotions. She even joined the couple in their counseling sessions, and at times had a ‘couples counseling’ with Meri only, so they could work through some issues before they festered. Meri admitted that she resented Robyn for a time, and put the blame on the latter for what she believed was Kody’s unfair treatment of her. Robyn was heartbroken over this as she said, ‘I love Meri so much. From the moment I met her…I felt an eternal connection to her.’
In time, Meri found in Robyn the ‘sister wife bond’ she had always hoped for. As for the other sister wives, she said, ‘Janelle and I have learned how to function well together…Christine and I know how to goof off and have fun together’ – the relationship was good, but had no depth to it.
Kody divorced Meri in 2014 to tie the knot with Robyn, so he could adopt her kids from her first marriage. Over the years, it seemed that Kody’s relationship with his first three wives deteriorated to the point that he became distant from them, and led to Christine leaving the plural marriage in November 2021. Some viewers said that it all began when the sister wives lived apart from each other, and lost sight of what belonging to one family meant. Christine once said that they all felt like single moms in Vegas, as Kody wasn’t around much, hopping from one house to another.
Others believed that it was when Robyn entered the picture, as Kody’s focus remained solely on her, while the rest struggled to find their place in Kody’s heart. Later on, the three wives assured Robyn that it was not her fault.
Many thought that Meri would leave as well, because of the way that Kody had been treating her. He felt justified in doing so, and it didn’t help that Meri was once involved in a catfishing scandal, in which she developed a relationship with someone she thought was a guy online. Kody had once said that he couldn’t divorce his wives, but they could leave him if they wanted.
Despite the absence of love between her and Kody, she chose to stay, and was fully supportive of whatever decision he made for the family. Fans asked why Meri remained loyal to Kody, when he made it clear that they were never going back to the way they were before; their relationship would be purely platonic.
Some theorized that perhaps Meri stayed because of Robyn. She had become very protective of her, especially since Robyn had been bashed online for what happened to the family, and accused of being manipulative. Because of this, fans began to wonder if there was something romantic going on between the two of them. People gave new meaning to the hug they shared to comfort one another as the family was in crisis, even more so when Robyn asked Meri, ‘Hang on with me, okay? We have to rebuild.’ However, there were those who could only laugh at this wild supposition. Whatever the case may be, fans would surely be glued to their seats once “Sister Wives” was back for a new season.
You fell in love with me first! Admit it! Lol!🤣 https://t.co/Epw7qEe7qc
— Meri Brown (@MeriBrown1) January 27, 2020
Their confessionals and ‘couch sessions’ in the TV series in which they talked about their thoughts and feelings showed how dysfunctional and troubled the family had become. Perhaps they had found some semblance of peace before, but watching how Kody was with each of his wives brought on insecurities, jealousy, bitterness, and resentment. Even after being married for so long, seeing Kody become affectionate such as hugging, kissing and saying ‘I love you’ to one of them made the rest uncomfortable. Meri had said that it wasn’t jealousy but about respecting one’s relationship.
It was interesting – but perhaps unsurprising – to note how the women who studied the principle and entered willingly into plural marriage had a hard time dealing with the reality of sharing a husband with other wives.