When Four’s a Crowd: Sister Wives Stars Speak Out About the Marriage

When it comes to reality TV, the most interesting and successful ones are those that give us a glimpse into the lives and situations that most people don’t really relate to. That’s exactly what’s happening with TLC’s Sister Wives, which has been giving us monogamous folk a peek into what it’s like to live a polygamous life (since it started in 2010). The show centers on Kody Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn.

The Brown family posing together outdoors / Kody, Meri, Christine, and Janelle posing around Robyn holding her newborn baby in bed / Meri and Robyn sitting on the couch / Meri posing on a ledge made out of rocks
Source: TLC / Instagram / TLC / Instagram

51-year-old Kody is only legally married to one of those wives, though, which is why he calls the rest his “sister wives” – the term for polygamous wives – his “spiritual” wives. They have been living happily together for quite a while now. There’s no shortage of drama – there are 18 kids in total – which means there are some secrets to be kept (and thus revealed).

This is the Brown family…

Kody and Robyn: The Bonafide Couple

41-year-old Robyn was the last wife to join the family and is currently his only legal wife. She joined the family in the first season of Sister Wives as the fourth wife, causing a lot of friction amongst the other women, especially with Christine who was super jealous. Kody has the most chemistry with Robyn, even though he initially wasn’t attracted to her.

Robyn and Kody Brown on their wedding day
Robyn and Kody Brown. Photo by Puddle Monkey Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

“She looked like a soccer mom,” he said on the show. “She had a van, three kids, and was divorced. I thought I didn’t need a van, a divorced woman, and three kids in my life — that’s just trouble.” Still, they legally tied the knot and became very close. Fans of the show can tell that Robyn is the favored wife.

Kody and Meri: The Broken Couple

Kody’s relationship with his first wife is the most dramatic and recently ended for good. Meri WAS Kody’s only legal wife until they divorced in 2014 (after which he married Robyn). They got married in 1990 and share a daughter together named Mariah. Being the “OG” of the sister wives unit, Meri had to deal with all the awkward jealousy of having new wives be added to her existing family.

Meri and Kody on their wedding day / Meri and Kody posing together
Source: Twitter / TLC

Meri is well-acquainted with polygamy, having been born into a polygamist family herself. She knew exactly what she was signing up for, but the reality of it was a lot different than what she expected going in. In 2014, after she and Kody divorced on paper so he could marry Robyn and adopt her kids, everything changed.

A Scandalous End to the Marriage

After the “switch,” Meri felt an emotional separation from her husband. “It’s the end of something that we had had, in a way, for 24 and a half years,” Meri said on the show. In 2015, she started a new relationship with a man she met online relationship named “Sam.” That Sam actually turned out to be a woman.

Meri Brown taking a selfie outdoors / Kody Brown during a TV interview with a man bun
Source: Instagram / TLC

You see, Meri didn’t realize that she was a victim of a catfish scheme. Meri discovered that who she thought was a male online lover was actually a woman who wanted to get details (secrets) about the Brown family. “I never met this person, and I regret being drawn into this situation, but I hope because of it I can help others who find themselves in similar circumstances,” Meri said.

The End of the Road

Despite the scandal, the embarrassment, and the whole catfish ordeal, Meri stated that the Brown family will stick together. Still, Kody was upset when he found out about it. He went so far as to admit on the show that he no longer wanted “to be intimate” with Meri. Kody and Meri tried to work things out, but all signs were pointing to the end of the road.

Meri Brown sitting on the couch looking upset
Source: TLC

On the most recent season, Meri admitted that their marriage is “over” and has been “pretty rocky for a while,” while Kody “regrets” their relationship. Kody said he feels as though he was “deceived into a relationship that was very different than what [he] expected.”

Escaping the Storm

It was becoming clear in recent years that Meri was planning her “escape.” Then, in the fall of 2020, Meri finally revealed that she’s “coming out of the storm.” The 49-year-old separated from her husband of 30 years after posting cryptic quotes on her social media and getting rid of her wedding ring. She also posted a photo of her with a new man, but nothing has been confirmed.

Meri and her new man posing together / Meri posing with a shirt that says ‘You do you boo.’
Source: Instagram

Meri snubbed Kody for their 30th wedding anniversary, as did he. She later posted a photo without her wedding ring on. Her caption: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do.” She also wrote things like, “I make my own choices, and I’m responsible for them.”

Kody and Janelle: The Platonic Couple

50-year-old Janelle was the second of the “spiritual wives,” who joined in 1993 when she was already both Meri and Kody’s friend. Meri admitted that it was this established friendship that kept her from feeling jealous of Janelle. “Janelle’s relationship with Kody, although they loved each other, it wasn’t romantic,” Meri said on the show in 2012. “So it was easier for me to accept.”

Kody and Janelle sitting awkwardly in a therapy setting
Source: TLC

Unlike the others in the home, Janelle is career-focused, logical, and seems to enjoy the practical side of being a sister wife. Robyn’s ex-friend, Kendra Pollard-Parra, revealed that Kody and Janelle are more like friends than a married couple, hence the unofficial yet very obvious “platonic” label.

Kody and Christine: The One-Sided Couple

48-year-old Christine met Kody and Meri in 1990 and apparently “fell in love” with them right away. Like Meri, Christine was also raised in a polygamist family and always knew she wanted to be a sister wife. She just didn’t want to be wife No. 2. Once she learned Janelle spiritually joined the unit, she rushed at the opportunity to be wife No. 3.

Kody and Christine taking a selfie / Kody and Christine posing with their children
Source: Instagram / TLC

“Kody has goo-goo eyes, and when he looks at you, they sparkle,” Christine said on the show. “When he turns those eyes on you, you’re the most important woman in the world. All other girls don’t compare. You are it!” While it was clear that she was ga-ga over Kody, it was more or less one-sided for a while. Christine was attracted to her husband from the get-go, but for Kody, it took longer for him to have those romantic feelings.

He Wasn’t Attracted to Her At All

“I was not attracted to Christine in any kind of physical sense,” he admitted in a tell-all episode. “I mean, I look back in retrospect and I wonder if that was fair. But I can’t even look there because we have children together, we have a life together, we have a relationship, and we found our sweet spot.”

Kody and Christine posing together dressed up in fancy clothing
Source: TLC

And once they found that “sweet spot” and went on to have six kids together, it was enough to make Meri jealous. Meri said she felt “threatened” by Kody and Christine’s newfound intimacy. But by the time Robyn joined the family, it was Christine’s turn to feel the jealousy. Although she’s the fan-favorite, Christine often struggles to get Kody’s attention. She’s expressed that not “having a voice” in the relationship is difficult.

Janelle and Meri: A Couple of Frenemies

During the early seasons of Sister Wives, it appeared as though the wives all got along. But that turned out to have just been for show as it was later revealed in their book, Becoming Sister Wives, that Meri and Janelle were actually feuding for years. According to Janelle, she felt unwelcome by Meri, describing her fellow sister-wife as “frosty” and “overbearing.”

Janelle and Meri posing behind Kody when they were younger
Meri, Kody, and Janelle. Source: Instagram

Once Janelle and Kody had their first child, Meri became “harsh and furious.” Their relationship between the two got so bad that they couldn’t even ride in the same car together. On the show, the two started attending counseling together to work on their issues, but still, they are far from perfect.

Janelle also recently had to deal with the unexpected loss of her mother, who died in December of 2020. Janelle has been having a hard time getting through it.

The Four Sister Wives: A Messy Quartet

All the wives love talking about how great it is to be a sister wife, but the reality is that they tend to feel jealousy more often than not and aren’t very close. The wives lived in separate houses on a cul-de-sac, so they’re only together when Kody is around. “It’s worse than ever. The family is constantly arguing,” the ex-friend Kendra said. “They pretend to be happy for the show, but the family is a mess.”

Christine, Meri, Robyn, Janelle, and Kody Brown posing together
Photo by Puddle Monkey Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

Fans have obviously picked up on it, too. “My problem with the Brown sister wives is that most of the time they seem to not really like each other or hang out,” one fan wrote. “These are supposed to be your sisters, your best friends.”

The Wife He Sleeps with the Most

Kody might be “spiritually married” to his other wives, but rumors suggest that he shares his bed only with his current legal wife, Robyn – his favorite. Many people who are close to the Browns believe that Meri’s online affair took a toll on the large family unit and that Kody only wants to have a physical relationship with Robyn now.

Kody and Robyn posing together
Kody and Robyn. Source: Pinterest

He spends most of his nights with her. Then again, she is the most recent of the wives and still has the “new wife” appeal. How did these rumors start? Well, the woman who catfished Meri said that Meri complained about how Robyn got most of the attention in the family.

More Like Sister Strangers

On TV, the Brown family seems very close. Images from the show portray a family with members who are fond of each other. You know, you see the wives hugging each other, holding hands, and looking as if they are the best of friends. But the truth is they barely know each other.

All of their kids playing dominos at the kitchen table
Photo by Puddle Monkey Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

The wives are all so busy with their individual lives that they don’t make time for each other. It all came to light in the tell-all episode on the show when Meri admitted that they rarely see each other, even when they all spend time with Kody together. In fact, when Christine had to be hospitalized with dialysis, none of the wives visited her. Even Kody rarely visited her.

Polygamy is “Normal”

One of the reasons why the Browns agreed to expose their lives in a reality show is that they wanted to prove something. They wanted to show that a polygamous relationship can be “normal.” They also wanted people to see that they are happy. However, with all the drama that comes with plural wives, it doesn’t seem all that appealing.

Janelle, Christine, Kody, Meri, and Robyn posing together
Photo by Puddle Monkey Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

Kendra insinuated that the Browns are at each other’s throats. She also suggested that due to the drama from the three remaining wives, Kody is now in the market for a new spouse. She told In Touch Weekly: Kody is “definitely seeking another wife right now. He wants a younger female, basically what Robyn used to be.” According to Kendra, Kody even propositioned her for that position in front of Robyn.

Janelle Was Married to Meri’s Brother

With a husband, four wives, and simply too many children, the family tree starts getting really complicated. Polygamous families also tend to only spend time with their extended family, which means that sometimes, romantic relationships are built within. Before spiritually marrying Kody, Janelle was actually married to Meri’s brother. This fact was eventually exposed on the show, but it was kept a secret up until that moment.

Adam Barber with a photo of Meri in the left corner and Janelle in the right corner
Source: YouTube

The truth only came out once the court documents from Janelle’s divorce with Meri’s brother came to light. And to make matters even more cringe-worthy, Janelle fell in love with Kody when she was still married to Meri’s brother. Apparently, what happens in the Brown family stays in the Brown family.

They Got Kicked Out of Their Church

It came to a point when all these secrets and scandals began to pile up, so much so that the Brown’s local church, the Apostolic United Brethren, kicked them out. This occurred after one of the Brown kids, Mariah, came out as gay. Then there was the news about Meri’s catfishing incident, which didn’t help them.

Mariah Brown and her fiancé Audrey posing in the park / Mariah Brown and Audrey posing at a restaurant
Mariah Brown and fiancé Audrey. Source: Instagram

“From day one, Kody pitched the show as a documentary, but a lot of people in the faith think that this has become a straight-up reality TV show for ratings,” an unnamed source told Radar Online. “This has been brewing for a long time, and Meri’s catfishing scandal was the final straw. It was a huge kind of war in the church. The church elders told Kody that he would never be welcomed back, even if the family moved back to Utah.”

A Preference for His Sons

It can be said that Kody doesn’t only play favorites with his wives; that he does the same with his kids, too. Look, having 18 children makes it nearly impossible to spend time with all of them, but it looks like he’s very picky with who he chooses to spend time with. Kody reportedly hardly sees his daughters at all, preferring to spend most of his free time with his sons.

Kody posing in front of his four wives and their kids surrounding them
Photo by Puddle Monkey Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise considering that polygamy tends to be more on the male-oriented side. So while the girls are busy with all the household duties, pops is “roughhousing” with the boys. Viewers of the show can easily tell that his relationships with his daughters seem strained, and the girls rarely look comfortable in his presence.

Move to Vegas = Better Ratings

We all know that reality TV bends what “reality” really means. Not everything we see on screen is true. This seems to have been the case with the episode where the Brown family suddenly picked up everything and moved from Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada. Apparently, it was due to legal issues around them living as polygamists.

Kody sitting at a table tasting cake with his four wives
Photo by Puddle Monkey Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

But according to Christine’s aunt, Kristyn Decker, this was really just a move for better ratings. “They talked about moving to Vegas to escape Utah’s anti-polygamy laws long before they did,” Decker told Radar Online. “That was their plan, and they used the State coming after them for ratings. That’s my strong opinion.”

Is He Cheating On All of Them?

Dang, Kody, are four wives, not enough? It’s not that far-fetched to assume that Kody is the kind of man that would cheats. He pretty much cheated on all his wives whenever he gained a new one. And now with all the drama going on, particularly with the catfish affair, it looks like Kody might already be having an affair with a fifth woman.

Kody Brown sitting with Christine, Meri, and Janelle on the red sofa used during show interviews
Photo by Puddle Monkey Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

There are recent rumors about three of the wives ditching him, leaving him with just one wife – a sort of sister wife strike, perhaps? It’s likely, though, that none of them will actually leave because of the fact that a reality show is being made.

Will Robyn Stick Around?

With everything going on, it’s possible that Robyn will get fed up and leave. Despite the assumption that she’s the favored one, insiders believe she might file for divorce. But here’s one big problem: sources say Robyn is pregnant with her third child. “Robyn has been planning to divorce him for a long time,” Kendra told Life & Style.

Robyn and Cody sitting outside
Source: TLC

“Being pregnant has not changed her mind. She’s saved up enough money to retain a lawyer. This is really the end of Sister Wives.” Robyn is currently pregnant now, so time will tell if she makes the move to leave the family or not. Compared to the other sister wives, Robyn doesn’t have an independent income, making a decision to leave that much more complicated.

Banking In On the Fame

The first three wives of Kody tap into the Sister Wives fan base to generate their own income, but not Robyn for some reason. Meri, Janelle, and Christine all use their reality show fame to augment online sales of their products. Out of all five adults in the show, reports suggest that Meri generates the most online income as a top sales rep for a clothing company.

All four sister wives hugging for a photograph
Photo by Puddle Monkey Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

Christine makes money from her online sales of the same clothing that Meri peddles. Janelle also promotes products, but hers are more holistic-type products. Janelle and Christine also do fan-requested Cameo videos for a price. The three ladies make their fame work for them, but why hasn’t Robyn done the same?

Robyn Gets Bullied Online

Robyn has said in the past that the bullying online has gotten to be too much. She also acknowledges that she is generally seen as a homewrecker. But she claims that the fans misunderstand her. This homewrecker theme began as soon as the series started. This fan mindset lost some steam along the way, but it’s still hard to rid the label.

Robyn Brown holding a bouquet of flowers for a selfie outdoors
Source: Instagram

After all, Kody’s original three wives shared their marriage for a decade and a half before Robyn came into the picture. As the haters emerged, Robyn stays clear of them whenever she can. Perhaps choosing not to sell products or promote herself online is her way of not having to deal with the online bullying.

Finding a Way to get Robyn In

Kody admitted to suffering from financial problems when he got engaged to Robyn. He mentioned at the time that he needed to find the means to move her closer to their family. Before she joined them, she was living in Utah, about four hours away from the Browns home in Lehi – the house shared by the original three wives before Robyn showed up.

Kody posing on the red carpet with Janelle, Christine, Meri, and Robyn
Photo by Kcr / Shutterstock

Kody said he couldn’t support Robyn and the three kids who came with her (from her previous marriage). But he knew that God would find a way for him. Robyn also acknowledged the lack of funds, so it seems as though Robyn came into the marriage expecting to be supported by her husband. At the time, Kody was selling billboard advertising.

Need Money? Get a Reality Show!

The billboard gig wasn’t all that lucrative, but when he finally sold one, he used the money, along with Robyn’s tax return, to move her to Lehi. And this was before they got spiritually married. There was one point where the other three wives, Kody, and Robyn, sat down as Robyn tried to get them to help her with an online store.

Kody Brown posing with his family outdoors
Source: YouTube

It sounds like she had a rude awakening when she learned that everyone is expected to pull their own weight. The money that Kody prayed for came by way of their Sister Wives reality show gig. TLC helped pay for the things needed to make the show entertaining, like their elaborate wedding.

Special Treatment?

Even now, Robyn still doesn’t seem to be holding a job anywhere. She lives in a million-dollar home owned by her and Kody. Meanwhile, two of the original wives live in rental homes. Janelle’s home seems like a downgrade from Robyn’s Vegas house. The sister wives and Kody mentioned several times throughout the series that they all pool their money.

Robyn on a train with one of their daughters
Robyn Brown. Source: Instagram

But unless Robyn is secretly wealthy from an unknown source, what does she have to offer in terms of finances? Well, from what Kody and Robyn said years ago, Kody intended to support Robyn once she became his wife. Looks like she’s getting special treatment that other ladies aren’t getting.

Robyn Taught Them a Thing or Two

Although Robyn had a hard time acclimating to the marriage, with the other wives not being the most welcome, she did actually make a positive impression, at least on Janelle. Janelle says she admires Robyn, thanks to the important lessons she learned from her sister’s wife. In their book, Becoming Sister Wives: The Story of an Unconventional Marriage, Janelle wrote that the best part of bringing Robyn into the family was how she changed things.

Robyn and Kody on the couch during an interview
Source: TLC

“The most important thing Robyn has taught us is how to argue in a more effective and polite manner,” Janelle explained. “With such a chaotic household, there are going to be a lot of family discussions.” Since Robyn came along, there are fewer slammed doors and raised voices in the Brown house.

Facing Bigamy Charges in Utah

Although the sudden move to Nevada was probably fake, it is, in fact, true that the Brown family got slapped with a charge of bigamy in the state of Utah. The investigation into the charges began before their move between the two states. The charges, however, were eventually dropped. “I want to express our great relief for the Brown family that this long-standing threat has been finally lifted,” Jonathan Turley, the family’s attorney, said in a statement.

Kody and his four wives posing on a carpeted staircase
Source: TLC

“The family has spent years being publicly denounced as felons by prosecutors and had to move to Nevada to protect their family and children.” The Browns still plan on suing the state of Utah for the laws that they insist are infringing upon their rights.

Kody and Meri Filed for Bankruptcy

When Kody “only” had three wives, the family faced financial difficulties and was forced to file for bankruptcy. In 2005, the legally married couple claimed they only had $15 in cash to their names, yet they owed more than $200,000 to creditors. $40,000 alone was owed in credit card debt. They also owed lots to Sears, Home Depot, and Best Buy.

Meri posing with two dogs in a yard
Source: Instagram

The court ultimately closed their case in 2007 and ordered the couple to pay the $200,000 to trustees, attorneys, and creditors that they still owed. In those days, Kody was a sales representative, and Meri worked for a company that made engraved trophies. They had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.

Maddie and Caleb Finally Speak Out About Their Baby

Maddie, the daughter of Kody and Janelle, fell in love with Caleb Brush, the brother of Kody’s sister-in-law, Erica Brush Brown. The good news is that they’re not related by blood (phew). Maddie and Caleb have two children now, Axel and Evangelynn, making Kody and Janelle grandparents.

Kody and Janelle holding their grandchild
Kody and Janelle with their grandchild. Source: TLC

Maddie is another of the Brown children who purposely chose not to live in a polygamous relationship. But the couple’s adjusting to a family of four hasn’t been smooth. The pair opened up about their daughter’s rare medical condition. Maddie posted on Instagram: “Our beautiful baby daughter Evie has been diagnosed with FATCO syndrome… It’s a rare medical syndrome where bones in extremities do not fully develop.” The condition is extremely rare, with Maddie stating that there have only been 10 recorded cases.

Sometimes, the Apple Falls Far From the Tree

Although they have been raised with conservative polygamous values, the Brown kids don’t seem to want that for their own lives. Most say they prefer monogamous relationships. Mariah, Meri and Kody’s daughter who came out of the closet on the show, was one of the first of the Brown children to deny that lifestyle.

Kody, his wives, and children posing on the steps of a large building
Source: Twitter

“I think I’ve just grown a lot over the past few years and taken a step back and maybe thought more about what I want and how I want my life to turn out,” Mariah said. Aspyn, Kody and Christine’s daughter, was the second one to speak out: “I’m the same,” she said. “I don’t want to do plural marriage. I kind of feel bad that none of us want to, but it was just not what we were meant to do, I guess.”

Logan Won’t Be Practicing Polygamy, Either

The oldest Brown sibling, Logan, the son of Kody and Janelle, stepped out of the public eye. He told People that he got engaged to a girl named Michelle Petty in 2017, and since then, he’s left the spotlight. He also has no plans to be in a plural marriage.

Logan Brown and his fiancé Michelle posing after their engagement / Logan and Michelle toasting with a beer
Logan and Michelle. Source: Instagram

The young couple has kept their relationship private, but according to CheatSheet, Logan has left the Mormon Church. Whether or not this true, one thing’s for sure: Logan hasn’t been seen on episodes of Sister Wives for a long time. It’s entirely likely that he is refraining from living such a lifestyle, and it looks like he might need some space from his family.

The Other Brown Children Who Don’t Want to Follow the Same Path

Mykelti Brown Padron, Kody and Christine’s daughter, married Tony Padron in 2016. Tony’s job in the banking industry limits how much he can appear on the series, according to Kody. The couple has no interest in a plural marriage, as monogamy always felt right for Mykelti.

Mykelti Brown Padron and Tony Padron posing together on a bridge
Source: Instagram

One member of the family who has chosen to focus on a career instead of marriage and family life is Paedon Brown, the son of Christine and Kody. He joined the US Army. He appears to be single and has noted that polygamy just isn’t for him. He and sister Mariah had a public feud over politics recently, and it looks like they’re not on speaking terms.

Leaving the Family, the Show, and the Church

The Brown children didn’t sign up for the hoopla of a reality show. For one, Garrison Brown, the son of Kody and Janelle, stepped back from the family, the show, and even the faith. According to his Instagram page, he’s going by his first name, Robert, and appears to have joined a different church — one that strongly opposes polygamy.

Kodi’s son Garrison posing in a Hawaiian shirt in the desert / Garrison posing with his girlfriend on his back
Garrison and his girlfriend. Source: Instagram

Garrison told cameras during the tell-all special that “one’s enough for me,” referring to how many wives he wants. Garrison (Robert) has also joined the National Guard. As for Kody’s other children, he said, “I really just don’t expect any of my children to be in plural marriage.”