couples

One man, four wives, 18 kids. How does it work?

Everything you have ever wanted to ask a polygamist but were too afraid to ask…

When reality TV show Sister Wives first began, many felt it was an effort to cash in on the success of fictional drama Big Love. However, for its star there was a more serious reason behind it.

Kody Brown and his four wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn wanted to remove the negative stereotypes surrounding polygamy. However after the first episode aired a lawsuit was filed against them and an inquiry launched into their family. They were forced to flee to Las Vegas to escape prosecution.

Now the family is quietly celebrating the decriminalisation of polygamy in the state of Utah in the US. They wanted to be able to live their lives without fear of prosecution. To them, living a polygamous lifestyle is a choice supported by their Morman faith and an institution they all cherish.

From left second wife Janelle, third wife Christine, Kody, first wife Meri and fourth wife Robyn

Many families in Utah are polygamous however they live in secrecy. The first few episodes of Sister Wives were designed to lift the veil on the polygamous lifestyle and educate the public. Polygamy isn't about sex. It's about family. The 'sister wives' are just as important to each other as their shared husband Kody who faces the demands of looking after not one, but four families.

Kody said he and his four wives cried when they heard the judge ruled in their favour. The lawsuit has been hanging over their heads since 2011. "The first thing I thought about was all those families that for 100 years had lived and loved in obscurity, just in secrecy,'' he told AP. "Not being able to claim their family or openly love one another.''

Now their biggest hope is that other polygamous families in Utah can live openly without fear of prosecution. Christine, Kody's third wife, says they no longer have to life in fear. "We wish that for every plural family out there."

It is still illegal to hold marriage licenses with multiple partners. Kody is only legally married to Meri, his first wife. His marriages with Janelle, Christine and Robyn are spiritual marriages only.

The show is fascinating because it answers all the questions that immediately pop into your head at the thought of one husband and four wives:

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How does Kody find time for all his wives?

Kody follows a schedule whereby he stays with each wife for pre-planned nights. If he fights with that wife, tough. He has to stay there for the night.

What about sex?

Sex is on designated nights with each wife if they both want to, no obligation.

How do the wives deal with jealousy?

They accept jealousy as a natural reaction to new wives and children and speak about it openly. They support each other through the process.

What about money?

Kody and Janelle are the main bread winners and Meri works as well, however since the show aired the wives had struggled to keep their jobs due to the public scrutiny so they are currently planning to start their own business. Any money they earn is divided equally between all four wive and children.

What do their kids think of their lifestyle?

They are used to it. Many of their friend's families in Utah were polygamous. Not all of the children are planning to live this lifestyle but love having so many siblings and being so close. They consider all four wives mother-figures.

Kody has 18 children with his wives. He says many of his children are still scared by the move from Utah to Las Vegas. In Utah they lived in a huge house together, surrounded by similar families and devote Morman churches in which to worship. In Las Vegas they live in separate homes in a cul-de-sac and still experience problems adjusting.

"We do a lot of praying,'' said Kody, "and a lot of negotiation."

Take a glimpse into their lives here.

Who do you think polygamy benefits more - men or women?

Sister Wives airs on Foxtel in Australia on the Lifestyle Channel.

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