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Perhaps Three Wives, One Husband Are Onto Something

19/04/2017 14:23

What do you think about a man having more than one wife?

Polygamy is a controversial subject and the idea of a plural marriage is not for everyone, not least because human beings are inherently jealous and possessive. But we are all different. No two relationships are the same and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another. Who are we to judge?

Before I watched Three Wives, One Husband, I stereotyped a polygamist as being a chauvinist. Selfish, arrogant, conceited, greedy, and oversexed (I pictured a male polygamist - I told you it was a stereotype). His wives would be downtrodden, duped, borderline abused or bullied, and if they were willing and complicit, they would be hippies.

Channel Four's documentary showed this to be wrong and how in come cases, polygamy can actually work and result in happy, fulfilled relationships.

Three Wives, One Husband was filmed at Rockland Ranch, a fundamentalist Mormon community in the middle of the Utah Desert. Polygamy was not only acceptable, it was expected for the 15 or so families who had carved out their lives there. I say 'carved' because not only had they fashioned for themselves a unique lifestyle, they had also cleaved their homes out of a massive red sandstone rock in the desert. Around 40 years ago, dynamite had been used to blast caves in the cliff, called Hatch Rock, and the resulting homes had running water, electricity, internet access, and all the usual things a home has, including a typical domestic facade with windows and doors.

And the families that live there believe, as part of their religion, that polygamy is a way to get closer to God and reach the highest level of heaven. They have a lot of children.

Your first reaction? Cynicism? "Enoch Foster certainly looks like he's one step closer to heaven" you might say, "with his two beautiful wives!" A brunette and a blonde, glossy locks down to their waste, and blooming with health and vivacity, Enoch was looking to take a third wife in 25-year-old Lydia Rose. Lucky old Enoch. His neighbour, Abel Morrison, already had three wives and he was very content as they looked after him and their homes, went to work, and gave birth, one after another.

Abel's newest wife Marina was heavily pregnant with her second child. In one scene, Abel kissed Marina goodbye because he was going out, even though her tummy was bulging, she was struggling to cope with a toddler, and she was weeping emotionally. But he had to go. It was his date night with his first wife.

The people at Rockland Ranch were endeavouring to be self-sufficient; they lived a wholesome lifestyle growing their own food. Their children played outside in the dust, on trampolines and in the communal swimming pool - when they weren't helping to farm crops of potatoes and beet.

Those adults that were part of polygamous marriages were entirely willing; they disused it openly and were entirely forthright with one another in voicing their concerns. The women viewed one another as sisters. They were supportive and helped each other with child care and child rearing. They were strong, confident, successful women. When one wife was asked if she felt jealous about one of her husband's other wives giving birth, she smiled and replied simply and honestly, "No. should I be?" Jealousy, she just didn't get it.

It was sad to see Enoch's two wives cringe when they went shopping, dreading the questions and consequential disapproval from the shop assistant as they paid for their provisions. "Do you have big families?" "How many children do you have?" Are you sisters?"

Why should they be ashamed? Are other men ashamed when they raise children with different mothers, or women have children from different fathers? Because that, we know, happens - a lot.

As Enoch said, it might be acceptable to take mistresses and father children with any number of women, but that wasn't what he wanted. He preferred to take responsibility for his choices, his actions and the consequences.

The men and women at Rockland Ranch who practised plural marriage were aware that they were committing a felony, and we heard plenty about how controversial it all was. But here's something I didn't hear. Not once did I hear a single one of them judge anyone else's relationship, their way of life, or the personal decisions anyone else made with regard to their families or their sex lives.

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