Sister Wives' Marriages To Kody Seem To Be Disintegrating

Television audiences were first introduced to TLC's show "Sister Wives" in September 2010. Aiming to shine a light on the polygamous lifestyle and plural marriage, the Brown Family consisted of husband Kody Brown, three wives, and several children when it first premiered. The wives included Meri Brown, to whom he was legally married, and Janelle and Christine Brown, each of whom was bound in spiritual marriages with him. During the series premiere, the Browns revealed that Kody was courting a potential fourth wife, Robyn.

"I have adopted a faith that embraces that lifestyle," Kody said in the first episode, referencing his fundamentalist Mormon beliefs. "In fact, it recommends it and [likes] to reward good behavior, so if you're good with one marriage, they figure you'll be good with two. I hope they think I'll be good with four."

Much has happened in the many seasons that followed. As of this writing, the Browns' relationships seem to be on the verge of disintegrating. All of the wives have issues with the current state of affairs and Kody seems to be at his wit's end, saying in a Season 17 episode (via Yahoo! News), "I've been fighting to make everybody happy. My bitterness is out of trying to do that and not having the family that I had thought about and designed."

Kody says he regrets marrying Meri

In April 1990, Kody Brown legally wed his first wife, Meri Barber. "Meri was so cute and sweet when I met her that I had a hard time suppressing my hopelessly romantic nature," he revealed in the memoir "Becoming Sister Wives: The Story of an Unconventional Marriage" (via Us Weekly). Proclaiming her his soulmate, the twosome struggled to grow their family for several years before Meri gave birth to daughter Mariah in July 1995. Following that, Meri had a miscarriage and never had any more children.

By 2020, the couple's marriage had deteriorated to the point where they decided to seek the help of a professional. In a Season 14 episode of "Sister Wives," Kody revealed, "It's time for us to actually take the temperature of our relationship" (via Us Weekly). During the session with the therapist, their dire circumstances were revealed by one painful comment after the next. At one point Kody says, "Meri mourns the loss of what we had ... I regret what we had" (per The U.S. Sun). He added, "I didn't know who I was marrying. As things unfolded, I started to become troubled and bitter by the situation I was in." Even after these admissions, they both left the session feeling hopeful.

Janelle isn't down for a patriarchy

"When he walked into the room I looked at him and had that feeling of remembering something I had forgotten. It was a singular experience." This was Janelle Barber's description of the first time she laid eyes on Kody Brown in 1989 (per Us Weekly). In January 1993, the couple joined in a spiritual union and went on to have six children together. When the pandemic hit, cracks began to appear in most of the spouses' relationships, including Kody and Janelle's. Put off by Kody's strict COVID-19 guidelines and his criticisms about their sons' sloppy adherence to protocols, Janelle announced that she would always pick her children over Kody if she were forced to make a choice (via Cheatsheet).

By 2022, Janelle and Kody's relationship was really struggling. Kody announced to all the wives on the show: "I'm going to be the head of my household again and so I'm not going to be circumvented in that. And so if everybody's willing to conform to patriarchy again, I guess, because I've been fighting to make everybody happy" (via Entertainment Tonight). During her confessional, Janelle said, "Yeah, I didn't know I'd signed up for patriarchy, but that's not what we all agreed on in the very beginning."

Christine decided to end her marriage with Kody

In March 1994, Kody Brown married Christine Allred in another spiritual union, making her his third wife. They would go on to have six children together. Their struggles as a couple, however, have been well documented over the latest several seasons of the show, disintegrating even further during the pandemic. Christine was extremely vocal about her dissatisfaction over Kody's lack of involvement with their children during quarantine, especially with their youngest daughter, Truely.

During a family Zoom meeting, Kody was unimpressed with Christine's behavior, stating in a confessional afterward, "We're having this meeting, but it seems like she's trying to actually run our meeting, like she's trying to take charge of it. She's getting kind of 'independent woman' now" (via Today). Clearly annoyed at Christine's behavior, Kody went on to say, "There's literally an attitude of 'I don't need you guys anymore and I don't have to really submit myself to what the group wants.'" Shortly thereafter, Christine removed all of Kody's belongings from her home and announced her decision to end their marriage.

"Christine's decision to leave comes with a great deal of sadness," Kody revealed in a statement (per Us Weekly). "We enjoyed many years together and I have a large amount of respect and admiration for her. Although we are moving forward on different paths, we will always remain committed parents."

Meri divorced Kody so that he could marry Robyn

"Let's just clarify something here," Meri began a lengthy Instagram post at the end of 2020. "I love this man." Of course, she was referring to her longtime husband, Kody Brown. Over the course of their marriage, they've had plenty of ups and downs, but that didn't stop Meri from doing what many considered a selfless act — she divorced Kody in 2014. The move was made so that he could legally marry his fourth wife Robyn and be eligible to adopt the three children she had with her ex-husband. Meri was tearful as she signed the divorce papers but buoyed her own spirits, saying, "If ever I'm having an emotional moment about maybe what I lost, you know, I just think, it's not about me," she said in a confessional on the show (per TV Insider). "It's about the kids. And that's what makes me happy."

"We have chosen to legally restructure our family," the Browns revealed in a statement to Us Weekly back in 2014. "We made this decision together as a family. We are grateful to our family, friends and fans for all their love and support."

Though Meri had been critical in the family's decision to allow Robyn to marry Kody legally, she and Kody had already been struggling. Unfortunately, the isolation she was experiencing led her to engage in an embarrassing and ruinous online relationship.

Meri's catfishing experience did lasting damage

During a particularly difficult period in Kody and Meri Brown's marriage, Meri began a romantic online relationship that turned into the now infamous catfishing episode. After meeting someone on Twitter named "Sam Cooper," Meri engaged in a six-month relationship that would only end when it was revealed that Sam was actually a woman who had been catfishing her. "This catfish was just planting things in my head and telling me how horrible my family was and specifically how horrible Kody was," said Meri on the show (per InTouch). "That was one of the reasons why I didn't want him around. I was just angry. I'm just angry at him. I just pushed Kody away. I did. He's not the one I should've pushed away."

Unfortunately, the damage had been done. The revelation of Meri's online affair rocked Kody. Meri admitted that their intimate life had been nonexistent for more than a decade, but hoped that things would improve; however, Kody said it will never happen (via Us Weekly). "There's a point where intimacy is just damage. It's misleading to have intimacy in a relationship where there's no real safety. I'm not going there. No, and I never will again. I will be her friend. I will do what I can to protect her. I'm never going to feel safe in an intimate place."

Janelle was an unlikely choice for a wife

Prior to joining the Brown family, Janelle was actually already a family relation — in more ways than one. In the late '80s Janelle was married to Meri's brother, Adam, so the two were sisters-in-law before becoming sister wives. Janelle and Adam didn't have any children and were divorced in 1990, RadarOnline reported. Additionally, Janelle's late mother was also married to Kody's father, according to Us Weekly, which means that she and Kody were stepsiblings before they entered their spiritual commitment.

Though she had been around Kody and Meri in the past, Janelle wasn't in a faith that practiced plural marriage, so it wasn't initially something she pursued. After looking into it, however, she said she decided that she was interested in adopting the lifestyle and things moved very quickly. Their's however, was not a long courtship and Kody admits that they didn't know each other very well before she became his second wife. "If we would have wanted something romantic, we kind of rushed it," he says. "I think we just moved ourselves from point A to point B without any courtship."   

Robyn says this isn't what she signed up for

After more than 15 years, the Brown Family decided it was time to take on a fourth wife and Robyn Jessup joined the family. It was not without some initial reservation on Kody's part, however. "She looked like a soccer mom," Kody said about Robyn on the show (via InTouch Weekly). "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.'" That would all change, of course, when the two fell in love. With an eye on eventually adopting the three children Robyn had with her ex-husband, Meri and Kody divorced so that Robyn could legally become his wife. The couple married in November 2014. Not only did Kody adopt Robyn's children, but they've had two more together since. 

Amidst his troubles with Christine and his other wives' refusal to follow his strict COVID-19 protocol, Kody, who was concerned about being with his younger children, began spending the bulk of his time in Robyn's home. "I love Kody dearly, but this is not what I chose," she explained (via E! News). "His other relationships are stressing him out so much that it's not like it's really fun to have him around much anyway. He's an angry man right now."

Christine left Kody

After years of feeling unfulfilled in her marriage to Kody Brown, Christine Brown finally decided it was time to leave. In a Season 17 episode of "Sister Wives," Kody arrived at her home to find all of his things in the garage. Kody, who appeared shaken, videotaped his response after the discovery, explaining how it began, "She said, I don't want you to stay in my room anymore. She's like, 'My room is a special place to me and nothing special happens there for us" (via People). 

Christine described the experience of coming to her decision, saying she did feel stressed and fearful but didn't experience any hesitation. For his part, Kody revealed on the show, "It's a weird thing to be getting left. It's made me question getting into plural marriage. It's made me question my faith, and especially question my religion" (via Today).

Christine decided to move back to Utah, where several of her adult children live. "As soon as I had the car loaded up and drove down the street, I felt free," she revealed to People. "It was exciting and new and so scary because I had no idea what to expect, but I remember feeling hope for the first time in a long time because I just got to take my life by my own and go."

Kody and Meri's marriage is in 'a very dark place'

Meri Brown was just 19 and Kody Brown was just 22 when the two legally married in 1990. "We were in love and knew we belonged together, and we had all our parents' consent for the union," Meri explained in her bio for TLC (via TV Insider). Unfortunately, their happiness would not last.

When Meri got caught up in an online catfishing scandal, it seemed as though things would never improve. "Meri and I have been in a very dark place for a very long time," Kody told Us Weekly prior to season 15 of "Sister Wives." "It's been more about trying to get ourselves out of this hole that we dug ourselves into."

In a clip provided to Entertainment Tonight in 2021, Kody confessed, "Romance and sex are saved for people who are in love. If Meri and I really wanted to be together, we would." He also acknowledged that while they had essentially been separated for years, they were friendly and still see each other from time to time. In 2022, Meri revealed on the show, "My relationship with Kody has not improved as far as like a husband and wife relationship. That's not something that he's interested in. I mean, it just is what it is. It's where we are" (via People).  

Christine says Kody has a favorite wife

All four of the Brown sister wives have acknowledged the growing pains, jealousies, and insecurities that accompany plural marriage. During the course of the series, viewers have seen Meri, Janelle, and Christine go through struggles with their mutual husband, but Robyn seems to have navigated the tricky territory relatively unscathed. That said, Kody has addressed the interfamily strife that manifests in a pecking order. "Meri was really hard on Janelle and then Janelle and Meri were hard on Christine, and Janelle and Meri and Christine were hard on Robyn," he said in the February 2022 reunion special (via Entertainment Tonight). "And Robyn's going, 'I didn't do this to you. I didn't do this. Why are you this way?' Frankly, other than Meri, I'm not sure the others would want to be her friend."

The tension between Christine and Kody especially intensified during the pandemic. As Christine asserted during the Season 17 premiere, "I think he has a favorite wife and that's why all of this is like it is and apparently, I'm not treating her well enough" (via People). A source allegedly told Us Weekly in 2021, "The other wives can't compete against Robyn. She has him wrapped around her finger. ... They're still very much in love."

Meri was hurt by Kody's suggestion that she move away from the family

"I was here at the very beginning," Meri Brown said, holding back the tears, in a Season 17 episode (per Us Weekly). "I helped start this family. It was me and him and we had plans. He loved me. For him to just be like, 'Um, just go up there now.' It didn't make sense."

Kody Brown was urging that Meri relocate to Lizzie's Heritage Inn, an ancestral home she had purchased several years ago after being presented with the opportunity to bring it back under family ownership. The idea of Meri living there apparently made sense to Kody because Meri's mom, Bonnie (who had been running the bed and breakfast) had just passed away. 

Kody denied that it was an effort to push her away, but Meri was hurt nonetheless. Perhaps it stemmed from his obvious resentment about buying it in the first place. "Throughout this entire thing with Meri pursuing this home, I've struggled not to see it as sort of self-indulgent," he said in a 2019 episode. "It's never been about the family, it's just been about Meri needing this house in her family" (per TV Insider).

Kody's relationship with Janelle is strained

Throughout the course of "Sister Wives," Kody Brown has appeared to have a good working relationship with Janelle Brown, if not an overly affectionate or romantic one. "They have a respectful relationship," an insider reportedly told Us Weekly in 2021. "She's really easygoing and goes with the flow." That said, some cracks have begun to show.

During a family meeting, a disagreement ensued regarding how the family would handle Thanksgiving amid the pandemic. The two got into a spat that had Janelle storming off as she said, "You know what? F*** off" (via InTouch Weekly).

In a "Sister Wives" clip shared by People in February 2022, Kody says that he loves Janelle, but stops short of saying he's in love with her. Though the couple has been amicable, rumors about her leaving the family abound, as of this writing. In a confessional, Janelle said, "I've had to really think. My children are almost grown and there's not a huge necessity anymore to stay. It was a wonderful way to raise children. With Kody and I right now, our relationship is pretty strained. And you know, it's easy to walk away" (via Us Weekly). As of October 2022, however, they are still together.

Christine gave away her share of Coyote Pass

After his dreams of building a communal home to accommodate all four wives and the family's children wasn't embraced, the Browns decided to build several homes on their jointly owned property in Flagstaff, Arizona. They have visited the lot frequently to discuss building sites, property lines, and personal design preferences but will need to pay off the property before they can subdivide it.

As a Season 17 episode showed, Janelle, whose rental home was sold, took matters into her own hands and purchased an RV — without telling anyone — to jump-start the process of living at Coyote Pass. She theorized that living a rustic lifestyle on the land would keep their goal top of mind and serve as a constant reminder of what they were all working towards. Kody unenthusiastically went along with the plan until he had a change of heart and expressed his feelings during a confessional interview.

"We should've never bought the RV because we're going to be moving it all the time. I'm struggling because I'm not optimistic about how this is going to come together," Kody revealed in the episode (via Us Weekly). Fortunately for the family, Christine's departure didn't make matters worse. In what appears to be a gesture of goodwill, she sold her share, which was worth more than $200,000, to Kody and Robyn for just $10, property records obtained by Us Weekly show. 

Kody feels bitter at the whole family

"For all my marriage with Meri, I felt like she unloads her emotions into a burden that I'm supposed to carry," Kody Brown admitted on "Sister Wives" in February 2021 (via Us Weekly). But it's not just Meri he has taken issue with.

"There's things that Janelle does frequently that aren't like a married husband and wife," he said of wife number 2 in an episode that aired in October 2022. "We do things separate." Of wife number 3, he admitted in Season 17, "Right now, I'm in the gall of bitterness with Christine" (via People). With the pandemic taking its toll on his marriages to Janelle and Christine, and his lack of trust fueling little more than a platonic relationship with Meri, Kody spent most of the quarantine with wife number 4, Robyn. He professed that this was a function of Robyn's strict adherence to his COVID-19 protocols, but the other wives suspected that it was just an excuse for him to spend more time with her.

However, that doesn't mean things are great between Robyn and Kody. Robyn revealed that Christine's departure has strained her relationship with Kody. "I miss my husband," she revealed in Season 17 (via Us Weekly). "Anytime I try and talk to him I get the anger thrown at me. I have tried to speak with the sister wives, I've tried to talk to Kody but, you know, nobody's willing. I'm starting to feel really helpless." She admitted that she feels lonely and that her relationship with the children is also fraught.