Kody Brown and his ex-wife Janelle Brown became famous upon the airing of “Sister Wives”, an American reality TV series that premiered on TLC on September 26, 2010. The show follows the life of a polygamist family headed by Kody Brown, who had four wives named Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, as well as their 18 children.
Janelle and Kody married in 1993, way before their series was even conceived. At the time of its beginning, they were already a veteran couple with an evident abundance of history between them. Despite going through so much together, however, the two split up near the end of 2022.
The fans, of course, anxiously waited for the explanation of what exactly happened between them, and while bits and pieces of information were drip-fed throughout the show, a more definite answer has remained elusive.
The history of a polygamous show
The series was initially filmed in Lehi, Utah, before the family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2011, and later to Flagstaff, Arizona, in 2018. Its primary goal is to showcase the complex nature of plural marriage, and the challenges that come with it.
The first episode of “Sister Wives” aired in 2010 and featured the Brown family’s daily life, with the wives juggling their roles as mothers and wives while living together in a large home. The series also explores how the family deals with prejudice and indignation from society due to their unconventional lifestyle.
“Sister Wives” has undergone a gradual and significant transformation over its 13 years of running. While the early seasons showcased a loving dynamic between the family members, recent ones have focused on the tension and drama between them. As the series progressed, Kody’s relationships with his wives have become increasingly strained, with several of them feeling neglected and unimportant.
Despite, or maybe because of these issues, “Sister Wives” has remained a popular TV series with 17 seasons in the running. TLC continues to produce new episodes, with the most recent season premiering in September 2022. In addition to the show’s regular releases, the network has also produced a number of spin-off specials and episodes, exploring various aspects of the Brown family’s lives, such as “Meri – Behind the Scenes.”
The show has been both praised and criticized for its portrayal of plural marriage. Supporters argue that it offers a unique insight into a lifestyle that is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the media. However, opponents claim that the show glorifies a practice that is harmful to women and children and reinforces gender inequality. The main opponent of the series itself, however, is the government of their country.
Evading the law
Polygamy, or having more than one spouse at the same time, is illegal in all 50 of the United States. The practice was first outlawed in the mid-19th century, in response to concerns about its potential impact on society. Today, it’s considered a felony offense in most states, and is theoretically punishable by imprisonment and fines.
One of the primary concerns regarding this practice is the potential for exploitation, particularly of women and children. In polygamous relationships, women may be pressured or forced into marrying at a young age and may not have the same legal rights as their husbands; children may also be at risk of neglect or abuse in large, complex families, and note that multiple husbands are almost unheard of .
Additionally, there are concerns about the impact of polygamy on society as a whole. Such relationships can be highly insular, with limited contact with the outside world. This can make it difficult for children raised in such families to integrate into mainstream society and eventually lead to the formation of isolated, potentially extremist communities.
So, how did the cast of “Sister Wives” manage to end up in an entire series about polygamy? The answer lies in the fact that the show doesn’t actually depict the family engaging in illegal behavior. While Kody Brown is ‘married’ to four women, he is legally wedded only to his most recent wife, Robyn.
In spite of what the audience are led to believe by the production team, and the way “Sister Wives” comes across, the other marriages are considered so-called ‘spiritual unions,’ and are thus not recognized by the government. This provides the legal loophole that the Browns could easily use against the state in court, which allows their unconventional tendencies to even be televised without governmental scrutiny.
The romantic journey of the ‘Sister Husband’
The very name of the TV series “Sister Wives” is in and of itself controversial, as it comes with implications of highly frowned-upon practices, such as incest and polygamy. However, none of the wives are related by any means except religious. To understand how such a unity was even formed, it’s necessary to look at the man who orchestrated it all.
Kody Brown has a long and complicated history of marriages and children. As a member of the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) sect of the Christian faith, Kody believes in marrying multiple wives, although that means he has to make obvious concessions to the law.
Kody’s first wife was Meri Brown, whom he married both legally and spiritually on 21 April 1990. The couple has one child together, a son named Leon – Meri was unable to carry more. However, their relationship hit a rough patch in 2015, when Kody divorced Meri so that he could legally marry his fourth wife, ostensibly in order to adopt her children from a previous marriage.
Brown’s second wife is Janelle Brown, whom he married only spiritually on 20 January 1993. They have six children together: four boys and two girls. Janelle is a real estate agent, who has also worked as a weight-loss coach and personal trainer.
His third wife is Christine Brown, whom he married only spiritually on 25 March 1994. The couple has six children together: three girls and three boys. Christine is known for her outspoken personality, and great love of cooking.
Finally, Kody’s fourth and current, remaining wife is Robyn Brown, whom he married only spiritually on 22 May 2010. Kody and Robyn have two children together: a son named Dayton and a daughter named Aurora. Kody also legally married Robyn in December 2014 so that he could lawfully adopt her three children.
The fame and subsequent notoriety that Kody and his spouses obtained due to their extremely unusual lifestyle resulted in an outcry from the community, as well as other, more important issues. For example, in spite of being the subject of a wildly popular TV series, the family has also suffered various financial difficulties, having filed for bankruptcy three times.
Despite the challenges they’ve faced and continue to struggle with, Kody and his wives have remained committed to their unique family dynamic, with the women often referring to themselves as ‘sister wives,’ and consistently emphasizing the importance of family and community.
The Browns’ gradual disintegration
While Janelle’s departure from Kody is definitely what’s most talked about in early 2023, this event was precipitated by another, earlier split, and that one by yet another. The first separation in the Brown family, although not final, was Kody’s legal divorce from Meri in December 2014.
Even though the intention behind the divorce wasn’t to abandon Meri, but simply to be able to legally adopt Robyn’s children from her previous marriage, it had a profound effect on the now ex-wife, who subsequently got into online dating.
She ended up being catfished, and eventually returned to her motherly duties in the Brown household, still spiritually married to Kody. Christine and Kody’s spiritual marriage came to an end on 2 November 2021, after 25 years together. The audience was deeply shocked to find this out through Christine’s Instagram post.
While issues had been brewing among the Browns for a while, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 era that certain cracks really began to show, particularly between Kody and Christine, mostly owing to his cold and stoic approach to family matters throughout that time.
According to InTouch Weekly, Christine felt that Kody wasn’t supporting her during the pandemic, and that he wasn’t present enough. This led to arguments that eventually resulted in Christine deciding to move to Utah, leaving Kody and her sister wives behind in Arizona.
Speculation of Christine’s split from Kody started in November 2020 following the revelation that Kody had sold Christine the family home, however, it wasn’t until a year later that Christine confirmed the news. In a People magazine interview, Christine revealed that one of the moments that led her to split up from Kody was his absence from important family matters.
— Kody Brown (@realkodybrown) November 2, 2021
She said ‘He broke my little girl’s heart’ while describing the time when their 19-year-old daughter Ysabel was set to undergo scoliosis correction surgery, which required her to fly to New Jersey. It was expected of Kody to accompany his child in this time of worry, but he refused to go, supposedly due to COVID-19 concerns.
Christine had also been dealing with postpartum depression at the time when Kody traveled to California for his honeymoon with Robyn Brown, which caused Christine to start feeling disconnected from Kody and their marriage. She became rather jealous of Robyn, and admitted it was hard at times to be a sister wife. She was thus the first of the four women to openly express her unhappiness in the relationship.
Since her split from Kody, Christine has been working on herself, and transforming her life. She has been focusing on her health and fitness, and has even started her own business – LuLaRoe, which sells women’s clothing. She can be seen consistently sharing her journey on social media, all the while being rather open about her struggles and triumphs.
So, what really happened between Janelle and Kody?
Janelle and Kody’s separation was confirmed in a preview clip of the upcoming “Sister Wives: One on One” special, which aired on 12 December 2022. However, the rumors of their split had been swirling for months before that.
It seems that Janelle’s departure from Kody was a long time coming, although not many in the audience suspected it. An insider alleged to The Sun that ‘Janelle had no real reason to leave until Christine pointed it out to her,’ claiming that Christine was definitely the one who kept persuading Janelle to break it off. It’s thus speculated that her split from Kody may have nudged Janelle in a similar direction.
Despite the end of their marriage, Janelle seems to be looking forward to a bright future. She took to Instagram to share her excitement, writing ‘I’m ready for you 2023!’ She also admitted to feeling quite happy now that she’s separated from Kody.
It’s unclear what the exact reasons were for the breakdown of Janelle and Kody’s marriage, but the aforementioned insider stated that Janelle ‘had outgrown him.’ Seeing as Kody’s relationship with his other wives has also been rocky in recent years, fans have begun speculating that Janelle’s split began to spell the end of the family.
Despite the drama surrounding Janelle and Kody’s split, it seems that she’s determined to move on and thrive on her own. It remains to be seen how the events of the past few years will impact the Brown family and their dynamic on “Sister Wives,” but one thing is for sure: Janelle is ready for whatever comes her way.
What is left of the family?
Meri Brown also made headlines in December 2022 when she confirmed the end of her 32-year marriage to Kody Brown, in the first episode of the new season of “Sister Wives: One on One,” in which Meri told host Sukanya Krishnan all about the split.
Meri and Kody’s relationship had been tumultuous for several years, with rumors of a separation swirling since 2015. However, it wasn’t until January 2023 that Meri formally announced the end of their marriage, posting a text picture on Instagram that read ‘After more than a decade of working on our relationship in our own unique ways, we have made the decision to permanently terminate our marriage relationship.’
With Christine, Janelle and now even Meri out of the picture, the Brown family seems to have been reduced to just the one legally wedded couple, rendering the entire idea of “Sister Wives” obsolete.
With many questions unanswered, such as how the show will even continue if the family’s in this state, and whether any of the wives are considering returning to their former union, the remainder of the Browns’ story remains to be written throughout 2023.