Currently, I am in university which many of you may know.(I’m a junior if that helps some see where I am in this part of my life.) I am taking a class called Sociology of the Family. In this course, we will be focusing on trends that follow the basic family structures that most people know of. This course promises to be very interesting, but I noticed that polygamy isn’t viewed as a family in any way in my syllabus. Of course, I expected this because it’s not legally recognized, but my instructor is considering cohabitation couples (like me) as families so I was curious why polygamy wouldn’t be seen as a family structure and decided to ask my instructor what kind of family she considered polygamist to be.
A tangent that kinda relates a lot:
Now lucky she was genuinely interested in talking to me about it. I expected her to not be as open because I have had so pretty negative responses from people lately. She even says she plans on trying to put it in a class discussion, now that I brought it up because it’s interesting to think about especially when you look at it outside of being a Muslim or Mormon or faith based. That doesn’t mean we are invalidating it as a faith-based institution, we just agree that it is about more than religion and a lot of people who do it, don’t just do it for religion. They do it for financial or even for the sake of children just to name a few off the top of my head.
Back to the Important stuff:)
Now, this leads me back to my question to my instructor, what kind of family does she consider polygamist to be? To make it simple we stuck to the example of polygamist living in one home or multiple homes close together (for the sake of the argument we used the example of Bill Hendrickson’s and his wives living arrangements. “Big Love”). She honestly didn’t know at the time. She says that we can’t really consider it a single family (but even some polygamist don’t view themselves as a “single family”), so she would say that it is multiple family units, maybe like extended family but with single mothers. She said she’d think about it to give me a better answer though.
The point is that this leads me to think what kind of family is a polygamist family labeled as, other than polygamist of course.
So we are going to go through a brief Sociology lesson to discuss some options.
Based on the Census definition, the family is two or more people related by birth, marriage or adoption that live in one household.
Ok to break it down, legally polygamist are not a family because 1) by law they are not married (hence no bigamy) and 2) some families live in separate houses.
This all depends on your definition of marriage and family. Follow are two Merriam-Webster definitions:
a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>
c : the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
Looking a the above definitions polygamist are in fact separate families and the sister wives outside the first union don’t count because and only because the marriages aren’t accepted by the US government.They are in fact single mothers and a separate family apart from even their husbands even if they live in the same house.
Now I must interject my personal bias, that marriage is not something that can be regulated perfectly because it’s not just the legal stuff about the property. It’s spiritual. When I say spiritual I am not referring to religious affiliation. I mean something that is on a sacred level, as in something that is worth respecting because it ties us together. It is a connection and a commitment that goes far beyond signing a piece of paper. Emotion and relationships are not things the government can really control. (I’ve already given my thoughts on how the government can make it work for polygamous families to be legal here. I could go on for hours about my feeling on government intervention into relationships but I won’t. I’m not a law student and don’t have a degree, this is purely what I’ve seen and how I feel so don’t eat me if you disagree.)
I disagree with my professor simply because I don’t view second, third, forth, ect. wives as single mothers at all. I view polygamist as a single family built with multiple relationships that go far beyond husband with his perspective “other” wives. First, the husband connects the family by the offspring sharing a common father, then the sister-wives have “adopted” their sister-wives as sisters and fellow wives. (Some may even go so far as to feel that they have married the wives as well and have a vow to their sister wife/ves as sacred as their vow to their husband. I feel that these relationships make them a family even if it is a “strange” mix of multiple families blending to form one family. I learned that the only excepted version of a multiple families united as one is extended family, which only accounts for generational families or paternal or maternal relatives.
I mean if you tell your child to respect their other moms, that says family to me. You could just say “respect so and so just like you would me.” (Does anybody do either of these. Ha! another Idea here.)
That’s it for now on this topic. I might add more later. What are your thoughts on this?