Polygamy and Mental Health: A Conversation with SisterWives Founders Robyn & Chris Alesich
Interview & Blog by Dr. Erin Stair
Below is a fun, casual, organic, informative and entertaining conversation I had with Christopher and Robyn Alesich. They are married to each other, polygamists and founders of SisterWives.Com, the largest polygamy dating site and the only polygamy matchmaking site on the web. They were also delightful to chat with. We touched on a lot of topics, the main ones being the mental health benefits and mental health challenges of polygamy. Over the years, I’ve heard mostly negative things about polygamy, but it’s all from outsiders and rooted in fear and rumors. What inspired me to explore if there were any benefits, particularly mental health benefits, is the current epidemic of loneliness. Human beings evolved to be social creatures, and social networks are essential for our survival, yet I know many frustrated, lonely folks who seem to be perpetually seeking fulfilling, happy romantic relationships, or even fulfilling friendships…, but never get them. This lack of fulfillment often leads to depression, anxiety, insomnia, overeating, drinking and the works. Data suggests that loneliness leads to a reduction in lifespan and amounts to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Why are people lonely? Perhaps employers and workplaces, where employed individuals spend much of their time, don’t foster positive social connections. Perhaps we are fools overly attached to our cell phones, forgetting who’s in front of us and drowning in a bottomless pool of meaningless (though tempting) digital connections. The digital world tries hard to replicate and replace everything that’s real, including people and connections, but maybe it can’t. Maybe there’s something irreplaceable, evolutionary and magical about in-person connections. I think so.
This got me thinking about polygamy. I wondered how polygamy faired in the epidemic of loneliness. I wondered about jealousy, and the basic day-to-day and romantic aspects of a polygamist lifestyle. While I’ve heard mostly negative things, I know there are always two sides to every story, at least. People willingly choose to become polygamists, so they must be getting some benefit. Why not ask them?
Erin: Let’s start with this: What are the greatest mental health benefits of polygamy?
Robyn: I would think the biggest benefit would be security, as long as you’re in the right, healthy situation. I think security is the biggest mental health benefit, because you have multiple people to bounce things off of and help you out.
Chris: I never thought of mental health benefits. But I just woke up…I’d say the greatest benefit is a lot of mental stability, because you have to be pretty mentally stable to be in this type of relationship. You have to overcome jealousy, you have to be okay with yourself, you have to have better self control over yourself and your emotions.
Erin: Are you guys in a polygamist relationship at the moment?
Chris: No, we talked to several people and had a couple of potentials, but not at the moment.
Erin: But you have been?
Chris: Yes. I could tell you a whole lot of negatives. It’s funny that this was your first question, because the last girl that was with us was extremely bipolar and very jealous, and she came into it and realized …
Robyn: It’s a lot of work.
Erin: I have jealousy as a separate question, because to me that’s a huge issue. I could date a guy , and the minute it gets serious, I almost automatically start to claim territory…, I think a lot of women do.
Robyn: Jealousy is the biggest challenge.
Chris: Selfishness in general
Robyn: We are raised to believe that you live with one person and you are monogamous. It’s been like that for years. Your parents raise you to be a righteous person and not let people down. So people get married and live as husband and wife. So when you get into relationships that are not under the definition of what people consider normal, it’s not highly accepted. Because, I mean, how can you share your husband with someone else?
Chris: I think it’s instinctive too. It’s instinctive to be jealous, possessive and even selfish. We have to overcome that. This lifestyle really helps you do that and grow as a person, as far as being in control of your emotions.
Erin: I get that, because one relationship is hard enough. Tell me about the last time you were living with more than 1 woman. How did it end or why are you not in that type of relationship right now?
Robyn: It’s hard to find honest people that are in it for the right reasons. That aren’t doing it for something else. Here’s an example: We were talking to a girl. We really felt compatible with her, yet she wasn’t in it for the right reasons. You date a guy , maybe that guy isn’t your type or isn’t there for the right reason. So you have to weed them out.
Chris: The story about what happened is that she couldn’t overcome her jealousy. Things were good, we had some really good times, but at the end of the day, she was moody and going against the grain, instead of choosing to live in harmony. We tried and tried and eventually I had to end it, and said, hey, you gotta go.
Erin: You gotta go…
Erin: As a woman, why would you choose this lifestyle?
Robyn: This is my answer. Many women think differently. I think that entering into a polygamist relationship is…, well you’re getting a best friend. Someone to share what you have with. There’s a lot of people out there who feel like they need someone to complete them, and they need to find that missing link. Chris and I aren’t on that path. We don’t need anyone else to complete us. We aren’t missing anything. We are extremely happy with what we have, and if we never find anyone else, we are okay with it. But we want to share the love, joy and life that we have with someone else that would fit into it.
Chris: That’s a decent answer.
Erin: Chris, what’s your answer? Why is this lifestyle ideal for men?
Chris: Oh my gosh…, it’s not? It’s a lot of work. Sexually it can be easy, a benefit for men. Extra companionship. Extra love. Extra help. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of work. One woman’s a lot of work. Two woman is an extreme amount of work. And imagine the more you get, the more work it becomes for the guy.
Erin: So what is the average number of sister wives? Is that the right term?
Chris: I would say so. The average is two. Sometimes three.
Erin: On a practical level, in terms of managing assets, chores, and all of that, is it more beneficial?
Chris: If you find the right person, it can be absolutely magical. The workload around the house is minimized. Financially, if she has a job, she can contribute.
Robyn: These relationships work completely different for everyone.
Erin: Everyone wants to know, how do you manage the sleeping arrangements?
Robyn: Some families are traditional and have separate bedrooms and separate homes. Monday is my night, Tuesday is your night, so on and so forth. This is my anniversary.., we are going out. There are other people who aren’t that way. Chris and I aren’t that way. If we find somebody, we want to be completely inclusive.
Chris: Yeah,we are kinda hippies about it.
Robyn: It doesn’t have to be sexual. It could be, but it doesn’t have to be.
Chris: Everyone is looking for something different.
Erin: People are curious, how does that work? If you have two or three sister wives, I’m sure there are times when one of the women wants to have a night alone.
Robyn: Absolutely. I think that it’s hard to put it out there in the current terminology. Of course, as a woman, you want to have time to yourself or time with your partner. Or with your partners. And it depends on individual sexuality as well. What is each person looking for out of the relationship? We had a friend of ours who was with us for a long time, before we even knew what polygamy was. We were truly best friends and it was very platonic. Some relationships are not platonic. She had her own room. I mean, she was a roommate. When our first girlfriend came in, she shared our room with us, she was in there with us. If she needed some time alone, it was no problem.
Erin: I always thought polygamy had its roots in like a biblical sense.
Chris: It does. That would be more traditional polygamy. Originally, you would just split nights. That would be ideal.
Chris: You getting brain-fogged over there?
Robyn: Some people want bisexual woman, some people want straight women, different rules, different nights, different rooms…
Erin: Right…, but that sounds more like polyamory to me?
Robyn: NO. Polyamory is much different. In the world of polyamory, in the world that I’ve seen, most are open-they are in open relationships.
Chris: There are polyamorous people that are in a closed, committed relationship.
Robyn: There are, but there are a lot that aren’t. It’s much different than what traditional polygamy should look like.
Chris: Everyone is looking for something different. Everyone wants a different form of polygamy.
Erin: Do either of your parents…, do you guys come from a polygamist background?
Chris: No. I’m actually surprised I didn’t get any backlash.
Robyn: They know. They know we live this way. My mother is very old-fashioned and um…
Chris: She didn’t talk to me for a month when Tabitha left.
Robyn: Yeah, she was mad at him, because she liked the girl that was here.
Erin: Your mom did?
Robyn: Oh yeah, she did. She accepted her just like a daughter in law. When Tabitha left, she was very upset with Chris for that.
Erin: That was a mutual decision though, right? You guys were kinda like, you’re off the island, right?
Robyn: It was a mutual decision, but in the end it was Chris’s decision. It had been rocky for a while.
Erin: And did you feel jealous?
Robyn: Oh yeah, in the beginning. It was hard to combat that. But the biggest part of any relationship, single or not, is communication. You have to have open and honest communication all the way through in order to have it work, because if anyone tells you that they don’t get jealous, they are lying to you.
Erin: Yeah, that’s true.
Robyn: I could find someone who matches with me so well, who’s my best friend, that’s everything, and I’ll still get jealous.
Erin: Are you guys actively looking for another sister wife?
Chris: We are. We just started looking again.
Erin: And what does that entail? What does looking look like?
Robyn: A lot of heartache.
Chris: No, well only if you let it become a heartache. I would say – me and Robyn have a history of match-making. I’d say we are better matchmakers for other people than for ourselves.
Robyn: We don’t take our own advice a lot of the times.
Chris: So, you know, ideally you would be like , “Hey we have a lot in common, let’s hop on a video chat. Because there are a lot of catfish out there. You want to first verify that the person is a real person. Secondly, with social media- find her on social media and make sure she’s not married. There are a lot of unhappy married women out there who want to escape their relationship and try a new thing.
Erin: Try a polygamist one?
Robyn: Yes, and sometimes they’ll let you know that they are married, and sometimes they won’t.
Chris: So verify that the person is honest.
Robyn: The biggest thing is to just have fun. Don’t expect anything. If it happens, awesome. If it doesn’t, that’s okay.
Chris: Don’t get invested until you are face to face for sure.
Erin: Oh yeah. I think that’s true with any kind of relationship.
Erin: You guys don’t mention the religious roots that much at all. I’m not hearing it.
Chris: I know that from reading the bible—I mean, me and Robyn are both Mormons, so the church knows about it. And they know that I own this website.
Robyn: But it’s not practiced.
Chris: It’s kinda a sweep-under-the-rug kinda thing, because if they found out I was living this kind of lifestyle, or got any publicity for it, they’d kick me out of the church. I think there are a lot of Mormons who are open to the idea of polygamy…
Robyn: In the Mormon religion, they did practice polygamy. But years and years back, in the 1800s I believe, or early 1900s, the government outlawed it. So they disavowed polygamy and branched off to fundamental Mormonism, which is where you’re getting the Warren Jeffs. That’s where the problem comes in- the misperception.
Chris: The goal is to legalize it. People should be able to live how they want, right?
Erin: That’s interesting. How do you guys feel about gay marriage?
Robyn: I think if you’re a legal law-abiding adult and choose to live that way, you have every right to live the way you choose to live, and I don’t think anybody should tell you what’s right or wrong. As long as you’re not in a cult where they’re marrying young girls, minors, etc. I think you should absolutely be able to live the way you want without fear of persecution by the government or worried that your kids will be taken away.
Chris: You can’t dictate love. You can’t tell people who to love and who not to love. You can’t do that.
Erin: That’s another question: In a polygamist relationship, you love everybody? I mean, everybody loves everybody? I mean…, people fall in and out of love or what?
Robyn: If you’re falling in and out of love in a relationship, then you’re not in the right one.
Chris: Exactly. It’s not the right person for ya, sorry.
Erin: So you can be in love with more than one person at the same time?
Chris: Oh, absolutely. I still love Tabitha.
Chris: Yes, absolutely. You didn’t know that? You didn’t know humans are capable of such a thing?
Erin: I don’t think I am. No, I sort of lock into one person, and then it takes me a long time to get over him as well.
Robyn: Well, it’s the same for me. I’m truly in love with my husband, but when Tabitha was here, we had a lot of super fun times. And I loved her. I loved her as a person and as a part of us, and I still do. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Chris: It’s funny that you mention that though, because me and Robyn talked about being able to love more than one person. Everyone has different levels for how much he or she can love, and I’m convinced that a lot of people aren’t capable of love at all.
Erin: That’s true.
Erin: I talked to Robyn on email about the epidemic of loneliness, and how it leads to a lot of mental problems, as well as physical problems. It seems like if you have the right circumstances, this sort of arrangement could prevent loneliness?
Chris: It’s the absolute opposite of loneliness. I can tell you that. You are not lonely. If you are in a polygamist relationship and you’re lonely, something’s wrong.
Robyn: Yeah, something’s wrong.
Erin: How did you two meet?
Robyn: We met online in a MSN chat room. We met before chat rooms were a big deal. And it was taboo. When people asked us how we met, we didn’t want to say online. We started telling people that we met through a mutual friend. We met online, met two days later, hung out, and 6 weeks later we moved in together and that was it. We went on vacation, I came home, told my mother I was leaving…, moving to Louisiana. We packed up the car and left the next day.
Chris: It was pretty much love at first sight.
Erin: So you are legally married, right?
Erin: So anyone else who comes in is not going to be legally married?
Chris: Right. We have bigamy laws that prevent that. I guess what you could do if you wanted to get around it…you could marry one, divorce her, legally marry another, divorce her- depending on how many wives you have and they can all just change their names to your name. Be kinda like you’re married.
Erin: I didn’t really follow that.
Chris: I lost ya? A lot of the times, what you’ll see, is the man divorces his original wife and marries another.
Robyn: So that they could have their kids with the same last name for insurance purposes. Personally, I wouldn’t be cool with that. It’s different for everyone. Some people are okay with that, others aren’t. Whatever relationship you choose to have, communication is key. You have to communicate, or you will have big problems.
Chris: She was asking more about the bigamy.
Robyn: It should be legalized.
Chris: It should be legalized, but it’s not.
Robyn: I know. And you have to watch the laws in certain states. You can have a lot of problems in states that recognize common law marriage. So if you live together long enough, after a long enough time, legally you’re married. You’re creating bigamy then. You have to watch that.
Chris: Really they don’t bother us too much. Robyn and I are open about it. I mean, we’d walk together, holding hands & nobody cares. The cops don’t care.
Erin: You’re holding the hands of two women?
Chris: Yep, and cops come up to me, shake my hand and ask me how I did it.
Erin: Okay, here’s another question since we aren’t focusing on the religious aspect of polygamy. How come we never see a woman with 5 guys or 2 guys?
Robyn: You Do.
Chris: You do. It’s rare, but you do. We have a lesbian couple right now looking to take a guy in.
Robyn: There’s a girl on our site who has 3 husbands…or 3 boyfriends.
Erin: And they all live together? And they all get along?
Chris: For the most part
Robyn: Think about it, if you’re in a relationship right now, married or not. Or are you single?
Erin: Yeah, I think so. For the most part…
Robyn: Pick yourself up and put yourself in a house that has a married couple in it, and put yourself in that situation. You are going to build a relationship with those two people.
Chris: You are going to give her nightmares.
Robyn: Ultimately, they have to be your best friends.
Erin: Yeah, I just feel like jealousy is such a strong human emotion, and to overcome that…”
Chris: It is. That’s what goes back to the first question. You have to control yourself. You have to overcome natural instinctive behaviors and really get your shit together in your mind.
Robyn: As a female, though…., females think completely different than men. So as a female, you bring in another girl. You may get ideas about this girl- she has nicer boobs, she’s thinner, you kiss her more than me, you hold her hand more than me… those are all normal, natural responses, and they all create jealousy. Instead of saying, “Hey you’re really fit, maybe we should workout together?” The truth is you are feeling the same thing the other person is feeling, it’s just not being voiced.
Chris: The guy’s job is you can’t play favorites. There will be favorites, somewhat, but the way I look at it is…it’s kidna like raising children. ( Silent pause) It’s not like raising children.
Erin: Was gonna say…Someone’s getting in trouble later!
Chris: Every parent has a favorite. To some degree. You’re going to have to start focusing on all the positives of the person, and there are no favorites.
Erin: Robyn, it seems like you overcame jealousy though?
Robyn: I did. I did.
Erin: Were you jealous of Tabitha at all?
Robyn: Oh, absolutely, in the beginning. It’s a very normal feeling. It’s natural to feel that way. It’s just how you communicate it. It was really difficult for me for a while.
Erin: So how did you overcome it? Did you leave?
Robyn: No, I didn’t leave. I just figure it out. A lot of it is communication and a lot of it is communication with your own self. I knew that Chris wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t replacing me. I think that’s a big part of jealousy: the fear that you are being replaced. But you’re not. You are just adding to what you already have.
Erin: But Tabitha was jealous of you too, right?
Robyn: Extremely. We would sleep in the same room most of the time. She would wake up and slam the door, because we were cuddled up. And I asked her to jump back in the bed and cuddle up. But I understood it.
Erin: So did she want to leave? Or did you make her leave?
Chris: Yeah. I said- you gotta go.
Erin: But she would have stayed?
Chris: Yeah. She actually wanted to come back, but I wouldn’t let her.
Erin: That must make you feel secure, Robyn?
Robyn: Yes. I know where I’m at in life. If we brought in someone else, would I be jealous? Probably. Because it’s a new person, and you have to learn what that person’s motivations and intentions are.
Chris: It’s more about trust. You haven’t established trust with a new person. It will take time to establish trust to make sure that there isn’t any alternative motives. And to know that the person is in it for the right reasons.
Erin: Are you still friends with Tabitha?
Robyn: I don’t know. I would like to think so. I don’t talk to her. But I would like to think that if she needed us, she knows we would be there.
Erin: Tell me about your website and an average person on your site.
Robyn: The Sisterwives site started out as a side project, when we were looking. It wasn’t supposed to be a big thing. Chris started it, and it just kind of grew. The ratio is 2 couples to 1 female. The majority of the couples have a Christian background. Half of them are looking for a bisexual sister wife, and the other half is looking for a more traditional arrangement.
Chris: The majority of people on the site are looking for a more traditional arrangement. I’d say 30 percent are looking for bisexual. Not half.
Erin: That seems completely opposite of traditional polygamy.
Chris: It is. It’s more modern love. The majority are looking for traditional polygamy, but it’s open to everyone.
Erin: Do you monitor it ? Do you get perverse requests?
Robyn: Oh yeah, we do and we handle those things pretty quickly. We also check into people. We’ll go through mails. We’ll research people. We have moderators on there that keep in touch with us. We are also very active on the site.
Erin: Anything else I missed? Any last words of wisdom?
Chris: If you are considering this lifestyle, make sure you are in a stable relationship. Make sure you are mentally stable.
Robyn: Make sure it’s something you aren’t doing because your spouse wants it.
Chris: Or that it’s a spur of the moment type thing. Make sure it’s something that you really meditate on. If the group or couple is bringing someone in, everyone has to be okay with that. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
Erin: How would a single woman know she wants that?
Robyn: They would say that it’s always something they thought of or they prayed about it. It’s work. Any relationship is work. Keeping a friendship alive is work. Make sure you want it. Because you are going to be hurting a lot of people if you don’t, especially if there are kids involved. A lot of people can get really hurt if you just want to try it out and aren’t serious about it.
Sounds like good advice for any relationship.
You can learn more about Robyn, Chris and polygamy in general at SisterWives.Com.
Jealousy is a devastating quality in any relationship, and it seems to get more extreme in monogamous relationships. There seems to be more physical jealousy reactions in a monogamous affair than there would be in a polygamous affair, AS LONG AS there is the communications and the ability to rationalize amongst each other and realize the emotions of all the other people involved in that relationship. There MUST be a comfortable feeling within the relationship, to the point that everything can be talked out and problems solved almost immediately. In my book, Jealousy should be banned from rearing its ugly head in any relationship, because replacement of one partner for another is always at the focal point of that Jealousy. Harmony MUST be brought to the forefront in any relationship and stopping the things that will disrupt that harmony must be dealt with openly and harshly. Those disruptions should never come between one couple or any other type relationship EVER.
One of the great advantages to multiple relationships is the ability to gather and retain wealth of all sorts in the relationship. Values of each other is more important that any other materialistic thing you can own. No thing or object should ever trump the Value of the human being at any time. If that were to happen, then that human being is enslaved to the Value of that materialistic thing, and it takes precedence over all other aspects of human life.
Let me add one more thing to the above comment. Establishment is a thing. Establishment or governments have been the greatest downfall of all human kind. Establishment (Government) has enslaved human beings in the most subtle of ways and has played upon the emotions of all human beings, until those human beings have realized their enslavement, and broke out of that mold, which the established Government had created. As Far as religion goes, religion has enslaved its own self to the established Government, by allowing those governments (whether State of Federal) to create laws contrary to that religious belief State. Government has imposed its belief onto those very religions and enslaved them for its own justification for creating those laws. Thus establishing the government as its own religion and then taking control of all other religions as a leader in BELIEF. Government is a BELIEF system in the same way that a Religion is a BELIEF system. Who created the Value of a minor and established the prescribed age of a minor? The Government, who else? Are you going to continue to be enslaved by Government laws which do not pertain to how you live as a Sovereign and make your own decisions, or are you going to continue to be enslaved by Established Government and live your life in the way that it prescribes?
When Jesus said, “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” that includes polygynous marriages. Divorce should only be reserved for instances where the husband is abusive, or the wife is sleeping with another man.