The Discovery+ launch with all the seasons of Sister Wives offers fans of the show a chance to deep dive into how everything first started with the polygamous family when they debuted on reality television over 10 years ago. The series opened with an introduction to the daily ife of Kody Brown and his three wives (at the time,) but the crux of the plot for the season was built around bringing a fourth wife into the family after 16 years of the inital four of them being married.
Adding a fifth person to the dynamic was a really big deal, and in a way, they added a sixth with joining a reality show because it changed the structure of their lives so much, not only with fame but with a criminal investigation launched against them by the state of Utah.
In their culture, men are actually not supposed to pursue women because it’s seen as predatory beahivor. It’s the other wives who scout new women to join their marriage. How did the family find Robyn and why did they decide to make an eternal commitment to her?
As is customary in these types of situations, Meri was the one who suggested to Kody that he pursue a relationship with Robyn. For a while, Meri was the only other wife who knew Robyn, and she developed a friendship with her right away. In the beginning, both Meri and Robyn were looking for something deeper to develop between them, not in a romantic way, but as friends and sisters. The events that unfolded over the years drove a wedge between them, and that deep connection has not quite kept up with the changing tides of their lives.
Kody and Meri initially met Robyn, a 30-year-old divorced mom of three kids, at Meri’s friends’ house, who was Robyn’s cousin. Meri and Robyn clicked at this event, and they met up again at an unspecified event that may have been related to their church, the AUB, or Apostolic United Brethren. (The Browns are reportedly no longer a member of this church.)
“So Kody and I were out one night, and we went over to a friend’s house,” Meri explains during the second episode of Season One, which aired in October 2010. “And Robin happens to be this friend’s cousin. . . . Robin and I kind of clicked that night. And then later, I told Kody ‘Go ask her to dance,’ and so he did and that was all she wrote.
“You really have to have a devotion to God, and a calling,” Meri has said about the process. “You don’t just go looking for a sister wife just to have a sister wife,” Meri says she felt a spiritual drive to have Robyn in the family.
More depth is added to Meri’s first meeting with Robyn in their book Becoming Siter Wives (affiliate link.) On page 105, Meri writes that during a difficult time in their marriage she and Kody went for a drive together and stopped by Meri’s friend Reba’s house. Robyn was at the house that day, and Meri says she “felt an immediate connection” with her. After that Meri thought that Robyn would be in their lives, and she told Kody about that thought.
Kody and his wives had previously considered a few other women to join their family over the years, but in 16 years they had not found one that felt special, the way Robyn felt for them.
Robyn, who grew up in the polygamous lifestyle, was reeling from a very difficult monogamous marriage when she met Kody and Meri. “I’ve spent the last few years trying to create a safe environment for them,” she about her single life with her children. “I’m working to support them, and to take care of them, and we have a blast together, the four of us. We’re the four musketeers so it’s great, it’s awesome.”
At the time the first footage of them together was shot, Robyn and Kody had been courting for a couple of months already, which is kind of a long courtship in their faith. It’s been difficult, however, because Robyn lives over five hours away.
The distances made it difficult for Kody’s wives as well because he has to be gone for several days at a time. Kody reveals that his absence leaves his other wives feeling “sad, hurt, or raw.” He thinks their pain is not so much due to him leaving, but because he’s going to see someone else.
Christine is the most open about her difficult feelings about Robyn. She says felt like Kody was “replacing” his family with Robyn and her kids. She realized that it needed to happen, but that didn’t make it easier for her. In a Season Four Q & A Christine revealed that she had never truly felt jealous of another sister wife until Robyn came into the family. When she married into the family, she expected to be the last wife, and she had no idea what bringing a new wife into the family feels like.
In that second episode of Season One, which truly introduced Robyn to the show (the first episode was focused on showing the Brown family dynamic before Robyn) Janelle says feels things are unbalanced now, but she trusts that it will even out. She says Kody always makes their needs met. In the first episode, Janelle says she finds comfort in seeing Kody take care of his other wives, because she knows she will do the same for her. Other wives have not shared this sentiment with Janelle, and prefer that Kody not show affection to one wife in front of the others.
As the years have gone on, Janelle has generally kept this perspective of things and a generally even keel. She often lives by the narrative that tough situations are worth it because it makes things better in the end. Janelle and Kody, who have six children together, have been very open over the years about the lack of romance in their relationship.
The COVID-19 pandemic n 2020, which separated the Brown family like never before, was a true test of Janelle’s chill demeanor and philosphy about the family. She started to truly worry about the family’s culture splitting apart and held socially distanced communication meetings to try to mend what was ripping at the seams. She often didn’t see Kody for weeks, and when they discussed possibly being away from each other for two months, she coached Kody to say that he loved her and would miss her in a particularly strained scene.
After the addition of Robyn, and suddenly living publicly polygamous after staying hidden for so long, even from their local community, the Browns’ lives were irrevocably shifted.
Photos credit: TLC