Vicki Darger has a spacious home in the suburbs, her children attend public school and she couldn’t live without her Blackberry. Her life seems utterly unexclamatory.
But, look a little further and it’s clear that Vicki lives a highly unconventional married life.
Her husband, Joe, has fathered 24 children – and she is one of his three wives.
Not only does Vicki’s husband have two other Mrs Dargers, but one of them, Valerie, is Vicki’s twin sister.
‘Many people’s reaction to plural marriage could be summed up in one word: yuck. They assume the men are perverted or have a huge ego or are overly sexual,’ says the Salt Lake County, Utah, mother.
‘Quite the contrary: If a man has any of those characteristics, his plural relationships are not likely to last.’
She is utterly unwavering in her unusual and, to some, incomprehensible choice.
In fact, she started her relationship with the Independent Fundamentalist Mormon businessman at the same time as Alina Darger did – and they even married Joe on the same day in 1990.
In an excerpt from Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage, co-authored by Joe and his wives, published by Huffington Post, Vicki explains her decisions to join the unusual way of life – and distances her family from the the much-hyped and oft-criticised world of Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.
Rather than living with three wives to ‘have more sex,’ she believes Joe, a fifth-generation polygamist, has a ‘higher sense of purpose.’
‘I certainly wouldn’t stay with Joe if he had any of those traits. I’m not here to be a toy for a man, nor are my sister wives. Most men don’t enter this lifestyle so they can have more sex; rather, they have a sincere sense of a higher purpose.’
‘I’d rather share Joe than have a hundred men of lesser quality to myself. I consider Joe to be a monogamist. He is faithful to me, and faithful to the people I expect him to be faithful to.’
All three sister wives hail from plural families. Vicki writes that the extra support, far from being a burden, helped her through some of her hardest moments. The Darger children range from their 20s to babies in diapers.
During a difficult pregnancy and pregnancy-related depression, she wondered, for the first time in her life whether she ‘had the strength and staying power necessary for plural marriage.’
‘In the end, what got me through this rough time was the steadfast devotion of my husband and my sister wives. They never gave up on me. They saw me at my worst and still loved me.
And, pragmatically, she says the extra pairs of hands can be a boon.
‘When I was unable to give my children all the attention they needed, Alina and Val were there to make sure they were cared for and loved. Joe never stopped listening or walked away, even when my criticisms stung. I came out of that experience more grateful than ever for my family and for the resilience of my relationships.’
Not that the lifestyle is devoid of its bad days. Vicki is open about the pressure of living with her sister wives in addition to her husband.
‘Living the way we do, all in one house, can be stressful, no doubt about it. Did sharing a house with Alina and Val add to my struggles when I was deeply depressed? Maybe.
‘But I also couldn’t have survived that time without Val’s support and understanding, or without Alina’s unyielding patience, her help with my children, and her faith in me.
Vicki believes that problems arise when facing misconceptions about polygamy – and relates to same-sex marriages with regards to prejudices.
‘It works for some people to live together, for some to be married, and for some to love another person of the same sex. None of those relationships is immune from the challenges we’ve faced in our family. But this is the lifestyle that works for me, the one I’ve chosen.
‘Living in a couples’ world, as I call it, makes our lives harder than if we were part of a community that accepts plural marriage.
‘At the personal level, there are some women who have domineering personalities that affect their relationships with their spouse and sister wives, but alpha females who dominate relationships aren’t exclusively found in polygamy.’
Far from bitter, the sister wife says her life is balanced – though most women would have a hard time accepting the notion of a shared man.
‘In our family, we don’t have any sort of hierarchy among the wives. When Val came into our family, she instantly became a full and equal partner. We’ve created a marriage that is a true collaboration, which ensures that our opinions are valued, our needs met, and our lives tightly linked together.’
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