Vicki Darger is married to Joe Darger, who is also married to Alina Darger and Val Darger. They and their 20+ children live in suburban Salt Lake City.
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. Quite the contrary: If a man has any of those characteristics, his plural relationships are not likely to last. 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.
I've learned during my darkest times just what a gift this lifestyle can be. After a five-year break between pregnancies, I had trouble conceiving my seventh child, and then had a miscarriage. I feared my childbearing days were over, but I finally got pregnant again.
I was extremely excited at the prospect of once more being a mother to a newborn. My relationship with Joe was at an all-time high, and my interactions with Alina and Val flowed easily. My life seemed perfect.
But something felt off right from the start of this pregnancy. My morning sickness, severe from the outset, never let up. I also was plagued by constant headaches and exhaustion. A sweltering heat wave that summer made me feel miserable. I couldn't sleep at night because I was too hot; as a result, I was too tired to get up early enough to exercise, which always made me feel better during my pregnancies. The final link in that chain of consequences was that I gained weight. And it was all Joe's fault! Joe couldn't win no matter how hard he tried to meet my emotional or physical needs.
I couldn't stand myself, but that didn't keep me from lashing out at Joe, which added to our strained interactions. Our nights together were filled with tension, and instead of taking time to talk and connect, we would tumble into bed exhausted. It didn't help that as my relationship with Joe withered, his relationship with Alina blossomed. For the first time in my life, I wondered if I had the strength and staying power necessary for plural marriage.
I was a grueling ten days overdue when labor began, and it was the roughest delivery I'd ever experienced. That rigor of delivery led to a much slower recovery than I was used to.
That's when my emotional spiral really began. I was on a crazy-train I couldn't get off. I'd go to my closet to get dressed while the baby slept and end up on the floor crying for long periods of time. Every thought and emotion I had conflicted with another. I didn't want Joe anywhere near me; I was upset when he stayed away. I knew something was wrong with me, but I was unable to accept any help or advice from my well-meaning mother, sisters, and sister wives. I wanted to get out of the house; I wanted to stay shut in so no one would see how much weight I'd gained. I wanted God's help, but I had a hard time praying.
I needed help, and I finally got it when I hit bottom and took my family's advice to seek outside assistance. I began getting vitamin B shots weekly, started exercising again, and joined a support group for women from the polygamous culture. The therapist (who was not a fundamentalist) helped me understand more fully how crippling pregnancy-related depression can be.
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. 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.
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, such as Centennial Park in Arizona or Pinesdale in Montana. But even in those communities, there are many different approaches to relationships, just as there are in monogamy. Some women have completely separate lives from their sister wives, with very little interaction. Some live near each other, but not together. And some live just as we do, all in one house. 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.
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.
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. 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.
This post is excerpted from "Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage."