One of the things that prospective wives who want to join a polygamous family want to know is what is expected of them before they join. I cannot, of course, speak for other patriarchs and their families so this article only briefly addresses that question as it pertains to my own family. To be sure, joining a patriarchal family can be a big change for those who perhaps have been married before, or even for first-time wives who have been brought up in our secular monogamy-only culture. Since I have been asked a number of times how prospective wives should prepare before they become a part of us, I have drawn up a number of rules by which all abide. This is not necessarily comprehensive but merely highlights some of the most important things.
1. For Non-Virgins
Most women coming into patriarchal marriage these days have had sexual relationships before. This being the case our family has the following rules:
2. For Virgins
1.1. We expect a full confession/revelation of all previous sexual liasons, and I especially. We aren't so much interested in details but in whether a promiscuous life has been lived or not. Very often, we have discovered, women are not aware of how serious it is to have contact with other men and how it causes inner spiritual division. If there has been casual sex with anyone outside marriage we expect this to be confessed and the "one flesh" state that result to be renounced and broken by the blood of Christ. Where this has not been done, a close sexual encounter with a patriarch will result in any demonic intrustions being passed on not only to the husband but to all the other wives too. Spiritual purity is an absolute MUST. We will not even consider a woman in our family unless she is willing to be open about this, however uncomfotable she may feel about sharing such intimate details.
1.2. If a woman has been divorced, we need to know whether it is legal for me to marry her with respect to Yahweh's Laws. What this means in practice is that if she is divorced because her husband committed adultery with another married woman or other legitimate cause, then she is a candiate for marriage. If her previous husband is innocent then she becomes an adulterer for remarrying and would make me and my wives adulterers too. So we will need to know of the divorced woman whether she has, from Yahweh's point-of-view, legal grounds for divorce. We consider those who have been forced to marry against their will to have legal grounds as well as those who are married under false pretences (such as to secret homosexuals who then abandon the marriage). If she was married to an unbeliever and he deserts the marriage, we consider this grounds for re-marriage provided a full year has ellapsed. If he has remarried or is having a sexual liason with another married woman, then this time period is not required. This one year period is to allow those who remain celibate to work out possible reconciliation.
1.3. I will not marry any woman according to the Laws of Yahweh if she is already married to another man according to the civil law. A legal divorce (civil) must first have taken place.
1.4. We expect a woman who has had a sexual liason with either an ex-husband or a boyfriend to live a celibate life for a minimum of one year before being married again. This is to ensure that all the conditions above are met, to demonstrate sexual self-control and spirit-centredness.
1.5. All new wives are expected to undergo a thorough medical examination to ensure that she is not the bearer of any sexually-transmittable disease. We expect a full revelation of any medical record of previous contractions of any such disease. If she carries a sexually-transmittable disease (STD) she will not be allowed to marry into our family for reasons which are obvious.
2.1. Women who have never had sexual contact with another man are admitted into our family more quickly than those who have, again for obvious reasons. We do, however, expect her to undergo a proper medical examination as well, in the same way as non-virgins, to determine if she is carrying any STD's as many of these can be trasmitted by parents to their off-spring.
2.2. A women who has had her hymen broken for any other reason than sexual intercourse (e.g. medical examination, etc.) is treated by us as a virgin.
4. Public Profile
3.1. When a new wife joins our family, all her economic resources are pooled into the communal family economy to be disposed of/used/saved as shall be determined by the husband in consultation with the whole family. We do not have separate bank accounts in our family unless this is required by inheritance laws.
3.2. This is done with the understanding that IF the marriage does not survive that the departing wife shall be entitled to take the equivalent of as much as she brought into the family (the equivalent of a dowry) on the day she is betrothed (the day she becomes a formal 'wife'). This is the same arrangement made with other families who join our communities so that nobody leaving our community does so penniless. Any increase obtained whilst a member of the family or the community is considered the permanent joint-property of the community or family and will not be refunded. We consider this to be just to both the individual and to the community or family. Though we have never signed any legal contracts to this effect (since we live our marriage on the basis of trust) we will grant a new wife the right to do this if she wishes.
3.3. All wives and their children are treated the same economically so that no part of my family lives more comfortably that the other. Where it is difficult to divide wealth this is accomplished by negociation through myself. This may be a problem for a wife who has been comparitively well-off before entering polygyny as she may find her standard of living reduced. And this she should be prepared for. We are all, however, in the business of trying to increase the collective wealth of the family whilst keeping a clear vision of the needs of our Christian ministry and expenses needed to run that.
3.4. Personal items are, for the most part, considered the private property of the individual wife and no other wife has the right to demand another wife's property. Such things as obviously fall under the realm of collective property (such as kitchen utencils) are pooled together. Many wives joining a family usually means we have a surplass of various items which can be stored for future use, new members of our Community, or for sale during hard times. All these things are freely discussed and done by common consent, with the husband making the final decision if agreement cannot be reached.
5. Schedules and Habits
4.1. Our particular family has chosen NOT to make our polygyny public and we therefore expect a new wife to maintain the non-public profile. Of course, sometimes it is not possible to hide our lifestyle completely and so we must discuss between ourselves what policy to adopt should knowledge of our lifestyle accidentally slip out. We make every effort to remain silent without ever lying.
4.2. Because public exposure of our polygyny can have serious consequences for our children, we make it an absolute principle never to admit to the practice to any official body. At the same time we do NOT claim any social benefits from the state that would naturally come our way for those living as 'single mothers'. The state is usually only interested in what money it has to pay out and since we must be silent on our polygyny we make sure we give no occasion for the state to accuse us theft or dishonesty for asking for or accepting social welfare to which we would not be entitled as officially married (monogamously), since 'officially' we are single parents.
6. Seniority and Discipline
5.1. Every new wife comes into a family with personal habits and ways of doing things generally. And whilst there is already an established way of doing things in our family which we have evolved as a result of much practice, we are always open to new ideas which a new wife is welcome to share. She should neither try to impose her will not unquestioningly acceed to the present structures in order not to 'make waves'. Neither should she complain 'privately' to her new husband behind her sister-wives' backs but bring comments and suggestions to the whole family for improvement in the way that things are done. She may, of course, privately discuss any ideas she has with me for improving the way the family does things on the understanding that anything she shares with me about issues that affect us all I will discuss openly with the others (especially if she is a bit shy at first). She should not suggest major changes until after an agreed period of time - her 'apprenticeship' during which training period she is assigned to the maturer wives for family education.
5.2. I am especially hard against any divisiveness or attempts by a new wife to override the collective decision-making processes of the family. Doubtless there will be things she will not like and it may take time to both suggest adjustments all are agreed to as well as to adjust herself to things she does not like. We do out best to be as long-suffering and patient as possible with a new wife - perfection is not expected in a day! This can be especially difficult for an older new wife who has habits entrenched by the years.
5.3. When it comes to music I am very strict because of the spiritual nature of music. I have very clear guidelines on what is and what is not permitted. That which is already established by revelation or the decision of the Community is final. This is true for other things like clothing styles, table manners, the kind of language we use, etc.. The use of TV, radio, and the like is regulated in accordance with the spiritual discipline we maintain here.
5.4. In short, there is a continuous spiritual and practical movement in our family away from the Babylonian way of doing things and towards the Torah-based Zionic conditions we anticipate in the Millennium. This is not just a polygynous family - it's a whole spiritual way of life that tends away from excessive individualism and towards cooperative family effort.
6.1. There is no 'pecking order' in my family and no one wife is more important or more loved than the others. There is therefore no 'first wife' except in the chronological sense. There are, however, two orders of wives - the Shegal Order for all wives who have completed their apprenticeship, and the Lechenah Order for new wives as they are being trained in the family's ways. The latter, therefore, is only a temporary state. It takes on average a year for a new wife to settle into the family's ways and so this minimum is usual period of a new wife's apprenticeship. During this period the senior Shegal wives will be assigned responsibilities to train her and guide her in the domestic rules and spiritual path which they themselves have been taught and are living.
6.2. There will obviously be seniority of experience to which the spiritually senstive and humble will naturally defer as they grow up in their new polygamous experience even after the Lechenah apprenticeship period is over. All the Shegal wives are constantly learning from each other as equals. I do not tolerate any sort of direct or indirect hegemony by one wife over another and will severely chastise any who try this without mending her ways. Any wife who tries to create a wedge between anyone else in the household - deliberately or unconsciously - whether between myself and another wife, between wives, between children and parents, or between children, will be disciplined by me.
6.3. It is my responsibility to arbitrate any disputes and my decision is final, to which I expect all to yield. If love rules the household this should never be necessary, and indeed I do not recall a time I have had to exercise my patriarchal prerogative to do this for as long as I can remember. I work on the assumption that if I teach my wives true Christian principles, and do it often, that they will basically be able to govern themselves.
8. The Key: Trust
7.1. There are times when all of us simply want to 'get away' for a change of scenery and I will try to accommodate this as much as I can. It must be understood, however, that making frequent trips to our former homes is not always possible because of the costs involved, particularly as some members of our household originate from countries far away. Our economy is limited. If you have come from abroad and have been accustomed to visiting family or relatives on a fairly regular basis it is quite likely that contact will have to be lessened unless you have a source of income of your own. I want family ties to be maintained as much as possible, of course, since we are in the business of fostering these. But if seeing your family means flying half way across the world then obviously regular visits become impractical economically, the more so if you have children.
7.2. My present wives visit their families on average beteen 2 and 4 times a year because they all live abroad. If their own families are accepting of our lifestyle, even if they may not agree with it (assuming they know about it - it's hard to conceal it from ones kin) then it is not uncommon for them to visit us. If a family is actively persecuting us then we do not permit them to visit even though I permit my wives to visit them for the sake of showing Christian love and trying to effect a reconciliation. Such can be an emotionally straining exercise, though, and initially when one of my in-law's family persecuted us, there was little contact, though many years on I was being invited into their home untill they passed away. Though they were hostile to the lifestyle, there was a laissaz-faire contact on a regular basis in the last years. A new wife, if her family is hostile, must be prepared to make sacrifices in this area for the sake of the whole family.
7.3. Problems do arise when the family of one wife lives farther away than the families of the others because this naturally entails greater traveling expenses. With my present wives, their families usually contribute to their travelling expenses (knowing that we are not rich) and this problem is thus solved. We do our best to be fair whilst taking economic realities into serious consideration. Strictly-speaking the wife has no 'rights' to visit her family at all (from a biblical perspective) though in practice I have never exercised this preprogative to deny access to her family. I have had to be strict, however, in regulating the amount of visits as this is not only an economic drain but also disrupts family life considerably. I show more flexibility with younger wives because breaking from home is not an easy thing. As they mature and feel more secure at home with our family, their desire to travel home so often diminishes.
7.4. In short, every wife's needs must be examined on their own merits. Things usually work out to everyone's satisfaction but there must be the inevitable disappointments from time to time. I myself used to visit my family once a year because of the greater distance and costs involved unless I obtained financial support. I have never travelled to see my family more than on average twice a year as my absence causes greater disruption than a wife and her children going away. We try to ensure that not everyone goes away at the same time as the family is large and requires as many adults as possible to run the household. Usually only one wife goes away at a time.
7.5. It is possible that in the future the kind of holidaying we are accustomed to may have to be curtailed for economic, political and other reasons, and this is something all must be prepared for. When a woman was married anciently the possibility of travelling home was minimal and indeed she might never see her family again unless they visited her. A new wife (as well as older ones) must expect such an eventuality in the future. Traveling around is a luxury of the 21st century and one we will all likely lose in the future, particularly if we get dictatorial governments who limit movement (as the Soviets did). The visiting by wives of their families is therefore to be seen as a PRIVILEGE and not a right and it is my obligation as a husband to veto any plans in that area if I feel this to be right. Travel in the future may also be dangerous as anarchistic conditions worsen worldwide. A new wife must be prepared for all things!
I hope these few guidelines are helpful. It's the 'nitty-gritty' of practical life that can actually be the most challenging for some so it is as well we do not neglect these aspects. Some wives are naturally more social, some more naturally independent, depending on their background, social class, racial characteristics, etc.. All struggle with different things. By dealing with these more 'mundane' things I hope a little more of the unknown of plural marriage will be peeled back for the reassurance of all.
8.1. Everything we do here in our family revolves around TRUST. We do not have a great big book full of rules because such would constitute a return to legalism and away from the Spirit of Yahweh. Trusting me as husband, trusting one's sister-wives, and a willingness to give, love unconditionally, sacrifice and talk things out, all in the power of Yah'shua (Jesus) are the key elements to success in our family. Obviously Christ governs everything.