Q. I'm curious about what you feel about romance in your marriage as some polygamous sites seem to play it down. Looking at some of the illustrations on your homepage I would say you were the romantic type. Am I right? And if so, how does it work with more than one woman?
You're right. I am very much the romantic but then my countrymen are known for that. But seriously, the model we take is that of the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament which is not only a polygamous allegory of Yahweh's relationship with Israel, and Christ's relationship with the Church/Messianic Community (they are one and the same), but is a literal romance believed by some to be between Solomon and one of his wives. That it is in the Bible is, I think, a positive testimony of the beauty and divinity of romance.
When I first entered plural marriage I was a bit uncertain and afraid to show romantic feelings for fear of upsetting one or other wife. It was wholly unreasonable and rather silly. For if Yahweh/Christ can have a romantic relationship with Israel/the Church (Messianic Community) without provoking jealosy on the part of the saints between themselves, then why on earth should there be jealosy between the wives in a plural arrangement?
The question I had to ask myself was this: why aren't Christians/Messianics jealous of one another when it comes to Yahweh's love for them? And the answer that came was very simple:
I know that it can appear as though Yahweh loves partially especially when it seems one Christian is being blessed to overflowing and another is going through unspeakable suffering. But we who know the Word and the fellowhip of the Holy Spirit ought to know better. Yah'shua (Jesus) gives many parables to illustrate this principle but I will cite two here.
- (1) He loves impartially; and
- (2) He loves with His whole being.
The first concerns the prodigal son which not many people realise is, on one level, a representation of Ephraim, with the elder son a representative of faithful Judah who has stuck to the law (Torah) and (generally speaking) tried to be obedient to the commandments. Ephraim, on the other hand, has gone off awhoring after paganism, but has accepted Yah'shua (Jesus) as Messiah (Saviour) and His grace. The parable beautifully displays the two sides of the Gospel - grace ('Ephraim') and law ('Judah') and the rivaly and jealosy between the two. Yahweh deliberately did not tell us the end of the parable (how the elder brother got reconciled) for reasons I won't go into here. Suffice to say all the elements of a typical relationship are present, even though in this case it is fraternal rather than marrital. The elder son's jealosy was unfounded since, as his father reminded him, he already had everything - there was nothing more he could have! And this is often one of the problems in plural marriage because one wife thinks the other is getting more love and affection when she already has everything. Time and experience (usually) teaches her the silliness of her position. It's not at all unlike sibling rivalry because sometimes children think they are being treated unfairly even when the parental love is even.
The other parable concerns the 100 sheep and the one which went astray. The point of this parable was not that the shepherd loved the lost sheep more than the ninety-nine who didn't stray but that he felt greater joy at seeing his lost sheep saved. It was an emotional response. You may, for example, have a child who is very difficult and even 'unlovable' at times but when something life-threatening happens a flood of emotional love soon surfaces and you realise that love was always there.
We do not necessarily always experience the love of Yahweh as an emotion though sometimes, of course, we do, and often dramatically so. Though Yahweh our Heavenly Father may seem to act partially when rescuing a sinner in contradistinction to someone already saved, His love for both is actually constant and equal. But the emotional reaction may give a different impression
People are very emotional and passionate which can be a plus and a minus. What is important to realise is that passion and love aren't always the same thing - invariably they are different. Emotions come and go like the tides of the sea but the love of Yahweh is deep and permanent like an ocean current.
Romance is a surface thing, an expression outwardly and often physically of that which is deep and invisible. In a polygamous relationship it is vital to be focussed on that which is invisible but which speaks a thousand words through little actions. I do not go around buying my wives lots of flowers or throwing midnight dinners for them - I couldn't afford it for one thing! But I do freely share my affection with them and indeed believe in lavishing them with it whenever possible. I like the children to see it particularly so that they can learn to be affectionate and caring themselves. I will therefore kiss, embrace and cuddle my wives while we are together. It's quite normal for us because we've done it for so long now. And I know for a certainty they would rather know than not know.
By that I mean the following: what a wife is often afraid of is that her husband will behave one way when everyone is together and another way when he is in private with each wife. Though the love of Christ in them ought to prevent such thinking, as human beings we do need some kind of evidence that we are loved, and loved impartially. When one wife sees me kissing and cuddling with another wife when we are together she can see and know that I treat her in exactly the same way. The need for such 'reassurance' in practice disappeared long ago but human nature is a tricky thing and quickly 'forgets' what it ought to have learned. If the saints can worship Yahweh congregationally then I see no reason why wives and husband should not share the same depth of love together. With us it has worked fine. Though difficult in the beginning the plunge really does need to be taken. I am not one who believes in burrying feelings away - I insist in my home that we deal with them and find peace and love together in Christ.
I know there are some polygamists who would find such behaviour anathema, even sinful, though I cannot find any scriptural warranty for such a position which I believe is rooted in fear. Some polygamous marriages are not deep because they don't confront these issues. This creates tensions that can lead to the eventual disintegration of marriages. It is for this reason I insist all my wives live under the same roof. Several households is to me just a form of multiple monogamy and not true polygamy at all - it would be like Christians/Messianics all having their own personal churches where they worshipped Yahweh in private...always.
Of course, polygamy must have its private moments - one to one - just as we are councelled by Yahweh to pray to Him in secret. And there are times when we want to be completely alone with ourselves and just Him.
I use a parable in our home about the Jerusalem Temple to illustrate this principle and I show my family a picture of the building. As you probably know, the portico of Solomon's Temple was flanked by two large pillars called Jachin and Boaz. If you place the pillars too close, the roof will collapse. Place them too far apart and the roof will collapse also. But place them in the right position and you have stability - see A Pillar in the Temple of Elohim.
This is how it must be in a polygamous marriage. There is a time for alot of intimacy and a time to be apart, as the writer of Ecclesiastes discerned. The patriarch of a home must strike the right balance. We need to be close and we need to be alone. Some wives need to be alone more than others and some need to be closer and intimate more often. Everyone is different and the husband must be sensitive to this.
It is the same with Yahweh and us. There are times when we are more responsive to Him than others. Sometimes He will leave us alone in our own stew to figure things out alone and at others He will dramatically intervene and feast with us spiritually. If we use scriptural models then polygamy can be a roaring success. I know so because I've tried it. I made mistakes along the way and it was then my wives had to use patience and supply grace abundantly. We have learned from each other.
But I'm sure you want some practical examples. Well, in the summer I go out with the children and I pick flowers for my wives. Sometimes, when they are under stress or pressure, I will go around and do household chores like make the beds, clean the floor or empty the dishwasher. Sometimes I write them romantic cards. I do this when they are not expecting it (we don't pay too much attention to birthdays or annivesaries because they often create the wrong spirit of expectation and exclusiveness). We are, as I have said, careful with money, and would still be if we had a lot (which we don't), so we try to show our affection in simple, inexpensive and practical ways.
I have dealt with the question of courtship elsewhere so I will not go into that here. It's been a while (2003) since we had a new wife in the family so we have become rather 'settled'. I do maintain correspondences with other ladies but I always keep my wives fully informed of what is going on and sometimes ask their advice. I try to involve them right from the beginning because one of my chief priorities is that they can get on with any others who come into the family. We always seek Yahweh's will in the matter. There have been many who we have known were not right because they were coming for the wrong motives. The last one whom we wished to bring in turned out to be under some occult influences and would not repent of an abortion she had had a long time ago. If she had been willing to change it might have worked but she was stuck in her ways and wouldn't budge. Being born again and living in obedience to Christ is the central factor in considering anyone new into our family.
My most recent wife (2003), before we were married, was around the family a long time before we were finally married. We were dedicated ('engaged') a long while and then betrothed for an equally long while before going ahead with the full marriage. This gave the others time to get to know her and get comfortable with her around the house before letting it get more intimate. (If you aren't aware, betrothal in our community is marriage without sexual intercourse, its purposse being to develop a sound spiritual relationship before anything else).
I'm a great believer in beauty (though not ostentatiousness) and I try to cultivate that at home. I know I haven't done too well in that area but I do my best. Living on a tight budget doesn't help either but it at least makes sure we keep our spiritual feet on the ground.
Often the wives band together to create a joint romantic atmosphere and this is when real unity and bliss occurs. I cannot be at peace or at rest if one wife is not 100% happy. It's the way New Covenant echad patriarchal marriage works. We believe in developing sensitivity one towards another and striving for unity without compulsion if at all possible. Only the Holy Spirit can achieve that and thus ultimately our relationship to Christ means everything. Ours is, in any case, a spiritual romance with Him. Without that it wouldn't be worth it. With Him, though, polygamy is heaven for all.
Continued in Part 2