Q. Do you not find as a patriarch that you evolve a kind of "composite wife" in your subconscious based on a combination of all your wives? Doesn't polygamy cause psychological problems?
I'm not quite sure what you mean. I suppose what you are suggesting is that since you believe monogamy to be the 'natural' state that psychologically the man's soul, unable to 'naturally' have more than one wife, tends to create a monogamous mental and emotional hybrid. I'm not sure where you have this idea from but as far as I know whenever I have owned two cars simultaneously (and that's not been too often!) I have never been confused about their separate identities - the Volvo and Fiat have never become a Viat or a Folvo. Similarly, I have never got my children confused or 'mixed' up - Karol and Tadeusz have never become Kareusz or Tadol.
I know my wives so well that I know their footsteps, breathing, and can even sense their individual presences. There's never any doubt as to who's who.
I have heard of cases where people who have been married several times (in 'serial polygamy') who sometimes confuse a present wife with a former one but in every case I have come across this has been the result of some trauma involving the break-up of a former marriage. Thus a divorced woman may, whilst making love to her new husband, have flashbacks to her first husband or even get genuinely confused as to who's who. This is not, however, the fruit of an unnatural polygamous relationship but has to do with the pain caused by a marriage break-up, abuse, or other problems. In a natural polygamous marriage where the husband loves all his wives and is at peace with himself there is never any confusion of persons.
I can, though, imagine a scenario where a man enters polygamy with all sorts of psychological problems caused perhaps by an unhappy monogamous marriage and has various identity problems but I don't think this is any different from the monogamy situation. I wouldn't in any case recommend an unstable man entering patriarchal marriage in the first place. One hears stories of Cassanova's who forget which girlfriends they have had who may bump into former lovers and not even recognise them. But this has nothing to do with marriage and the kind of intimacy that that brings. When you are deeply committed to a woman you don't forget who she is or mix her up with someone else! It has never happened to me.
So, yes, I can see where composites could occur in abnormal psychological cases but I don't think this is a fault that can be laid at the foot of polygamy per se for it can as easily happen in monogamous relationships where there are unhealed traumatic pains. We cannot blame monogamy for an aged husband for failing to recognise his wife because of Alzheimer's disease and an attendant loss of memory any more than we can blame polygamy if a man gets confused between his wives because of an unhealed trauma from an earlier broken marriage. The problem in both cases lies not with the institution of marriage but with mental or physical problems. I know many polygamous families but in only one have I ever come across the kind of identity confusion that you speak of, and it concerned a plural wife who entered polygamy shortly after a failed love affair which had left her deeply scarred inside.
There is no doubt that as Christian/Messianic polygamy becomes mainstream and as more people enter it there is going to be a real need for counselling based on the kind of experience that mature polygamists already have. People are already coming to me for advice to help resolve the kinds of problems which are somewhat unique to this kind of marriage practice. Most of the problems I do encounter, which may be said to be of a psychological nature, have either to do with painful experiences which they have brought into a polygamous marriage which are causing instability, or concern the transition period between the monogamy-only mindframe and the polygamy one. Once this has been overcome (usually for the women) most of the problems evapourate. But they are, in their nature, no different from any psychologial adjustment that people make as when, for instance, they move into a new culture.
When, for example, someone moves from the United States to Poland there can be a huge culture shock that can take a lot of time to adjust to. But no-one would claim that this transition from an American to a Polish way of life is 'abnormal' even though such a move might not suit everyone. Similarly, moving from a monogamy frame of mind to a polygamous one is not 'abnormal' since people are doing it all the time without what one might call 'abnormal' psychological problems. The most one can say is that not everyone can cope psychologically with the move from the USA to Poland just as not everyone can cope with a move from monogamy to polygamy at a particular point in time. I do believe, however, that when the various factors that cause problems in emmigrating can be addressed, what at first seemed insurmountable can be overcome and people can settle in. Here in Poland there were a lot of North Vietnamese workers who got stranded after the fall of communism in the 1990's. They are now integrated into our culture but it took them a while to settle. It is the same with immigrants everywhere - some take longer to settle than others, but in most cases they do settle quite naturally.
Moving from monogamy to polygamy can be a culture shock
In other words, I believe that every man and woman has the capacity or ability to live happily polygamously but that for the majority the 'cultural shock' would be too much for those who are not fully committed. Of course, where there's a will there's always a way. Not all my wives are from Poland - they have had to make cultural as well as marriage-frame adjustments but they've managed fine. I've also had to adjust to their cultural psychology! One of my wives is Russian and as you may know historically Russians and Poles have not been the best of friends and there is a lot of deep-seated animosity because of multiple invasions, massacres, etc.. But we have no problems in that regard because we are Christians/Messianics and have transcended culture. Similarly I believe that that it is equally possible to transcend the monogamy-only mindframe if that is what one wants.
In conclusion, then, I would say that psychological problems are encountered in polygamy but they are no different in substance from the kinds of psychological adjustments that have to be made in any kind of change, whether it be from a monogamy-only mind-frame to a polygamous one, the change of a job, adjusting to a military way of life from a civilian one, or immigration to another country and culture. The ability to live polygamy happily exists naturally within our psychological capacity. Whilst it has its challenges and hurdles they are no greater than those of any other major change. The reason we struggle with big changes like monogamy to polygamy has to do with the way we have been emotionally and mentally programmed through years of cultural indoctrination. Spiritually polygamy is quite natural because polygamy was created by Yahweh for man.
The bottom-line issue is not so much whether polygamy is right or wrong but whether those who live it want it enough to make the necessary adjustments in thinking and feeling. If they do then it will work out. If an American woman falls in love with a Pole and wants to live her life with him enough to make sacrifices, then she will find a way to adjust to a Polish way-of-life. But if she loves her culture more than her fiancée, then the marriage is doomed to failure. Not every American would thrive in Poland and perhaps should stay in the States. Similarly, not every man or woman would thrive in polygamy and should be content with one spouse if they love the narrow cultural monogamy-only 'norm' more than the expanded horizons of biblical marriage.
It all boils down to personal choice. Yahweh has given you free agency. And if you're a Christian/Messianic, it's also a matter of your calling - some Yahweh wants married to one spouse, and others to more. It's up to you to find out which.
The issue, then, boils down to belief - whether it is half-hearted or total. This is the real problem, then: if polygamy is a true principle, then you should at the very least be prepared to live it in theory even if it is Yahweh's will that you have only one spouse. But even that intrudes upon the comfort zone of the monogamist sympathiser for he will always have the possibility of being called into polygamy hanging like a Damocles' sword over his head if his sympathy for the principle is less than 100%.
I had a friend who had a recurring nightmare about polygamy. He dreamed that there was a bug in his hair and he was trying to wash it out but it simply would not come out. He accepted the principle of polygamy even though he did not feel called into it, but his wife was completely hostile. His wife won the day.
The truth never brings peace and herein lies the dilemma. I knew a Christian lady who was willing to accept polygamy so long as it didn't happen before the millennium! The millennium was sufficiently far off for her for it not to be a problem. But when she met my family, whom she got on with famously, incidentally, her comfort zone was invaded and it was enough for her to break all contact with us for fear of how her own family might react. All truth requires sacrifice and particularly of one's esteem in the eyes of others. The root problem this lady had was not with polygamy per se but with a fear of rejection (a very common psychological complaint). To accept polygamy at close quarters meant having to deal with an unsolved fear about being accepted by others. And in my experience this is the greatest psychological problem polygamists are likely to encounter. People hesitate making a genuine conversion to Christ for similar reasons if, for example, their family belong to another religion like Islam. In both cases, great courage and commitment are required.
The reason most who are sympathetic to polygamy end up distancing
themselves from it is because of the disapproval of their culture
One of the reasons that the mainline denominations will never accept polygamy is for these psychological reasons. The Church of England and Roman Catholic Church can tolerate polygamy in far away Africa but it could never endorse it at home. If you are a member of a mainline denomination you will never be able to make your belief in polygamy completely public because you would be hounded out. You might get limited acceptance of it in a Sunday School class as a theoretical issue but try and take it further than that and you may well find yourself excommunicated and shunned. Most will therefore reject it because of fear of what their peers will think - they will fear for friendships, careers, the opinion of their families, and other such things more than they will defending the truth. But this is, as I have said, not a unique problem to Christian/Messianic polygamy but to anything that isn't currently 'politically correct'.
To become a Christian/Messianic polygamist you have to defy current socio-poltical conventions. You have to be a revolutionary of sorts. And the fact of the matter is that only the most spiritually robust and courageous souls will do so. In a way, this is good for polygamy because it means that the people who are attracted to it will either be the cream of Christendom or the dregs, and distinguishing between the two is not hard. It's when polygamy becomes socially acceptable that other more serious problems will arise, namely, those entering the principle for impure reasons. For now there is a cultural-psychological barrier to overcome, and such of necessity does require a struggle. Pioneers have always been a rugged and robust sort of people, the kind you can rely on, who won't let you down. I am glad that we Christian/Messianic polygamists are at this stage of our evolution because I could wish to hold fellowship with no better people. The next generation of polygamists will inherit many other kinds of problems -- the kinds that monogamists know only too well.