Polygamy? On a homesteading link? Seriously?
Yeah, I know. I hesitated on bring the subject up, but it is a homesteading subject and it needs to be addressed. Homesteading is about family, and family values. Getting back to nature, as well as surviving with a minimum of outside influence. Or at least that is what it means, in a way, to me.
I'm not going to argue the rightness of it, nor am I going to defend the practice, I am just going to offer information and let you make your own decisions.
First, there are three forms of polygamy.
Polygyny, which is two women with just one husband. This is by far the most common form of plural marriage. Nearly every culture has practiced it, and nearly every historical writing of any period will have discussed it. It was practiced by homesteaders as well as the Native Americans. Tho only notable group that opposed it were the Romans, and that is a story for another day, but a very interesting story, indeed.
Polyandry, which is two men with one wife. This is far less practiced, but has been successful in times past. The practice tends to flourish in a few isolated groups in Nepal and parts of China. It is generally considered a form of population control in areas where there are few resources. It is also practiced in areas that will not support large populations, and many men will marry one woman, to keep tribal feuds at a minimum. One of the drawbacks of polyandry is that the female population must be controlled. Sadly, this often means that female children are killed in some fashion.
Polyamoury, which is basically a group marriage. This was practiced in the 60's and 70's in the USA, but has never been popular in any culture for long. One of the biggest drawbacks is that unlike polygyny or polyandry (which tend to be monogamous within the marriages), any illnesses will be spread throughout the group.
The benefits of the three forms of marriage are tremendous. Look at some of the societies that practice it.
Native Americans practiced it because their society was generally matriarchal. Women held the property of the tribe, and men were the providers and protectors. When a warrior died, his widow would join with a different warrior if she chose to. But keep in mind that the Native Americans women were very open about sexuality, and encouraged to explore sex before they were married. So polygamy was not about sex, but about survival and smart living. In tribes with a higher death rate, polygyny seems to be more common - as it tends to create a higher birth rate to recover from the loss of men.
Jewish plural marriage is spattered throughout the old and new testaments. Many of the same reasons applied. It was good for population increases, and Israel was patriarchal, so if a man died without a son, his brother was tasked with marrying the widow to carry on the family line. It is notable that in the new testament polygyny was discouraged in deacons, elders and overseers, and it appears it was mainly due to the level of involvement in building the early church. It is notable that the practice was not forbidden to any other groups or to the general population. Jews also use a Ketuba(sp) and I really love the idea, but in a plural marriage, it seems that it was written as a division of labor within the household. You can look into this on your own, but it's a fantastic concept.
I want to note about Islam at this point. I know nothing of plural marriage in Islam, other than it is brutal. Native Americans saw great value in women and women held a high place in their society. Jews also place extremely high value in their wives and women, even though the family name/property is carried man to man. Other polygynous societies were similar in that the women were/are highly valued and treated as equals - except in Islam. The problem is not plural marriage, but that women are considered disposable and worthless. When a story reaches my attention where a man is marrying multiple women with dowries (the men are paid to marry the women) then setting the house on fire and killing them because he can only marry four at a time, then to me, that society isn't worth spit. Hopping off my soapbox now.
Some of the benefits of plural marriage are...
It requires a higher level of family discipline that can carry you through really rough times.
Child care is easier.
There are more hands about the farm accomplishing more tasks. Those who are already homesteading will understand this.
A death does not destroy the homestead. You don't know how many times I've talked to former homesteaders who were all but crying because they had to stop, because they couldn't do it after the death of their spouse.
Planting is faster, harvests are easier. Canning and other necessary tasks can be more fun.
Homesteading is a lonely life in a way. Companionship is a big deal.
Safety. More people means more eyes.
Generally each women has her own bedroom, and her own personal space to grow as a person in.
Women in plural marriages tend to be far more self confident.
More people means more resources and skills to call on.
Some of the drawbacks are...
It's not common in the USA, and there are few resources to help deal with unexpected issues or the learning curve involved.
It's illegal in some areas. Granted, most places cannot prosecute you unless you get a second marriage license, but it's still something to be investigated carefully in your state.
It's not an easy form of marriage. It requires rules, and morals. Morals are those skills and traditions that keep you alive and sane. You will need new ones. One of the ones that come to mind off the top of my head, is that generally the men do not request sex with the women. the women choose who will and when.
It can be a disaster, that affects not only two, but three or more people. This is not to be dismissed lightly as a reason to discourage plural marriage. When it goes bad, it goes really bad. One example is that if he refuses to lead, then it cannot last. But if a wife undercuts his leadership, then it can quickly destroy the marriage. These are also issues in monogamy, and in a way it's partially responsible for many, many, breakups - but monogamy may survive for years with a dysfunctional leadership structure before the fighting evolves into, "I just don't care anymore," but in plural marriage, the fight to preserve it is bigger, and it takes a bigger leader to carry them through these kinds of dark waters.
The LDS and FLDS have let a bitter taste in people's mouths. This is not an attack, but just stating facts. I waited until now to bring it up, because the LDS has a long history of making waves. Even recently with Jeffs and the guy that was convicted of child rape, they are still making waves. The very first thing that you will be asked if you mention plural marriage is, "Are you a Mormon?" And it's generally asked with a cross in one hand and holy water in the other (jk).
Islam is a brutal religion that makes women into little more than cattle. This is a huge drawback to plural marriage, and one that cannot be dismissed. Being identified with such a group would be disastrous in a smaller community, and there is a real danger of violence involved.
Generally people have more misconceptions than facts. This can be a really bad thing when people you meet make assumptions based on ignorance that can negatively impact the family. This is true in a way with homesteading as well, and most of us have faced ignorance at one time or other.
Here are some myths and questions concerning Christian Plural Marriage. Note that this is my opinion. I've known enough families to know that my opinion is generally accepted as normal, but they are still only my opinions.
1. Everyone sleeps in a big bed. Hey, to each their own, but generally, no. Each lady has her own space.
2. The men are sex fiends and just do this to have sex with more than one woman. Honestly, I just look at people funny and wait for them to figure this one out for themselves. Why marry them? Why be responsible? Why build a family? Why deal with the headaches and the trouble when you can just get two girlfriends and replace them as desired?
3. There's abuse in this lifestyle. Yes, there is. Not quite as much as monogamy, not as often as monogamy, but any relationship has abuses. One factor that does contribute to abuse is that in some states children can be removed from the home because of polygyny. This fear can be used against women. There are other factors that can hide abuses as well.
4. The women are lesbians. Um, generally, no. No more than society in general. Christianity does not encourage lesbianism.
5. It's just open marriage. Most decidedly not! This is a "To death do us part," between a man and a woman. Then, between a man and another woman. The poly marriage is monogamous within the marriage. Sleeping around can be deadly to the entire family, and as a result, monogamy within is strictly observed.
6. He's tired of me and wants to replace me. Yes, could be. But in my travels, when a couple learn of plural marraige, the women are like, "No WAY!" and the men are, "Ohh, cool!" But after a few weeks of thought, the women change to, "Another set of hands? Awesome!" and the men to, "I'm going to die." Keep in mind that in nearly every case in history where it was banned, it was men who banned it. But consider... if he's truly tired of you why even think of plural marriage? He could just divorce you and marry someone else. Divorce is easy and quick today. Women build relationships, but men build families. If he is suggesting it to you as a real option, then he's probably not tired of you, but showing you that he trusts you more than you can imagine.
7. If he is going to do this, then I'm going to get more husbands! That's always your choice. If you see yourself as the head of the family and see him as threatening your leadership, then yes, I can understand your attitude. But I would advise you to abandon your outrage and look at what he's talking about before you self destruct your family.
8. He can't make me do this. No, he can't. You agreed to a form of marriage that you expected to last the rest of your life. That is your "marriage," and to go into this takes BOTH of you equally. If one is willing and the other isn't, then it will be like one of those jumping jacks that you light on the 4th. You'll spin, you'll jump around, and eventually, you'll burn out.
So that's it as far as I can say at the moment. It's something that might be considered by the more adventurous or those with difficult farms, but it's also a more difficult way to live. If anyone is interested in more information, I'm going to post a page in the Bible Stuffz area for Christians, and I'll answer any questions you may have. If I don't have the answer, then I have a few families I can ask for you.