'Love Times Three': Inside the World of a Polygamous Marriage

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Chapter Two: Our Path to Plural Marriage

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it.

-- doctrine and covenants 131:1–3

As we fell in love, it often seemed like the rest of the world was against us. Ours is an unusual love story, even within the Fundamentalist Mormon culture. It is not typical for a man to court, and then marry, two women at once. But despite the naysayers among our family and friends, it felt right to us from the start.

We had to learn to deal with jealousy and insecurity, which doom some plural marriages, as we dated. We quickly figured out that for our marriage to succeed we had to trust each other completely and talk openly and honestly, all the time, about everything. Prayer, along with advice from our parents and the teachings of early Mormon leaders, helped us find our way.

Like a triangle, our love story has three seamlessly connected points of view about why and how we came together to create a family. It all began with Vicki and Alina.

Alina

For a time as a teenager, I had one thing on my mind, and it sure wasn't marriage! My "P word"? Not "polygamy" but "party"! I was wild, hanging out with my older siblings and other kids who were into drinking and smoking and carrying on without a care in the world. I finally came to my senses in my last year of high school, when I realized I was headed for nothing but trouble. As I started thinking about what kind of life I wanted for myself, one guy stood out because he was already moving in the direction I wanted to go. That guy was Joe.

I knew Joe because my older sister, with whom I was very close, had married his father, and I would see him occasionally at family gatherings. In junior high, I had an encounter with Joe that left a lasting impression. I had gone with my sister to pick up Joe after football practice. There were groceries in the backseat of her Monte Carlo, so Joe had to sit in the front, next to me. As Joe slid into the seat, our bodies brushed against each other, and in that instant it felt to me like a magnetic force fell over us, pulling us together. The feeling flashed powerfully but briefly and then was gone, and I didn't know what to make of it. I'd certainly never experienced anything like that sensation with guys I'd dated.

In high school, I heard lots of talk about Joe because he was quite popular and many girls were after him. He had good values and was really grounded, yet he was willing to think outside the box and already had a lot of plans for his life. I decided to check Joe out again: when his football team played my school, I went to the game to watch him. Joe was the captain of the team, and I could see that he played with a lot of heart, passion, and energy. Everything I knew about Joe made me want to know more, but it was a year before I made a move.

In the fall of 1987, I began going by the Dargers' home more often to visit my sister and always accepted any invitations to family get-togethers. I found that I really liked Joe, but I kept my feelings for him secret. Joe had started college and had a lot going on, so I saw him only once in a while. But I was getting to know his family, especially Joe's mom, quite well. Joe's family was always doing fun things: hiking, going to aerobics classes, painting, camping, playing volleyball, having barbecues, and going on long bike rides.

My cousins Vicki and Val were often at Joe's house, too. I knew that Vicki had liked Joe for a long time, but I figured she was still trying to make up her mind about him, as I was. I kept hoping someone else would catch Vicki's interest! And if that didn't happen, I figured Joe would just have to decide between the two of us. But Joe's mom, who knew that Vicki and I both were interested in Joe, had a different idea.

She brought it up one day after I called her to ask what I could bring to a New Year's Eve party the family was hosting. The conversation turned serious.

"You like Joe and Vicki likes Joe," she said. "Instead of competing for him, why don't you just get together and date him?"

"I don't know if I could do that," I said. In fact, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to consider it. In the days leading up to the party, where I knew I would see Vicki, a million thoughts filled my head.

I thought of all the things I would be giving up, according to the standards of the world, if I agreed to a dual courtship—mainly, the luxury of a one-on-one relationship where I wouldn't have to think of anyone else as I fell in love. I would have to build two relationships, not just one, from scratch, at the same time, and to the same depth. I wasn't sure I was capable of that. I knew it would take a huge amount of openness and honesty. Was I ready and willing to trust that deeply? Was Vicki? Was Joe mature enough to handle the emotions and feelings of two women sensitively and fairly?

But all those concerns collapsed under my belief in the law of celestial marriage as an essential aspect of my deepening faith. Despite the way my family's secret lifestyle had sometimes made me feel as a child, I really liked growing up in a plural family, and I admired both my mothers. Although as a teenager I spent time partying and dating guys who weren't into that lifestyle, I'd decided I believed in plural marriage and hoped to live it someday, if I found the right person. And I wasn't set on having a special period alone with a husband as a monogamous first wife. In fact, I saw a benefit in being the second or third wife: I would have the opportunity to observe how a man treated his other wives and children, and how the women interacted with each other and the husband's children, before committing myself. As I spent more time thinking about what Joe's mom had suggested, I realized there were advantages to starting married life immediately with a sister wife. We would be able to create a family culture together, and I would be spared having to adjust later if another woman entered the family.

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