In this chapter we turn to yet another domain of contemporary Mormon polygynous life: the feelings of intimacy and love between a husband and each wife as they seek to establish a unique dyadic bond with one another. We also discuss the ways in which a husband and each wife relate emotionally to one another as members of an idealized communal plural family.
It is, of course, impossible to separate emotional relationships between husbands and wives from other aspects of their lives. Emotions are intertwined with living arrangements, budget and resources, celebrations, and all of the topics discussed in this volume. At the same time, participants often talked generally about their feelings of jealousy, frustration, loneliness, anger, love, warmth, and affection for one another, above and beyond specific activities or life domains. Mindful of the complexities of their relationships, we pose the following questions: What principles guide each husband–wife couple in a plural family toward a viable and unique dyadic relationship? What communal principles do plural family members follow to ensure the well-being of each husband–wife couple? And what are the consequences of failing to follow these principles?
These issues are first examined in a few polygynous cultures around the world. The discussion then moves on to the complex and controversial matter of “love and romance” and social-emotional relationships in 19th-century and contemporary Mormon polygynous marriages.
Social-emotional relationships in other cultures
Anthropological reports generally focus on relationships between a husband and wives, or between wives, in regard to household management; resources of land, agriculture, and animals; the treatment of children; and other similar issues.