And Then There Was One: Here's What Went Wrong in All of the Sister Wives Marriages

Kody Brown now has just one wife, Robyn, following the end of his relationships with Meri, Janelle and Christine. Read on to find out what caused the end of the three Sister Wives marriages.

By Tierney Bricker Jan 11, 2023 11:00 AMTags
Watch: Sister Wives Stars Meri & Kody Brown Have SPLIT

More than a decade after polygamist Kody Brown first landed on TV screens declaring he felt love should be "multiplied, not divided," the Sister Wives star is dealing with some subtractions.

When the reality series premiered on TLC in September 2010, viewers were introduced to Kody, a former firearms salesman his three wives—Meri, Janelle and Christine—and the soon-to-be-fourth spouse he was courting. After 16 years of life as a quartet, each of the three women struggled with the transition as the family uprooted themselves from their joint home in Utah amid fears of being prosecuted for bigamy to a shared cul-de-sac in Las Vegas and, eventually, their current landing spot in Flagstaff, Ariz., where they dreamed of building on a piece of land dubbed Coyote Pass.

Now, 13 years, 17 seasons, 18 children and one catfishing scandal later, Robyn is the only wife still looking to build a future with the curly-haired patriarch. Since November 2021, Meri, Janelle and Christine have all ended their romances with the 53-year-old, with fans getting a front-row seat to all of the drama on their longrunning reality series.

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And for those looking in from the outside (and, admittedly, a few on the inside) it was easy to point to his 2010 spiritual ceremony with divorced mom of three Robyn as the beginning of the end. Particularly when he divorced first wife Meri in 2014 to legally wed Robyn and adopt her older children. But on the final episode of the series' three-part Sister Wives: One-on-One special Jan. 8. But Kody adamantly denied that he showed the 44-year-old (mom to his youngest kids Solomon, 11, and Ariella, 6) preferential treatment.

"That's the most unfair question," Kody said when asked if Robyn was his "favorite" partner. "You don't have any idea the work she has done. What she has done as a person. The sacrifices that she's made. The games that she hasn't played."

For her part, a frustrated Robyn said she wanted Kody and the three women "to leave me the hell out of" their ongoing drama, having attempted to play mediator for several years.

"I'm tired of being punished and blamed. And people thinking I'm a bad person because I am just communicating," she told host Sukanya Krishnan of her relationship with Kody while breaking down into tears. "I'm tired of being punished for it. I'm tired of it being somehow a bad thing, because it's not."

And regardless of how the other wives felt about his bond with Robyn, there were far more issues going on in each of Kody's marriages. Here's what went wrong in the three relationships:



Raised in a polygamous family with 27 siblings, Meri was 18 years old when she met Kody at church.

"I was a little taken with Kody right off the bat," Meri wrote in the family's 2012 book, Becoming Sister Wives. "He was definitely cute, and had a great attitude. He was talkative and engaged me in conversation, and made me feel comfortable around him." Kody was every bit as all-in, adding, "I had a sneaking suspicion that we were soulmates."

The couple married in April 1990, welcoming one child together, 27-year-old Leon "Leo" Brown, and Meri remained Kody's only legal wife for 34 years. Yet, according to Kody, Meri was excited to welcome Robyn into the fold after he met the divorcee at their church.

"Meri instantly sensed that there was something special about Robyn," Kody wrote in Becoming Sister Wives. "When Meri and I got home that night, we stayed up for two more hours talking about Robyn." The two were so close that after Meri opened up about her fertility issues, Robyn offered to be a surrogate, though Kody shot down the idea, saying during a 2013 episode, "I would do it if nature just did it."

The pair's biggest chasm came in 2015 when Meri was infamously ensnared in a catfishing scandal, enjoying a six-month online romance with "Sam," someone she met on Twitter, only to discover that her Internet lover was actually a woman named Jackie Overton.

The affair was shown during season seven of the series, but had a ripple effect over the remainder of Kody and Meri's relationship. 

"This catfish was just planting things in my head and telling me how horrible my family was and specifically how horrible Kody was," Meri previously explained on the show. "That was one of the reasons why I didn't want him around. I was just angry. I'm just angry at him. I just pushed Kody away. I did. He's not the one I should've pushed away."

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But, during the season 16 reunion special in January 2022, Meri said there were issues in their marriage long before her affair, revealing, "A lot of people like to look at that as the defining moment and the fracture in mine and Kody's relationship, and it wasn't."

Even though they stayed together after Meri's relationship with "Sam," and committed to therapy sessions, the situation caused their marriage to "dissolve," Kody explained in a March 2021 episode of Sister Wives.

"The catfish situation and basically the year before it, whatever happened, it just got flippin' ugly," Kody shared. "And even a year into living in Flagstaff, I was still dealing with a lot of bitterness about our past. In the past few months, I've been able to really let that go for myself. And I feel more friendly with Meri than I have felt in six or more years."


Still, he admitted to no longer being interested in Meri physically, saying, "It doesn't mean I've got any romantic inclinations within our marriage."

The reality TV couple ultimately separated, but kept the news private for months until Meri confirmed her split with Kody during the Sister Wives: One on One special. The revelation came after Meri was shown footage of Kody saying he doesn't consider himself "married" to her, prompting the 51-year-old to point out the differences between their separation and how he and Christine ended things.

"It just doesn't make sense to me that he would be so frustrated with Christine and be like, 'She just made this decision. We didn't consult, we didn't talk, she just made the decision.' And then he says, 'No, I don't consider myself married to Meri,'" Meri said. "Like, he just made the decision. I've never heard him say that to me."

Though Meri's catfishing scandal caused a serious rift in their relationship, Meri believed their marriage was on the upswing when the family moved to Arizona in 2018. But she claimed Kody lost interest in her over time. 

"Even since being in Flagstaff, he has led me to believe that he was trying," she recalled. "You know, our first anniversary that we had here in Flagstaff, it was, 'Cheers to a new beginning!' As opposed to this last anniversary, he's like, 'I don't even know why you called me, Meri...we're not married. We're not acting as married.'"

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While Meri wanted to publicly talk about their separation, Kody insisted they keep the information private, according to Meri. "He said, 'No I don't want to address it. I don't want that to be out there publicly because I don't want that judgment,'" she claimed.

Now that it is, though, she seems rather hopeful about the future.

"All that I am becoming is in front of me," she wrote in an Instagram caption on Nov. 9. "The future is bright and holds the promise of hope, the fulfillment of dreams, the excitement of creation! I am at peace with me, with my past, with the experiences that have shaped who I am. I am exhilarated for what is coming in my future, for the things I'm creating, for the impact I can have on the world around me."

Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic


As if polygamous marriage isn't complicated enough, Janelle was in the process of a "horrible divorce" from her first husband—who just so happened to be Meri's brother—when she met Kody in 1989. She even attended Kody and Meri's wedding with Adam. (Oh, and to add to the family ties: Janelle's mother Sheryl eventually became the third wife of Winn Brown, Kody's father.)

Writing that she had "the strangest feeling," when she first connected with Kody, Janelle shared in Becoming Sister Wives, "I felt as if I had forgotten something and suddenly remembered it. It was a feeling of relief and recognition."

After her divorce in 1993, Janelle went on just one date with Kody before the pair got spiritually married two weeks later. Together, they went on to have six children: 28-year-old son Logan, 27-year-old daughter Maddie, 25-year-old son Hunter, 24-year-old son Garrison, 21-year-old son Gabriel and 18-year-old daughter Savanah.

And though tensions between the two were apparent on-camera as they argued over Kody's strict COVID protocols, his issue with their sons Gabriel and Garrison continuing to socialize and Janelle making what he called "single woman decisions" like moving into an R.V. when her lease was up, the final straw had nothing to do with disinfecting mail or tiny living spaces.

"He blew off our last anniversary," the 53-year-old explained during the reunion special. "He just didn't call me or anything. Janelle added that they "had a big fight right before Christmas" in 2021 regarding their differences when it came to his rules regarding COVID-19 and the couple didn't speak again until March or April. 

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Ultimately, the couple couldn't make it work, despite Janelle's conflicting feelings about divorce.

"Part of me thinks, 'OK, my religion requires that you continue to make a marriage work.' I deeply believe in my faith," Janelle explained. "I have been so much at peace that I don't know how to reconcile that. I know I'm happy. I don't want him to come back. But my faith requires that we are married eternally."

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

And Janelle made it clear that it wasn't love that was making her question her decision to leave Kody, but "duty." Still, she admitted she was "so mad about what's happened with our kids" that she is "losing respect" for her former husband. Among her chief complaints: His decision to spend most of his time with Robyn and her kids, who he felt were strictly following his COVID protocols.

"I think that if he had truly been watching out for me and my children," Janelle said, "he would have figured out a way to make it work for the whole family instead of having his rules and hanging out with the wife staying where he was respected and obeyed."

For Kody, he insisted he "absolutely" wanted to work things out with his second wife, but said he "won't go to a place that I'm not respected," despite still loving Janelle. 

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"Love doesn't matter to me, respect matters to me," Kody explained. "I want to fix it, yes. That's a whole new negotiation. We're in a new place."

Separate places, to be specific. In the Jan. 8 installment of the reunion special, Janelle said she has moved on from her relationship with Kody, despite being just months away from celebrating 30 years together. 

"I'm not waiting for him. I've kind of mourned that that part of our life is gone," Janelle explained. "I wasn't heartbroken. It wasn't heartbreaking for me like it was for Christine."

christine_brownsw / Instagram


Just one year after he wed Janelle, Kody also spiritually married Christine, who was raised in a polygamous household and met Kody and Meri when she was 19. The couple went on to have six children together: Aspyn, 27; Mykelti, 26; Paedon, 24; Gwendlyn, 20; Ysabel, 19 and Truely, 12.

"Her kindness and her positive nature brokered a peace in our household," Kody wrote in the family's memoir of the 50-year-old's arrival. "Christine saved our bacon, as I like to say. She saved the Browns."

But, decades later, Christine was the first wife to walk away, confirming her split from Kody in November 2021.

"After more than 25 years together, Kody and I have grown apart and I have made the difficult decision to leave," she wrote on Instagram at the time. "We will continue to be a strong presence in each other's lives as we parent our beautiful children and support our wonderful family."

In his own statement, Kody said "Christine's decision to leave comes with a great deal of sadness." He went on to reflect on their time together.
"We enjoyed many years together and I have a large amount of respect and admiration for her," he wrote on Instagram. "Although we are moving forward on different paths, we will always remain committed parents."


In part two of the Sister Wives: One on One special, which aired in December 2022, the former couple reflected on the dissolution of their relationship, with Christine addressing Kody's past comments about no longer being physically attracted to her.

"To hear that he wasn't attracted to me, it was terrible to hear," Christine admitted. "And it's super embarrassing right? Ugh. I just got to thinking, 'You know what? It really just goes both ways.'"

Despite years of struggle, that was the moment she knew their marriage was over.

"After he said that, I was kind of like, 'Oh, well then I'm done. Then it's over,'" she continued. "It was almost a relief. 'Well then I'm not going to keep fighting for this, and I'm not going to keep trying and I'm not going to keep doing this if you're not attracted to me. So everything that I've done for you, for the family means nothing.'"

Throughout season 17, Kody voiced his frustrations with his third wife and what he felt was her decision to flout his rules by traveling to see their children in other states. Though Christine maintained she was behaving safely by following CDC protocols, he said he was "turned off" by her "behavior," a comment she found infuriating.

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"I'm not a child. I'm your wife. You don't talk to me like that," Christine explained. "My bad behavior? That's just insulting. Please. I'm an adult. That's just rude and belittling. No, how dare you. I was furious when he said bad behavior."

As for Kody, he claimed he had heard "rumors" from their children that Christine was "threatening to leave," but was hesitant to address their issues because, "FOMO. Fear of missing out" he explained to host Sukanya Krishnan. "If we really have this conversation, how frank are we going to get? I don't want her to leave." And, yet, he acknowledged he never said that to her, admitting on the special he didn't actually tell Christine that he wanted her to stay.

Justin Stephens/TLC

And when they ultimately agreed to go their separate ways, Christine said she remembered thinking, "Finally. Gosh. Huge weight. Finally, the end of the conversation I was like, 'Good because it's over. Come on. Stop fighting for something that your ego's attached to.'"

Following her 27 years with Kody, Christine recently revealed she is done with polygamy and that she has moved to Salt Lake City, Utah.

"It was just like that," she revealed to People. "And I got to start over again and it was exciting and it was new and so scary because I had no idea what to expect, but I was so excited. I remember feeling hope for the first time in a long time because I just got to take my life by my own and go. It was wonderful."

Sister Wives airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on TLC.


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