One Compromise for Another


ENC 1102

16 Feb 2004

Elizabeth Joseph’s “My Husbands Nine Wives”, has stirred up controversial issues

about polygamy. Joseph provides an outline of her life as a happily married wife that

totally accepts the fact that her husband has eight other wives. She states that her

husbands’ polygamy lifestyle has helped “the problems of successfully juggling career,

motherhood, and marriage” (Joseph 148). Although she feels she has the perfect

lifestyle, does she just substitute one complexity or compromise for another?

Joseph believes that there are too many compromises in a monogamous relationship.

She also states that “women embrace a marital arrangement that requires so many

tradeoffs” (Joseph 148). Is this true? Women could embrace a marital arrangement that

would fulfill their lives with love and comfort for all their days to come. No. That would

be too complicated for Joseph’s ideas.

After challenging the traditional values of marriage, she gives an outline of her life

with her husband, Alex. She tries to show that her life is one of simplicity. One example

would include a normal workday for her. Her daughter, two years old, is “happily asleep

in the bed of her husband’s wife, Diane” (Joseph 148). This informs the reader

that the daycare facilities are not an issue. Instead, her daughter is able to stay

at home in her natural surrounding and near family members. Nevertheless, Joseph still

has to depend on someone to help raise her daughter.


The husband writes at night. Most of his wives work, but he can “almost always find

one who’s willing to chat over coffee” (Joseph 148). The reader may be assuming that

Joseph is comfortable with not always having to attend to her husband. One may find

this relationship unhealthy, but she is believable in making it clear that it is for her. In the

paragraph following, she allows the reader to understand that he is not always around.

Thing are much more simple without the husband around. She lives with another wife,

Delinda. They usually have a simple dinner. The comment, “We’d rather relax and

commiserate over the pressures of our workday than chew up our energy cooking and

doing a ton of dishes” (Joseph 148). She is allowing the reader to understand that the

pressure of the average housewife at night is not on her shoulders alone. It may not be

with her husband , but she is content.

Joseph then describes her time with her husband. Monday is her scheduled time with

Alex. If she prefers more time she must make an appointment. She also states that, “If

he’s “booked”, I either request another night or if my schedule is inflexible, I talk to the

other wife and we work out an arrangement” (Joseph 148). Now that sounds like a lot of

work to spend some quality time with one’s husband. In a monogamous relationship one

would only have to deal with their spouse and none other. She says that “spontaneity is

by no means ruled out” (Joseph 148). How could it be ruled in? The sharing with nine

other wives, seems all too complicated to be able to receive all the intimacy and comfort

of a husband.

With all things being said, the most forgotten in this article is the children. The reader

is only given the information that the father comes for dinner on Monday nights. The


kids are “excited that their father is coming to dinner, are on their best behavior” (Joseph

148). It seems that the children are being robbed of a full time father. A father should be

at the home and give acknowledgement and wisdom to the young. The child, itself,

should feel secure that they have a male figure around the home.

Even though Joseph informs the reader that “Plural marriage is not for everyone”

(Joseph 148), she wants the reader to consider it to be good instead of bad. This would

seem to be hard for most readers to accept. There are moral, religious, and controversial

issues that surround the legalizing of polygamy. She has made her claim, however, one

may interpret this article as one of neglect. This neglect, not only on the nine wives, but

also the children growing up in this life style.


Work Cited

Joseph, Elizabeth. Joseph, “My Husband’s