One Compromise for Another


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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.


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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


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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.


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Work Cited


Joseph, Elizabeth. Joseph, “My Husband’s