'Sister Wives': Inside Christine and Kody's Heartbreaking Split After 25 Years of Marriage
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It's been a difficult few years for Sister Wives star Kody Brown and his wives as they navigate their plural marriages. In November 2021, Kody and his third wife, Christine, announced they were splitting after 25 years together. The messy split is being detailed in the new season 17 of the popular TLC reality series.
The former couple tied the knot in 1994, and Christine was Kody's third wife after his first wife, Meri Brown, and second wife, Janelle Brown. Robyn Brown became Kody's fourth wife in 2010.
The exes share six kids -- son Paedon, 24, and daughters Aspyn, 27, Mykelti, 26, Gwendlyn, 20, Ysabel, 19, and Truely, 12.
At the time of their split, Christine said in a statement, "Kody and I have grown apart and I have made the difficult decision to leave," noting that they will "continue to be a strong presence in each other's lives as we parent our beautiful children and support our wonderful family."
Kody also released a statement saying, "Christine's decision to leave comes with a great deal of sadness. We enjoyed many years together and I have a large amount of respect and admiration for her. Although we are moving forward on different paths, we will always remain committed parents."
Fans of the TLC reality series know that the rift between Kody and Christine has been growing wider and wider in recent seasons, but a variety of factors led to the pair eventually ending their marriage.
Here were the biggest factors:
Kody's COVID Restrictions
After the coronavirus pandemic hit, Kody kept strict guidelines for his large blended family, mostly keeping them separate from one another. "COVID has been such a strain on the family," he said in a Thanksgiving 2021 episode of the show. "The contrast [between wives] has been one of those things that's just made me aware of those who are loyal to me and those who are not. It's as much respect as it is loyalty, I suppose. How you love a man is to respect him."
But Christine found Kody's COVID restrictions to be hypocritical. In a December episode of the series, she questioned why Kody and Robyn's nanny is allowed in the home when her own daughter isn't allowed to visit her siblings.
"What is the nanny and her husband doing that makes it so they can come over?" Christine asked in an aside interview. "'Cause when I'm home, I do exactly what I should, yet my girls can't see their siblings. What does the nanny do?"
Kody's COVID restrictions were even more upsetting to Christine when it came to a medical situation regarding their daughter, Ysabel. During the pandemic, Ysabel had to undergo surgery to help correct her scoliosis in September 2020. Kody chose not to travel to be with his daughter for the surgery, citing the pandemic.
"In the end, I would've preferred to have him there, of course, because it's what Ysabel needed," Christine told People. "But I didn't need him anymore."
During a special episode of the show, Christine opened up about some surprises she discovered while in therapy with Kody.
"Stuff where I was like, 'Oh my gosh, you hold grudges way longer than I do. Way longer.' Stuff that shocked me, completely," she shared without elaborating on exactly what Kody had discussed.
But Kody disagreed with Christine's take on their therapy sessions, saying, "I don't carry grudges. If somebody says I hold a grudge, they don't know who I am. They don't know me."
Tension With Robyn
Though Kody considers himself to be "spiritually married" to his four wives, he is only legally married to Robyn. This has led to lots of tension within the family as the other wives have not been welcoming to Robyn.
"Kody and I have been struggling for a while. We're not close. It was actually painful emotionally to be there, to be honest. It's hard to see him with everybody. It's really hard to see him in functional marriages when we don't have one. It sucks," Christine admitted in a December episode.
Kody has been upset by his other wives' treatment of Robyn, who has broken down in tears several times on the series by the family's inability to blend together.
"I just don't know why they're not figuring this stuff out," Robyn said in a February 2022 special of Kody's strained marriages with his other wives.
Christine believed that multiple parties were to blame for Robyn's estrangement from the other wives.
"At the beginning, it was hard. Blending families together is really difficult. And there were a lot of frustrations and hurt feelings on both sides of it," she shared. "We all came out of this scarred, all of us did. But no, I never had any intention to alienate Robyn and her kids."
In the season 17 premiere of Sister Wives, Kody told Christine he was no longer attracted to her due to her treatment of her fellow sister wives.
"If I have to meet all these criteria in order for him to be attracted to me then I just can't be myself. He's just not attracted to me. I can count on my hand how many times he told me I was beautiful, and I don't think that has anything to do with my sister wives," Christine argued in an aside interview. "That's just what it comes down to. I think he has a favorite wife and that's why all of this is like it is. And apparently I'm not treating her well enough, so there's nothing I can do. I mean, honestly, what he's asking from me is ridiculous."
Clarifying who she was talking about, Christine later said, "I feel like to Kody, Robyn's more important, certainly, than I am. And I've been a third wheel for years now. And I know it and everybody knows it. It's sad and it sucks, but my relationship with Kody isn't as important. It's not. No matter what he says it isn't."
Deciding where all four families would reside has been an ongoing topic for the Browns. In a February 2021 episode of Sister Wives, Christine discussed the struggle of living in Arizona, away from other polygamist families in Utah who follow their same practices.
"We could really benefit from being with other polygamists," Christine said at the time. "We've lived in a monogamous world for so long. It's almost like we should move back or something."
But, as Christine pushed for a move, some of the other wive -- mainly Robyn -- objected to the idea.
"You guys are OK moving all the time, constantly," Robyn said in a talk with Kody and the other wives.
Insisted Kody, "No, I'm really not."
Robyn added, "I'm so frustrated that we're constantly bringing up where should we go? We've got to find a place and make it home."
In the season 17 premiere, Christine once again expressed her desire to move to Utah with her and Kody's only underage child, daughter Truely.
"Grown-ups make it work for the kids. I don't have to be your lover to be able to be a good parent to our children," Kody said. "So the idea of moving doesn't work for me."
Different Takes on Their Marriage
In the season 17 premiere of Sister Wives, Kody shared the he "felt pressured" into his marriage with Christine, which greatly upset her.
"I did not know better at the time," Kody claimed.
In an aside interview, Christine questioned, "So did he marry me out of obligation? You know, our church doesn't have arranged marriages, but it sounds to me like he felt like he had to marry me."
Added Christine, "That's so sad."
Christine's Quest for Independence
While other family members were more interested in blending the families, Christine told ET in February 2021 that she's most comfortable being independent and separate from the other wives.
"I really like living separate. I like my own space," she shared at the time. "I like my own autonomy. I feel like I like me better now. And I just feel like I've been able to really raise my kids how I want to... I feel like as a person, I do better with a little more distance."
TLC has since announced she's getting her own cooking show called Cooking With Just Christine.
"A taste of something new! #SisterWives' Christine will be bringing you some of her favorite recipes on the new digital series #CookingWithJustChristine, dropping every Sunday here and on TLC.com," the network shared on Instagram along with a preview.
After years of tension, Christine opened up about her decision to end her marriage to Kody.
"It just had to be always positive and upbeat and 'Whatever you need' and 'Absolutely yeah.' It's what I did and it was completely fine until it wasn't," she explained on the show of her marriage to Kody. "All of the sudden I just realized I couldn't anymore."
A conversation with her own father spurred Christine's breaking point in the relationship.
"He said, 'At what point are you going to start saying no? You're always saying yes to everything. At what point are you going to start saying no?'" she recalled.
Noting that Kody didn't know how to handle this sudden change in his wife, Christine said, "I think that he heard, but he had no idea what to do because I'd changed so much in a blink. Everything changed and Kody withdrew and I withdrew, and we just withdrew."
Kody was much less willing to discuss the split on camera, saying, "We can sit and say the he said, she said until the cows come home. She's told you things that I fundamentally disagree with and all I'm doing now is defending myself."
During the reunion episode, Kody said he was still grieving over the split.
"My biggest problem for all of this experience is that I'm angry," he said. "Fast forward to this moment and grief has settled in."
"Now, I just look forward to [the] healing process, managing it and coming to a place where we're friends again," he continued. "We had this experience and that's over and [now she can] have a good life."
Christine has cited having issues both with Kody and with polygamy in general. The mother of six grew up in a polygamist family.
"I will be a monogamist from here on out," she recently told People. "Polygamy is not for me anymore. People can do it, it's fine. Live your life, but no, no, not me."
She said that despite growing up with "so much love" in a polygamist family, her opinions of the lifestyle began to change.
"I started thinking maybe this isn't working for me," she explained. "And then I stopped believing in polygamy. I realized I didn't really want to live it anymore. I didn't like sharing a husband or feeling like I wasn't important."
Sister Wives airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on TLC.
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