When Sister Wives debuted in 2010, Kody Brown had just started dating fourth wife Robyn, seemingly with the support of wives Meri, Christine and Janelle. Eighteen seasons in, he describes the state of the family as a civil war, as the latter three women have left him and only Robyn remains.
Through all the drama, the audience has overwhelmingly sided with his exes, a reality Kody has learned to live with, even if it’s not always easy. “It affects me differently than it affects the viewer because I’ve got somebody trashing my reputation and I’m going, ‘Holy cow. I can’t believe that’s happening,’” he tells Us Weekly. “And the public’s just going, ‘Oh, we always thought this about you.’ … There’s no getting used to that level of criticism. I have to remind myself [that] your opinion of me is none of my business.”
On and off screen, Kody is going through real emotions about his relationships.
“Robyn and I are experiencing a death — the death of our family [and] this big family picture,” Kody says. “We have different emotions at different times. And I’ll be really honest, that has been hard on our relationship. … Divorce changes you. So, there’s a lot going on with me that Robyn has to use a lot of grace and forgiveness for, because I’m not myself. It’s an experience that I did not expect in my life and [it has] shocked me how it’s played out.”
Christine, who shares six kids with Kody, was the first wife to end things, announcing the duo’s split in November 2021.
“I never felt like I had the right to say, ‘Hey, listen, I don’t love this woman. I want a divorce.’ I never felt like that was in my wheelhouse, but it was in theirs,” Kody tells Us. “So, Christine made a choice, and that’s kind of where it’s at. She chose to go, and it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s been very, very, very hard. But it was her being brave enough to do it, because I was never going to do that.”
In addition to being the first to leave, Christine was the first to move on, marrying new man David Woolley on October 7. “I honestly haven’t witnessed much of it,” Kody says when asked about Christine’s new relationship. “Her and I don’t associate almost at all.”
Janelle, also a mother of six, announced her separation from Kody in December 2022 — but he insists it’s not officially over.
“I can talk to Janelle all the time and say, ‘Hey, what are we going to do? Are we going to reconcile this?’ And she doesn’t sound like she’s interested in reconciliation,” Kody says. “I mean, time changes things, and if you move forward with grace and forgiveness, maybe you’ll find love in the end … even if not staying in the marriage.”
According to Kody, his marriage to Meri — his first wife, with whom he shares one child — was the first to struggle. “We started a breakup seven years ago and have been going through just a process of trying to figure out what to do,” he says.
Despite all of the changes within his own family, Kody says his goal to be an “advocate for plural marriage” and “marital freedom” hasn’t changed. “I’ve lost my religion, but I am still leaning on and working on and building my faith,” he says.
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying he’s the center of the action, and Sister Wives has never been more relevant. The show is earning its highest ratings in a decade, with fans eagerly awaiting the next development for the Brown family. Don’t hold out hope for a fifth wife: “I would never be interested in marrying again,” Kody tells Us. “I’m not a polygamist [anymore]. … Unless I pull this family back together somehow.”
Do expect Kody to keep being Kody. As he puts it with a grin: “Are you not entertained?”
Sister Wives airs on TLC Sundays at 10 p.m. ET. For more with the Reality Stars of the Year, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly, on newsstands now.