Appearing on a reality television show can help a person achieve fame, fortune, and notoriety, but it won’t protect one from the inevitable pain and tragedy that dots the human experience. The Brown family, reality stars on the hit TLC series "Sister Wives," knows this fact all too well. The well-known polygamist brood has appeared on their own TLC show for 16 seasons, and through those seasons, fans have seen some loving, tender moments, witnessed many major achievements and milestones, and relished in the welcoming of adorable little Brown babies.
Viewers have also watched the cast endure plenty of sorrow and challenging times. From death and divorce to struggles with the kids, the Browns clearly haven’t traveled a perfectly paved road through life. These tragic details about the "Sister Wives" cast prove that being a television star doesn’t shield a person from the hard times that happen in a lifetime.
One wife has left the family for good
Wife number three, Christine Brown, is a wife no more! The mother of six of Kody Brown’s children "divorced" her famous polygamist husband of 27 years in 2021. She has since moved to a pricey duplex in Utah and has remained focused on herself, her kids, and her own happiness.
While many fans are thrilled for Christine, who claims that the parting of ways was a long time coming, not everyone is in a celebratory mood regarding the split. Kody’s fourth wife, Robyn Brown, is especially hurt by the shift in family dynamics. "I have always wanted her and Kody’s relationship to be strong," Robyn reflected. "I understand that she’s feeling like she doesn’t have other choices, but I wish that she decided to keep trying."
A dissolved marriage, especially when kids are involved, is sad, but at least Christine is keeping her bonds strong with a few remaining family members. She continues to spend time with her former sister wife Janelle Brown, and many of Janelle’s children, taking trips to Disney World and embarking on epic jeep rides through deserts. As tragic as divorce is, Christine seems to be making the best of things.
A decade of no intimacy for Kody and Meri Brown
Kody and Meri Brown met and fell in love some 30-plus years ago. They were first introduced at their church back in 1989 by Meri’s pal and Kody’s sister. Six months later, the pair were wed. The couple has had their fair share of ups and downs, but somehow they still remain a united marital front. While they seem to have some level of loyalty and desire to continue in marriage, what they don’t have is any intimacy.
That part of the relationship has been lacking for a long time, about a decade to be exact. When asked in a 2018 interview whether Meri would like more of an intimate connection with her husband, she said she wanted "more of a relationship with him than we’re having right now." She went on to say that rebuilding would take "two parties wanting to work toward it, I think." Meri is all for more, but not Kody. Of his and Meri’s relationship, he has said, "There’s a point where intimacy is just damaged. It’s misleading to have intimacy in a relationship where there is no real safety, I’m not going there."
It seems their relationship is a friendship at best, and the couple has shown no signs of taking things further.
Meri struggled to have children
Meri and Kody Brown might have dreamed of a life full of love, laughter, and babies, but that dream didn’t become a reality for them. The couple’s scant biological brood was never for lack of trying! Meri Brown struggled to carry children to term. While she was the first wife to enter the family, she was the third spouse to give Kody a baby, following Janelle Brown first and then third wife, Christine Brown. Meri did birth a child with her husband in the earlier years of their union — Mariah Brown was born in 1995, but she then waited twelve long years before experiencing a second pregnancy. That pregnancy sadly ended in a miscarriage 10 weeks into gestation.
As Kody’s other wives kept the kids coming (both Janelle and Christine went on to have six children each with him,) Meri and Kody briefly explored other means of welcoming kids into the brood, including IVF. At one point, Kody’s fourth wife, Robyn Brown, even selflessly offered to act as a surrogate for her sister wife. In the end, Kody and Meri put the idea of more babies to bed, and daughter Mariah ended up being the only bio child between the pair.
The Browns are no strangers to financial trouble
The Brown family has many means to bring in money to help support their massive family. As a primary source of household income, they rake in roughly $25,000 to $40,000 per filmed episode of their hit television series, "Sister Wives." Each adult also runs numerous business ventures ranging from a prosperous inn to real estate to clothing companies and health products. As different as their occupations are, their drive and hustle are all the same.
Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown’s net worths are looking pretty good, but that doesn’t mean the family hasn’t run into financial woes over the years. Kody and Meri Brown had to file for bankruptcy in 2005. Since the move to Flagstaff, the money worries have compounded. Christine Brown made the blunt comment, "Financially, we’re drowning." Kody Brown then confirmed the money troubles when he explained to viewers that "basically we’re paying four, no five, mortgages with the Coyote Pass property." Taxes seem to be taxing the large family as well. In 2021, Kody owed $3,118.51 in taxes on two of his Arizona properties.
The catfishing scandal
Meri and Kody Brown have had plenty of relationship ups and downs, and one of their lowest points came about because of a very public catfishing scandal. Meri Brown’s online communication with a person posing as someone else rocked the entire family to its core. The event has had lasting adverse effects on Meri and Kody’s marriage.
In 2015, Meri met someone online. She thought she was communicating with a Chicago businessman named Sam Cooper. This mystery person on the other side of the computer screen was saying all of the right things at a time in Meri’s life when she was desperate for connection and affection. "This catfish was just planting things in my head and telling me how horrible my family was and specifically how horrible Kody was." Meri went on to explain, "That was one of the reasons why I didn’t want him [Kody] 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."
However, Cooper was actually a woman not interested in building up Meri’s self-esteem or treating her like a queen, but rather scamming the reality star. Meri came clean to her family and the public, but the damage had been done. Trust had been broken, and relationships were forever changed.
The Brown family was investigated for bigamy
When the Brown family went public with their family and lifestyle, never could they have guessed all that was to come. Prior to the series’ premiere, the clan appeared on an episode of "Nightline," where Janelle Brown said, "We aren’t saying this is for everybody. We don’t even recommend it for anybody who’s not interested" (via ABC News). The Browns quickly gained attention from around the globe, including eyeballs from the government!
Following the premiere of the show, Lehi police began investigating the family for bigamy. The fear of prosecution led the brood to uproot their large family and relocate to Las Vegas, Nevada, where each wife and her biological children suddenly lived in their own homes for the first time. While the living arrangement wasn’t ideal, the move to Las Vegas was a necessary one for the Browns. If prosecuted and found guilty, Kody Brown could have faced up to 20 years in prison and each wife stood to serve a five-year sentence as well. As much as they adored their home and roots, the risk of imprisonment and being split up simply wasn’t worth taking. Their case was eventually dropped in 2012.
A few kids had serious medical conditions
With 18 kids in the mix, there are bound to be a few health scares along the way. The Browns are not immune to frightening conditions, and a few of the kids have been plagued with mental and physical setbacks that the entire family has learned to navigate. One of the scarier moments in the reality series occurred when Christine and Kody Brown’s young daughter Truely was rushed to the hospital because of acute kidney failure and dehydration. Initial treatment didn’t take, and Truely was hospitalized for 11 days before being released to her very worried parents.
Kody and Christine have another daughter, Ysabel Brown, who was diagnosed with scoliosis in middle school. The condition proved painful, and in 2020, the brave young woman underwent surgery in hopes of providing her pain relief and a better quality of life.
Robyn Brown’s daughter, Aurora Brown, suffers from panic attacks, one of which was caught on camera. While Robyn caught heat for allowing camera crews to film the incident, she stood by her decision, claiming Aurora made the call in hopes of bringing awareness to the condition. "Aurora was given the choice whether to let her panic attack be included on the show. She just wanted to be able to talk about what it is like to have a panic attack too. She wants to bring awareness so people are more sensitive and supportive to those who have them," Robyn wrote on Twitter.
Kody Brown thinks he and his kids need therapy
It is entirely normal for parents and children to butt heads, and that seemed to happen a lot in Season 16 of "Sister Wives." Kody Brown and two of his sons with Janelle Brown, Gabe Brown and Garrison Brown, didn’t see eye to eye on matters of COVID protocols. Feelings were hurt, family members didn’t feel heard, and the gang seemed to move farther apart from one another rather than closer together.
When Kody reflected on his relationship with his boys in part two of the tell-all special, he claimed that when it came to him, Gabe, and Garrison, there was "no connection at all." He elaborated on the matter, saying, "I’ve gotten to the point where I’m so angry about what happened that we’re not communicating. And I think they are too." Kody went on to tell show host Sukanya Krishnan, "We need therapy. I need a sit-down with my boys and get something straight."
Therapy can be a good thing and a positive move for many. Hopefully, Kody’s words will turn into actions, starting the healing process.
Paedon Brown isn’t close to everyone in the family
Paedon Brown is the adult son of Kody Brown and his former wife, Christine Brown. With so many moms and siblings, one might think that Paedon feels nothing but love from the brood, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The sad fact is the young man doesn’t exactly feel the warm and fuzzies from his father. According to the younger Mr. Brown, his wearing a particular shirt on his TikTok page made his father’s blood boil, causing strain between the two. While Paedon claims his sporting a "what does the nanny do" shirt was all in good fun, his father, along with some viewers of the show, felt differently.
Paedon also feels there is a rift between him and his father’s fourth wife, Robyn. Because of how Paedon treated Robyn’s kids, she isn’t very warm and welcoming to him, even though the kids’ relationships have been mended. Robyn isn’t the only mom Paedon feels estranged from. Of his relationship with Meri, he has said in a TikTok live, "I’m not very close with Meri" for various reasons (via The Hollywood Gossip).
Mariah Brown’s coming out was met with different reactions
Kody and Meri Brown have one biological child, Mariah. In 2017, she shared her sexual orientation with her parents. Some of the moms were overjoyed at Mariah’s honesty and her willingness and desire to live her truth. Robyn Brown praised Mariah, saying, "No matter what our religion says, what my heart says is that she is our daughter and she is a person and she has a right to her truth."
Meri, Mariah’s biological mom, is now Mariah and fiancée Audrey’s biggest fan, but upon hearing the news, she admittingly struggled. "I’ll never forget my stupid reaction. I felt like the worst mom in that moment," Meri has said. She went on to praise her fellow sister wives for picking up the slack and showing immediate support. "Still, I was really grateful that she had three moms who reacted better than I did," she said.
Robyn Brown’s older kids have no contact with their biological dad
Before Robyn Brown fell for and wed Kody Brown, she was hitched to another man, David Jessop. When she was young, Robyn met her first husband and biological father of her three oldest children, Dayton, Aurora, and Brianna. The pair discovered they were expecting, and they tied the knot. However, babies don’t always make for wedded bliss, and the union between Robyn and her husband wasn’t a pleasant one. "I was married before, and in that marriage, there was a lot of fighting and there was a lot of pain," Robyn explained to cameras.
After nine years of marriage, the pair divorced. When Robyn began appearing on the hit TLC show and meshing her life with the Browns’ lives, Jessop ceased contact with his kids. The kids all changed their last name to Brown, and Kody legally adopted Robyn’s children as his own. From a legal standpoint, Dayton, Aurora, and Briana are just as much Brown as everybody else.
The Brown family has lost beloved family members
Over the years, "Sister Wives" fans have had a front-row seat to the Brown family’s broken hearts. The clan has lost a few key members, and their absences are strongly felt by every Brown, little or big. Kody Brown’s brother, Curtis, tragically died in 2013 in a motorcycle accident, leaving a wife and children behind. Kody’s little bro was only 34 years old when he died.
Second wife Janelle Brown lost her mother, Sheryl, in 2020. Janelle memorialized her mom on Instagram in December 2020, writing, "My sweet mother returned to her heavenly home a week ago today … We believe in the eternal nature of families and so ‘see you’ again mom." Meri Brown lost her mother, Bonnie, in 2021. Meri was devastated at her mother’s passing, writing on Instagram, "76 years and 17 days was not enough time for the world to feel the beautiful spirit of this beautiful woman … Mom, I love you beyond the words I can express here, but I know you know that." What beautiful words from a loving and devoted daughter.