Although the book itself is not particularly well written, it provides some interesting insights into the thought processes, reasoning and behavior of Kody and his four wives, with different points of view on major (and a few minor) life events for an extensive period of time. The addition of each wife exponentially increases the likelihood of dysfunctional behavior and conflict. I think it's a good read for anyone interested in learning more about certain psychological profiles and seeing how they role play chapter by chapter in this unusual family dynamic, and could make a great psych paper.
Kody is a classic narcissist ("extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration.") Kody portrays himself as a complex man with needs that can't be met by just one woman, immediately setting himself up as both unique and special. The concept of plural wives offers the perfect platform for ensuring a captive audience who are heavily invested in his approval and meeting his needs, even at their own expense (as is often the case), the justification for adding new admirers on an as needed basis, and most especially the guaranteed attention from a controversial lifestyle.
One classic example of Kody's narcissism that jumped out at me was Kody's story about Christine's cheese and chili nachos. He talks about his own "shallowness of youth" for judging her by her appearance: this admission is designed to make him appear more emotionally mature now, an example of how he has evolved, and is perhaps even admirable for having the grace to admit his former shortcoming. He portrays and rejects her as chubby and unappealing, even repulsive, in one stroke. One of two things has happened: either, in his self-congratulation, it doesn't even occur to him that he's not only sacrificed Christine's dignity, he's publicly humiliated her (in a book, for the whole world to see); or, she had somehow offended him, and this was his way of punishing her. Either way, it was selfish and extremely hurtful.
His primary coping mechanisms appear to be avoidance, deflection and withholding, with an alarming lack of accountability and a hearty dose of self-pity (also typically narcissistic.) Indeed, his solution to problems with one wife is to simply marry another woman who doesn't pose problems (yet). Kody defines his ability to compartmentalize and categorize his wives, i.e. one is more "fun" to be with, another has a "good head for business", as a talent rather than a deficiency.
I also noticed how little individual attention he gives each of his many children at school performances, athletic events, or spending one on one quality time with each of them on a weekly basis, not as a 'special gift' of his time, but as a real investment in his relationship to them as individuals and his children.
Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn each display pretty classic profiles, and I don't want to spoil it for you by laying it all out here - more fun for you to discover through your own reading - but here are a few things to look for:
1) Fear of abandonment and rejection, controlling the future, and self-fulfilling prophecy. If a woman enters a monogamous marriage, the two most common fears are that her husband will be unfaithful (rejection) or divorce her (abandonment). If she enters a polygamous marriage and her husband becomes dissatisfied, it's much more likely that he'll just focus on his other wives, or get a new one. Ultimately she still experiences abandonment and rejection (it's the nature of the lifestyle she chose), but in a much more subtle form that she doesn't have to consciously acknowledge, *and* that she's convinced herself isn't what is really happening.
2) Diffusion and substitution. Neither Kody nor his wives have experienced the kind of deep, healthy intimacy in a one-on-one relationship that meets both partners' needs, so it's understandable that they might believe the only or best way for this to happen is if there are many people in a marriage. Each relationship: husband to wife, wife to wife, will collectively ensure each person's needs are met. Instead, intimacy is diffused, no one's needs are fully met, and varying degrees of jealousy, insecurity and anger are woven through the fabric of their plural marriage.
3) Jockeying for position, playing and winning (or losing.) Notice how each woman is initially strongly attracted to Kody, not for his skill (which is sorely lacking) at maintaining healthy relationships, but for his magnetism, physical attraction, athleticism, etc. Obviously family of origin is a big factor here, but let's just look at what they get from this: at some point, she will be the most popular or desirable company to her husband. Furthermore, she knows that other women desire him, because they wanted him enough to marry him. She "wins" not just once (when he marries her), but (hopefully!) multiple times throughout the marriage, each time getting a much-needed ego boost. Note that Christine deliberately chooses to be the third wife so she won't have to be the first, monogamist wife ("if I never have it, I won't lose it.")
>> I have watched several episodes of their TV show, and reading the book was very insightful, helping to flesh out my initial observations. The purpose of this marriage is to make and keep Kody happy, and whoever does it best, wins. Whoever fails, loses. Whoever complains, loses - Kody will redirect any dissatisfaction back to himself and his noble efforts, monumental responsibilities, challenges, and needs, which far exceed anyone else's. Eating disorders, depression, passive-aggressive behavior, being indirect (especially NOT owning their own needs and making sure they get met) and the like abound.
Each wife, despite the obvious dysfunction, and perhaps also because of their parents' modeling, "clutches the ties that bind" in a hell-bent determination to convince themselves that they really do have a better deal in polygamy.