TLC’s Seeking Sister Wife, a spinoff of the 13-year-old Sister Wives, has now aired for four seasons. Both shows claim to look at alternatives to monogamy, but largely center religious polygamy. At times, it’s difficult to know where the lines are between faith, individual desire, and the magic of reality TV production. Sister Wives was particularly centered around its paternal leader, Kody Brown, as he slowly decoupled from almost all of his wives. Over time, the show became less a look at functional polygamy and was more about three women who managed to escape a situation where they were treated unfairly.
When a second spinoff, Seeking Brother Husband, premiered on March 26, it offered a new dynamic by placing women at the center of the narrative. The show’s couples aren’t polyandrous (that’s when a woman takes multiple husbands) or even polygamist (that’s when someone has more than one husband or wife) — they’re almost all polyamorous or “open.” Polyamory is a larger umbrella term that encompasses all those other words, while also leaving room for people who want multiple main relationships, but still desire to date. Or, for example, someone who has a girlfriend and a wife with two husbands. That’s the story behind Seeking Brother Husband’s main couple Carl, Kenya, and Tiger.
Kenya and Carl have been together for 20 years and aren’t new to polyamory or reality TV. They’ve been on Dr. Phil and other specials focused on open marriages. They also teach couples how to improve their relationships through their Progressive Love Academy. In fact, they cast the show from their list of clients. Tiger moved in with the couple about a decade ago, unlearning years of the toxic masculinity society encourages.
Over the course of Season 1, Tiger seeks to strengthen his bond with Kenya by having a commitment ceremony his family doesn’t approve of, while Kenya seeks a third partner and her own bedroom. By the season’s end, the two have recommitted to each other in an even deeper way. This is the rare reality show where Black men speak openly about their feelings around love, abandonment, and insecurity.
How have Kenya, Tiger, and Carl kept this going for so long? And how exactly could they even save Kody Brown? We spoke with the throuple at the center of the show everyone should be talking about.
How do you define your relationship style?
Kenya: Well, we’re not polyandrous, we’re polyamorists. The way we define that is freedom for all. Deep, deep freedom and deep commitment for everybody in the relationship.
Carl: I don’t define myself as polyamorous —, I can go by that title, but I define myself as open. Open just means you connect organically with people as you see fit. So, the polyamory thing is a little different. There’s a lot of judgment inside the poly community, which defeats the purpose of leaving monogamy. The whole point of leaving monogamy is that there’s too much judgment, too much categorization, and I saw some of that creeping into poly. So, my thing is: I’m open.
Tiger: I’m more of an open-minded, freedom-based relationship style. Kenya and I, we’re married. Everything I do is relayed back to Kenya.
How did you find this path?
Carl: For us, it was very organic, to be honest. When we got married, we thought we wouldn’t have feelings for other people. We would just be together, so over the years when we experienced feelings for other people, Kenya and I would talk about it and eventually came to the conclusion that we should try to explore these connections and see what they’re all about. We agreed to do that together.
Kenya: Oh yeah, it was just so organic. I can’t explain it. I would have an attraction, come back and tell him. He would have an attraction and tell me. We never cheated. A woman on YouTube said I was already cheating, but I never had sex with another man prior to discussing this. He had feelings and we would openly and honestly discuss them.
Tiger: I had no clue what I was getting myself into seeing a married woman, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Not at all. When I met Kenya, I was going through a divorce. She introduced me to her husband and I thought she was sneaking out or Carl had no clue. When I discovered that wasn’t the case and he introduced himself to me, that was unthinkable. That took a lot of courage, so based on that it made me think, there’s got to be something different to this that elevates Karl and Kenya’s thinking to a point that I’ve never seen in any relationship I’ve been in. So that opened my mind to really exploring this.
The show is called Seeking Brother Husband, a clear nod to Seeking Sister Wife, where most couples are seeking multiple partners for religious reasons. How does your show represent the other side of that? Do you think people can handle this reversal of the sexes?
Kenya: We were honored to do Seeking Brother Husband, we really didn’t care what they called it. We trust that we’re going to be put on stages where people need us. We did Dr. Phil in 2011 and everybody said, “Don’t do it! He doesn’t do poly people right!” But so many people saw that show, even though it was somewhat humiliating for us. We don’t care because we knew that would plant a seed with people. We aren’t afraid to put this forth.
Carl: We understand the narrative that monogamous culture has put out there in terms of how men view themselves, how they view women and how they view relationships. We’re fighting those stereotypes. We’re looking to tear down that cultural paradigm. So, we totally get how men are going to look at it. “Carl, why would you let another man come into your house and have sex with your wife?” By all those narratives, that means you’re not a man. We’ve heard that stuff for years and years. I stand on the principle that me owning Kenya is not representative of my manhood. Or me having a woman who’s exclusive to me is not some kind of price about my manhood. We’re here to fight that narrative. There’s plenty of religious representation out there.
Kenya: I don’t want a man’s masculinity pending ownership of my body.
Tiger: The old paradigm is not working. It has failed. Something has to change to show people there’s a different way of doing this.
How has it been putting your personal lives on national TV? One of the major conflicts you face this season is acceptance from Tiger’s family. Did seeing your relationship on screen help or hurt that connection?
Tiger: Well, my family is starting to come around. We’re actually down in Mississippi right now meeting my dad’s family. Everybody’s really warm. The show is kind of opening things up. Once they were able to see my dynamic with Kenya, they realized they should give her a chance. My family has that monogamous mindset, so for them to see an alternative lifestyle is really kind of a new experience. We’re having a great experience and maybe season two will dive into my family.
Carl: I’m ready to be a guest at the family reunion as well!
Kenya: Move over, Kody Brown. This is how we run a sane family! I can heal Kody’s family, I don’t know why they don’t hire me to do it.
A lot of people might watch this show and want to explore polyamory. What would you recommend for them?
Kenya: Well, I definitely don’t recommend that they just explore polyamory. We hold all the communication tools. I’ll give you an example: In the kitchen, when I seem to be going off on Tiger — I don’t argue with my husband s— I don’t go off on them without asking permission. So I would say, “Tiger, can I vent to you? My ego is up, I’m triggered” and he has the option to say yes or no. He said yes. I said, “Thank you, you’ve done nothing wrong. This is just my ego speaking.” So that’s how I address my partners, my kings. I respect them so much for stepping outside of the machismo masculinity that is toxic. We want to show our actual tools because nobody should try polyamory without sound communication tools, sound sexual tools, sound community tools, and understanding who you are.
Carl: I want to say, actually, you know, our mission isn’t just about having people try polyamory. We want you to be successful inside whatever relationship that you choose for yourself. The tools we’re talking about, the awakening, we’re talking about, is really for anybody and any kind of relationship structure they want to be in. We want to see families stay together. We want to see communities be built.
There was a lot of pushback on Twitter after the season aired. People said all of the women on the show are evil cheaters who could never be fulfilled and the men are all just wimps. How does it feel to see that kind of criticism?
Kenya: I’ve seen that for the past 20 years. I’m not new to this. I’m true to this. I’ve seen all of the comments. I don’t have any feelings about that. I just give them hugs. I did one yesterday on Twitter. I say, “Oh, baby, I’m hugging you. I’m so sorry you’re angry about this, but we can’t stand the old paradigm.”
What about people who ask “When will enough be enough?”
Kenya: I’ll say we have enough when the world is healed. When the men are no longer warring. That’s when we have enough. Give me a break. Don’t ask me how much love is too much love.
Carl: Or for example, you can have five boyfriends, but what people don’t understand is each of those relationships is unique unto itself. You might have one person physically maybe once a year, you guys have more of a communication thing. And other boyfriends, the communication might be different. Every situation is unique. It’s like having multiple children. You have to learn how to deal with each of those particular children in their own unique way and relate to them in their own way.
Have you offered advice to other couples in the cast?
Kenya: We casted the show. They can’t get people to come on and talk about these things, so these are my clients. At first, I was concerned about being on a show parallel to my clients, but we have to get it out there. TLC is going to expand this, this is something people want to talk about. But the other couples on the show? They need our support. That’s all we can say about them. They’re lovely people, but they need support. I think the show needs to let us show them how we would coach and support them so that they’re not just a laughing stock or a trainwreck. That’s not learning. That’s just watching people fail and that’s not helpful in my view.
Do you ever worry that you share too much with the public?
Kenya: No, beloved, we’re the first black family to come out and live this way. I knew when I started my blog in 2005 how my relationship was opening. I shared every fear, every cry, every anger. We believe in emotion. We believe in expression. We believe in sharing. Humans should be vulnerable and know each other. I’m determined to create a relationship that can be visible to others so that they can experience relationship success. That’s what we do. I want to show more! Let’s get it!
Seeking Brother Husband Season 1 is now streaming on Discovery+ and Max. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Ashley Ray is a comedian and pop culture expert. You can follow her at @theashleyray.