Husband and wife Dimitri and Ashley Snowden are committed to their polygamist lifestyle, and also very much in love.
Talking to ESSENCE, the Snowden's opened up about their experience on TLC's show Seeking Sister Wife. On the show, the couple is working to transition a new sister wife into their lives and tackling common misconceptions about a polygamous lifestyle. With reality cameras comes scrutiny and, at times, even ridicule. For the Snowdens, sharing their relationship and lifestyle with the world has brought on a lot of this, and a lot of question too.
Dimitri says that he has always known he wanted a large family, which included having more than one wife. Now that he and Ashley, who are not believers of the Mormon faith, but rather in a spiritual union, have shared their lifestyle with the world, the couple has become closer even as they are criticized for their lifestyle.
"Everything in the Black community is taboo, and broadcasting our relationship on TV, I think it's helped me to depend on her more or know that I can," said Dimitri. "The feedback that we do get is obviously male-centered because it’s, 'why would a man do this? It's all about him.' And the observation of how we may behave or work inside our relationship, of course, was then used to leverage unfavorable responses. I think the sum aggregate of everyone's responses starts to hurt after awhile, and we decided to do this and this is what it comes with. But nothing can prepare you for that."
Ashley is also taking the criticism in stride. "People do have all of these preconceived notions about what this means because of what they have been exposed to, and that, unfortunately, isn't always positive," she said. "We get the statement all the time like, 'Well, I can't believe Black people are doing this.' And I'm like, 'Well, first of all, your ancestors were doing this before we were.'"
The Snowdens haven't always battled total negativity and critiques. Their families were more open to not judging their lifestyle choices.
"I realize that we actually probably do come from some pretty open-minded families in a way," Ashley explained. "Neither one of them is happy about it, but they both support us because they love us. That's it. Initially, I didn't even tell my mom at first because I mean, it was new for us. We knew that that's what we wanted to do, but we didn't know how to talk about it at the time because there wasn't Seeking Sister Wife on TV yet. How do you tell your mom that you want to do this? We just did it. She had a list of questions that were kind of standard questions, but in the end, it was just like, do you and be careful--I don't like it; I hope you grow out of it--but I still love you."
Even with the good and bad that they've faced, the Snowdens want it to be clear that they have no regrets about standing in their truth and hope that one day the idea of owning your own lifestyle choices will resonate with their three children.
"I hope they learn that they can make choices and that you always think about what it is that you know and that what you need to learn. Once you learn everything there is to know about a certain thing, whether it be a lifestyle choice or how to do something new before you make a judgment on it, you assess and you decide."
Seeking Sister Wife airs on TLC Sundays at 10 p.m.