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What 'Sister Wives' stars Janelle and Kody Brown said about their relationship before separating

Tension was brewing throughout Season 17 between Kody and his second wife Janelle, and the drama continues in Season 18.
Janelle and Kody on Sister Wives.
The "Sister Wives" stars have encountered lots of tension on their marriage in the latest season of the TLC reality series.TLC

Ever since Janelle and Kody Brown announced that they were separated last year, "Sister Wives" fans have been eagerly awaiting an update on the state of their fractured marriage.

The couple, who has six children, got married in 1993, when Janelle became Kody’s second wife. But they confirmed news of their separation in December 2022 in a “Sister Wives” special.

Season 18 of the TLC reality series premiered in August 2023 and a new trailer promises to answer all our burning questions, including this big one: What was the final straw that broke up Janelle and Kody Brown's marriage?

As we settle in for a wild ride this season, is recapping everything the couple said about their marriage in Season 17 and sharing what they've said so far in Season 18.

What have Kody and Janelle said about their marriage in Season 18 of ‘Sister Wives?’

Janelle Brown says COVID played a big role in her relationship woes

The premiere episode of Season 18 offers a few hints about Janelle and Kody Brown's marital issues as tensions seem to be running high for the once-happy couple.

Titled "No Such Thing as a Free Lunch," the episode opens up with Kody Brown saying things are "pretty strained" in his relationship with Janelle Brown.

"It’s like I can’t figure this out because I’m so upset," he says.

While looking back on their marriage problems, Janelle Brown acknowledges that the pandemic certainly exacerbated any underlying issues they may have already had.

"Everything really started to fall apart with the beginning of COVID and the quarantine. Kody didn’t feel like my boys were being very safe. He didn’t trust them, he thought they were gonna contaminate us all," she says.

"So I mean at one point, Garrison, who was very frustrated with how he felt like I was being neglected, called Robyn (Kody's fourth wife) and said, 'Hey can we have our dad back? Because he hasn't been around,'" she continues.

Afterward, Janelle explains, Kody Brown felt like his son had "severely wronged" Robyn Brown and insisted that Garrison apologize.

Kody says Janelle prefers Christine’s company to his

While talking about Janelle Brown’s plans to visit her daughter across the country for Thanksgiving, Kody Brown suggests that she should be sticking around to support him in the wake of his divorce with Christine Brown.

“I’m tender emotionally from a divorce. This would be the time that I would wish that my wife would look me in the eyes and say, ‘I support you,’” he says.

Kody Brown goes on to suggest that Janelle Brown would rather spend time with his ex-wife than with him.

“She’s literally telling me she doesn’t like me, she’d prefer other things. She even prefers my ex-wife (Christine),” he says.

Kody Brown emphasizes the point once again later in the episode, saying, “Janelle’s choosing (Christine) as someone she wants to be close to rather than Meri and Robyn or even me.”

Janelle says Kody isn't the same father he once was

Kody Brown's estrangement from his sons has taken a toll on his marriage to Janelle Brown. In the Season 18 premiere episode, the mother of six says she "can't really be in a full relationship with him" if he's on bad terms with their children.

"A big part of my relationship with Kody has been the fact that he was such an engaged father. He was such a good dad. And now he doesn’t want to be that anymore, so I don't even know who that guy is. Who is that guy?" she says.

Kody says Janelle 'undermines' his authority

While talking about his estrangement with his sons, Kody Brown suggests that Janelle Brown "undermines" his "ability to actually lead in the family."

"I could be a great leader in the family and I should be, in spite of their undermining, but I don’t have the exposure to the children that the mothers have in this family. So having the mothers support me would be the thing to do," he says.

Janelle says her decision to purchase a trailer hurt her marriage

In Season 17, Janelle Brown spent most of her time living in a trailer with the intent of eventually building a house on the family's Coyote Pass land. Kody Brown didn't approve of her decision and tensions ensued.

In the Season 18 premiere episode, Janelle Brown acknowledges that the trailer situation did put a strain on her relationship.

"I didn’t anticipate it. I thought we'd have this grand adventure. I didn't anticipate it would be so hard," she says. "And when it wasn't all easy and it wasn’t comfortable and it was hard, I think Kody really go disillusioned very fast and it was easy for him to blame me for this."

What did Kody and Janelle say about their marriage in Season 17 of 'Sister Wives?'

Kody said Janelle is 'too independent'

As part of Kody's plural marriage, the father of 18 would spend time with each of his wives, meaning that each of them was frequently alone. In one Season 17 episode, the father of 18 suggested that Janelle had become too independent.

“I don’t really see it as much that she’s independent as that she’s aloof,” he said. “She kind of does her thing, I kind of do mine.”

Meanwhile, Janelle said that she values her independence.

“I don’t know how it got started, but I’ve enjoyed it,” she said. “I feel like somehow, maybe we lost something (in the relationship).”

Janelle said Kody's marriage rules kept changing

After Kody told Janelle that their marriage might not be a “good fit" in a Season 17 episode, she explained that she couldn't keep track of all his marriage rules.

“It feels like the rules have changed for me a little bit,” she said. “You always acted like I was a good wife. We were great, I was making my own decisions and we would come together and it felt like (you) were OK with that.” 

When Kody said it felt like their relationship was "unraveling" in his own private interview, Janelle shared the following sentiment in a confessional.

“I never thought that I would ever be in a place where I would be questioning my relationship but the last few years I’ve begun to wonder if we’re compatible anymore. Maybe this doesn’t work anymore for me. I don’t know,” she said.

Kody said he doesn't 'feel love' from Janelle

In Episode 12 of Season 17, Kody and Janelle argued about their current living situation — a small RV that Janelle had purchased to live in while she built a home on their Arizona land. Kody said that Janelle didn't respect him, expanding on his assertion with the following statement.

“Men don’t feel love from women who don’t respect them. I feel like Janelle struggles to respect me or show me respect. It might be an unfair statement, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the way that we argue,” he said in a confessional. “If you don’t respect me, don’t bother with the love. It just doesn’t work in my world.” 

In the same episode, Kody told Janelle that she wasn't being “open-minded” by refusing to purchase Christine’s home. He also called her temporary living arrangement (the RV) a “charade” in a confessional.

Janelle said she didn't sign up for Kody's version of 'patriarchy'

In a Season 17 episode titled “And Then There Were Three,” Christine told her sister wives that she was leaving Kody and moving to Utah. In response, Kody told his three remaining wives that things were about to change in their household.

“I’m going to be the head of my household again, and I’m not going to be circumvented in that. If everybody’s willing to conform to patriarchy again ... ‘cause I’ve been fighting to make everybody happy,” he said.

However, Janelle wasn't very keen on that idea. “Yeah, I didn’t know I’d signed up for patriarchy but that’s not what we all agreed on in the very beginning,” she said in a confessional.

Kody disagreed and made that clear in his own private interview.

“Ironically, Janelle did sign up for patriarchy. When her and I made an agreement that she would come into the family she agreed wholeheartedly that she would run her will into mine because I had to be the head of the family and she made that agreement with me,” he said.

Kody said he had been ‘begging Janelle for a closer relationship’

In Episode 11 of Season 17, Kody expressed his frustration that Janelle was supporting Christine throughout their divorce and prioritizing their friendship.

“I’m begging Janelle for a closer relationship. It feels like she’s rejecting that and just choosing to have one with Christine,” he said.

In response, Janelle said that she felt pressured to take sides in the divorce.

“I am pulled in both directions equally strong. I have my duty to my family — Robyn, Kody, Meri — I have a duty there. But then I really wanna be with Christine and her kids at the holidays,” she said in a confessional.

Janelle said Kody and two of their sons are ‘very estranged’

The couple has six children together. Two of their sons, Gabe and Garrison, have strained relationships with their father. Kody said that they didn’t respect his COVID-19 protocols, which led to tension in the family.

Janelle commented on the matter in a Season 17 episode.

“Kody and my boys are very estranged. He doesn’t even want to see their point of view,” she said. “He’s like, ‘You’ve offended me. You’ve offended those that are close to me (aka Robyn). You guys have to come ... and apologize and grovel.’ You know, my boys are just not gonna do that.”

Kody said his two sons attacked his other wife Robyn. She echoed his statement in her own confessional, saying that the two had blamed her for “what was going on with the family.”

In the Season 17 finale, Janelle told Kody she felt he was trying to make her pick sides in the ongoing feud. “Kody, you are asking me to choose between my children and you,” she said during a tense family meeting.

Janelle made the statement after Kody got upset that she was planning to meet with their children at Christmas without him. After all, he had previously told her that their kids weren't welcome at his house until they worked out their issues.

As it turns out, Gabe and Garrison aren’t Kody’s only children who have strained relationships with their father. Janelle also revealed that there’s a “general disgruntlement” among her kids in the same episode.

Kody said that he and Janelle don't communicate well

Throughout Season 17, Kody vocally opposed Janelle's decision to buy and live in an RV. He also said they never really had a proper conversation before she made the big purchase.

“I don’t think Janelle or I are being honest or realistic in this relationship as we communicate with each other about this stuff,” he said.

Janelle agreed that they didn't communicate well, saying that Kody was often absentminded during their conversations.

“I know I had told him I was thinking about the possibility of an RV. Maybe he just wasn’t paying attention. I mean, he really only sort of really tunes in once in a while. It’s not like he’s here all the time and when he’s here, he’s not always really tuned in,” she said.

Janelle said she hasn't felt supported by Kody

While talking about her life as a member of a plural family in Season 17, Janelle explained that she often had to rely on herself while Kody spent time with his other wives.

“I guess for years and years I’ve made decisions for myself. You cannot depend on your husband to meet all of your needs,” she said.

Despite Kody’s criticism, Janelle purchased an RV, and explained why in one episode.

“I basically decided what I needed to do for me. I just sort of decided and I did it. He sort of had to be along for the ride,” she said. “But if I would’ve waited for him to solve the problem, it never would’ve gotten solved.”

Kody said Janelle is enjoying life "without me"

After announcing their separation, Kody Brown suggested that Janelle Brown had already moved on.

“Janelle has made it pretty clear to me that she’s enjoying her life without me,” he said during a “Sister Wives: One on One” special.

Meanwhile, Janelle said she wasn't "waiting for" her husband.

“Kody and and I have separated and I’m happy, really happy,” she said.