It's been almost six years since Meri and Kody Brown weathered the aftermath of her catfishing scandal — and their marriage has never been the same.
During Sunday night's episode of Sister Wives, the pair opened up about the scandal, an experience that rocked the polygamist family and resulted in Kody seeing his relationship with Meri "dissolve."
The topic was brought up when Kody, 52, and Meri, 50, finally got together after not seeing each other for some time during the early onset of COVID-19. Kody drove to Meri's house, where he thought he would be seeing daughter Mariah Brown and Mariah's fiancée, Audrey Kriss, who had been staying with Meri since arriving in Flagstaff, Arizona, from Chicago.
But what Meri didn't tell Kody was that Mariah and Audrey had left town to go manage the family's bed and breakfast in Utah, which Meri's mom, Bonnie, had been running. With Bonnie's age putting her at increased risk amid the pandemic, she came to Flagstaff to be with Meri, while Mariah and Audrey headed north to oversee the business.
"I've been away from Meri for quite a while. I haven't even seen Audrey and Mariah yet," Kody said on the drive over. "Meri wanted to talk to me, so I'm headed over to her house."
"I guess Kody's on his way over," Meri said. "I haven't seen him for quite a while, and I'm going to tell him that he never got to see Mariah and Audrey."
After he arrived, the two sat apart from one another in the driveway. Kody, who was "excited" to see his daughter and Audrey, asked how the engaged pair was doing, which is when Meri broke the news that they were no longer at her place.
"Mom's here, they're up there running the bed and breakfast," Meri told Kody. "That happened about a week ago."
Upon learning that his daughter was no longer around, Kody told cameras he was "really disappointed."
"I'm like, 'Why didn't we just close the business?' You know, you're probably barely paying for the electricity with the few guests you get. Why not just close it down?" he continued. "But, you know, it wasn't my call."
In her own confessional, a director remarked that Meri was "teasing" Kody and "stringing him out" on the day he came to her house by not disclosing that their daughter — whom he would have safely been able to see after a two-week quarantine — was no longer there.
"I was not teasing! Was I teasing? I don't think I was teasing him. Kody and I don't talk," she said. "How do I say that? It's going to make him look like a jerk for not calling me and me look like a jerk for not calling him. We do not communicate."
During their outdoor chat, Kody received a FaceTime call from Robyn and brought his phone over to Meri. Realizing he was a bit too close, Kody said, "Oh gosh, I'm supposed to social distance!"
"I am still a member of your family," Meri replied.
Kody said he was social distancing from Meri because she had "three new people" in her home. "Audrey and Mariah traveled — that's a lot of exposure. And this is all my thinking in an effort to try and, you know, lower the transmission amount," he told viewers.
Back on the call, Robyn asked how much exposure Bonnie had — which resulted in Meri referencing a sore subject from her past.
"I don't know," said Meri. "Just stay away from me. Just stay away from me, Kody."
The comment prompted Kody to burst out into laughter as he recalled the first time Meri ever said that to him. "That didn't work out very well for you the last time around. I don't think you should say that to me anymore," Kody told Meri, who laughed.
As to what "the last time around" was, Kody was referencing Meri's infamous catfishing scandal.
In 2015, Meri revealed that she'd been catfished after entering into an online relationship with someone she thought was a man but who actually turned out to be a female admirer. Though Kody and Meri entered therapy to deal with the emotional fallout, he admitted years later that he no longer desired to be intimate with her — a feeling he still holds today.
"I was joking about Meri during the catfish. She basically, during that experience — I mean, it's a sore subject," Kody told audiences. "It was an uncool joke of me, but I figure if you can't laugh at the mistakes of your past, whatever, you know?"
"About five years ago, Meri and I were in a bad place," he continued. "She basically asked me to stop staying at her house and ultimately what happened is she went through an experience where she was catfished by a person pretending to be somebody else."
He said Meri's online relationship "turned out to be extremely exploitative and abusive. And from that experience, Meri and I sort of saw our marriage just dissolve."
The episode then flashed back to Meri discussing the scandal with Kody in Las Vegas in 2015.
"When I started talking to this 'guy,' you know, we're becoming friends and we're laughing, and he was saying all the right things to make me trust him and make me think that he was this real person that really cared," she said in the old footage.
Kody told her at the time, "The struggle I think that I have with it is that I got shut out because of them. You seem so angry, I didn't feel like I could get to you, I didn't feel like we could even talk."
Becoming emotional, Meri said to Kody in the flashback clip, "I'm not going to lie. I was angry at you."
Needless to say, the scandal drove a wedge between the two.
"So what [Kody's] referring to is about five years ago, he was more distant than I wanted him to be," present day Meri told cameras. "At night, I just wanted him to put his arm around me. And I couldn't sleep because I felt the coldness coming from him. At the same time, I couldn't sleep because of this outside situation."
"And I did not manage the situation well," Meri admitted. "I said to him, 'Can you just not stay here for a while. Can we just take a break for a minute?' He took it at as, 'Go away and don't ever come back,' because that's what he's done. And that's not what I meant. I was just like, 'Can we just take a break so I can get through some stuff?' And so for him to say, 'That didn't work out very well for you last time,' I'm feeling like, 'Okay, you're right, it didn't work out at all.' But that's not what I was saying."
And sadly, "we've never come back together from that," Meri said. And Kody agreed.
"The catfish situation and basically the year before it, whatever happened, it just got flippin' ugly. And even a year into living in Flagstaff, I was still dealing with a lot of bitterness about our past," he told cameras. "In the past few months, I've been able to really let that go for myself. And I feel more friendly with Meri than I have felt in six or more years."
But although they are on friendlier terms, Kody still doesn't desire to be intimate with Meri. "It doesn't mean I've got any romantic inclinations within our marriage," he said.
Sister Wives airs Sundays (10 p.m. ET) on TLC.
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