- Janelle and Kody Brown star on the TLC series Sister Wives with Kody’s three other wives.
- They were spiritually married in 1993 and share six children together.
- In 2022, Janelle and Kody announced their separation after more than 30 years together.
Two years ago, Kody Brown had four wives, but in the years since, several of his relationships have fallen apart. Christine Brown was the first to leave Kody, followed by Janelle Brown and then Meri Brown, leaving him with just the woman who he is legally married to, Robyn Brown. Kody’s relationships with Janelle, Meri and Christine were all more than 30 years long, and their demises have been documented on recent seasons of Sister Wives.
Janelle was Kody’s second wife, and although they were only ever spiritually married, they built quite a life together. Kody and Janelle share six children: Madison, Logan, Gabriel, Garrison, Savanah and Hunter. Kody’s strained relationships with the kids, particularly Gabe and Garrison, is part of what led to his falling out with Janelle.
News of Janelle and Kody’s split first broke on season 17 of Sister Wives at the end of 2022. Ahead of the show’s 18th season in Aug. 2023, Janelle opened up more about the breakup and how she’s been moving on. “We had a really big fight. Like, the biggest fight we ever had,” she told PEOPLE. “And after he left there was an emotional shock moment, but then I was relieved. I remember I just felt this burden come off me.” Look back on the pair’s relationship and find out why Janelle left Kody here.
How Did Janelle & Kody Brown Meet?
Kody and Janelle first met in 1989, which she originally shared in her show bio for Sister Wives. “He may not remember it,” she admitted. “When he walked into the room, I looked at him and had that feeling of remembering something I had forgotten. It was a singular experience.”
Janelle actually met Kody through her first husband, Adam Clark Barber, who is the brother of Kody’s first wife, Meri. Janelle and Adam wed in 1988. In 1990, Janelle was a guest at Meri’s wedding to Kody (the two were legally married at the ceremony). That same year, Janelle and Adam called it quits, but she maintained her friendship with Meri. Through Meri, Janelle also developed a close relationship with Kody.
Before things became romantic, though, the two were just friends, and it led to an even stranger family connection. Janelle’s mom, Sheryl Brown, actually ended up marrying Kody’s dad, William Brown. They were together until William died in 2013. “My mom was worried I was getting sucked into some polygamous cult, but she ended up meeting Kody’s dad, and they ended up falling in love and getting married before Kody and I started courting,” Janelle explained in 2013.
Eventually, Kody and Janelle’s relationship did turn romantic, too, and he asked her to officially join his family. Since he was already legally married to Meri, he and Janelle became spiritually married in January 1993.
Kody & Janelle Brown’s Marriage
Just one year into Kody and Janelle’s spiritual marriage, he added another wife to the mix in 1994 when he married Christine. However, that did not stop Kody and Janelle from beginning to start a family. The pair’s first son, Logan, was born in May 1994, followed by a daughter, Maddie, in November 1995. A son, Hunter, came next in Feb. 1997, along with Garrison in Oct. 1998, Gabriel in Jan. 2001 and Savanah in 2004.
In 2010, right around when Sister Wives began production, Kody wanted to add a fourth wife, Robyn, to the family. In order to adopt Robyn’s three children from her past relationship, Kody divorced Meri (they remained spiritually married) and legally wed Robyn. With the three adopted children, Kody has 18 kids in total throughout his four marriages. He also has several grandchildren, with three of them through his and Janelle’s daughter, Madison.
Throughout Kody and Janelle’s marriage, they’ve lived in various places. When the family first appeared on Sister Wives, they were living in Utah, but eventually moved to Las Vegas in 2011. They then picked up and moved to Flagstaff, Arizona in 2018. In Arizona, they bought a large piece of property called Coyote Pass, which they were planning on separating into five parts so each member of the family could build their own homes on the compound. Recent seasons of Sister Wives have depicted the family’s ongoing debate about how to fairly divide the land.
In 2021, Janelle decided to move out of her rental home in Arizona and live on the Coyote Pass compound in an RV. Since the Brown family had yet to decide how they wanted to start building, she came to the conclusion that the RV would be the most economical way to live, as the family continued to put money into the land that they weren’t even using.
“I acted boldly and seized an adventure,” Janelle revealed in a June 2021 Instagram post. “Lots to do out here on the land so I figured why not be onsite. Honestly, I’m alternating between extreme excitement, as I’ve always wanted to try this, and anxiety at the unknown variables. So stay tuned, this is about to get real!” As Janelle’s only minor child, Savanah was living with her in the RV, as well.
Why Janelle Left Kody
Around the time of Janelle moving into the RV, her relationship with Kody started to take a turn. This was all taking place amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which also took a toll on Kody and Christine’s marriage. Kody had strict rules that he wanted the family to follow during COVID, and refused to see family members who were not partaking in the rules that he specified. Janelle and Christine insisted they were following all of the CDC guidelines, but Kody was not happy to hear that they were traveling to see other family members out of state in 2020 and 2021.
Janelle and Kody’s sons, Gabriel and Garrison, were becoming vocally frustrated with the decisions that their father was making during COVID. Janelle was left in the middle, feeling like she had to choose between her kids and her husband. In 2020, she chose to spend Thanksgiving with her children, and not with Kody, as he felt that the boys weren’t following his COVID guidelines closely enough.
Around this time, Janelle began contemplating whether or not she wanted to be in a marriage with Kody anymore. “My children are almost grown and there’s not a necessity anymore to stay,” she admitted on the Jan. 16, 2022 episode of Sister Wives. “It was a wonderful way to raise children, but with Kody and I right now, our relationship is pretty strained. It’d be really easy to walk away.”
At the end of 2020, all of the family members agreed to quarantine to Kody’s liking so they could spend Christmas together. Janelle went into 2021 with a more positive outlook, but by the time the holiday season approached again, their issues resurfaced. On the Dec. 4, 2022 episode of Sister Wives, they both started to rethink things.
“Maybe this isn’t a good fit,” Kody admitted. “Maybe this doesn’t work.” Janelle added, “The last few years, I’ve begun to wonder if we’re compatible anymore. Maybe this doesn’t work anymore for me.” Still, Janelle was willing to do “everything [she] could” to make it work, because she didn’t want to be someone who just “threw in the towel” on a marriage.
However, tension continued ahead of Christmas 2021 amidst Kody’s strained relationship with Gabe and Garrison. They still had not recovered from the arguments over COVID. Kody accused Janelle of “belittling” his COVID rules, and claimed that that was the reason that Gabe and Garrison went on to do the same.
Is Janelle Still With Kody?
In Dec. 2022, Kody and Janelle confirmed their split in a clip for a Sister Wives tell-all special, which had actually been filmed months earlier. They both announced that they were “separated” from each other. Janelle said, “It’s not love [anymore]. It’s duty, it’s commitment, it’s faith that tells you to work it out and stick it out.”
Janelle blamed Kody for not putting in the effort to make the relationship work. She wanted him to put energy into repairing his relationship with their children “instead of having his rules and hanging out with the wife [Robyn] where he was respected and obeyed.” By the time the two officially separated, Janelle said she wasn’t “heartbroken” anymore.
In her Aug. 2023 interview with PEOPLE, she opened up about the moment she knew she was ready to leave Kody after their differences during COVID. “He started to be away more and I thought, ‘Wow, I could do this,'” she revealed. “I could be on my own. I just thought, ‘Wow, okay, I guess this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to be apart.'”
Despite all the highs and lows, Kody and Janelle have never used the word “divorce” when it comes to the status of their marriage. “Because we were never legally married, I can’t say I’m divorced,” Janelle admitted in her PEOPLE interview. “When I explain it to outside people, I say, ‘I’m no longer with my partner.'”
Janelle isn’t ready to move on with anyone else, though. When asked if she was ready to start dating again, she laughed and insisted that was not on her radar. “Maybe in ten years,” she said. “I would actually consider plural marriage because I do love the freedom and independence that it gave me. I think it was a good fit for me. I don’t even know what a monogamous relationship would be like. If that works out, great. I’m open to plural marriage, but I don’t know if there’s a lot of men who can pull it off.”