Sister Wives' Meri Brown 'Catfished' into Online Relationship by Woman Impersonating a Man
updated 10/11/2015 AT 09:10 AM EDT
•originally published 10/05/2015 AT 02:50 PM EDT
The first wife of polygamist patriarch Kody Brown admits she was recently "catfished" after having an online relationship with someone she thought was a man – but was actually a woman.
"During an emotional and vulnerable time earlier this year, I began speaking with someone online who turned out to be not who they said they were," Meri tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement.
"I never met this person and I regret being drawn into this situation, but I hope because of it I can help others who find themselves in similar circumstances."
"Catfishing" is a phenomenon in which people use different identifies to pursue relationships online. The term was popularized by Nev Schulman's 2010 documentary Catfish and MTVs spinoff reality show.
The TLC star, who also offered to divorce Kody earlier this year so he could marry his fourth wife Robyn, has talked openly about the strain the family has been under lately.
"It's just weird," Meri told Kody and Robyn in the show's season premiere last month. "I've just been trying so hard to be there and do this whole team thing and not be caught up in the emotions of it, and I shocked myself by having so much emotion."
Kody married Robyn so that he could legally adopt her three children from a previous marriage – Dayton, 15, Aurora, 12, and Breanna, 9 – so they would have the same access to his insurance and benefits as the rest of the Brown children.
While Meri's online affair might have come as a surprise, the Browns are still sticking together.
"Throughout this ordeal, my family has supported and stood by me," she tells PEOPLE. "I am grateful to them for their love and strength through this difficult time."
Sister Wives airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.