R is a 36 year old writer who lives in New York and has been married for over a year.
Why did you decide to get married?
We had already lived together for a couple of years when we decided to get married. The decision wasn’t particularly dramatic or fraught. We knew we wanted to be together and stay together and I think our families played a role — not that they were applying any pressure. We both were raised by free thinking progressives who had no official stance on marriage, though they were all inordinately thrilled by the news that we would be getting married, which is kind of what we suspected was the case. We both are very aware of how lucky we were, especially since we met in late young adulthood/early middle age, to have a complete set of parents still healthy and alive. Getting married — literally, celebrating having found each other — was a way to bring our whole families, along with our friends, together for a happy occasion, and we thought that sounded like an awfully good idea. Also, we both wanted to be married to each other. Speaking for myself, I could have been very happy in a live in long long term non-married relationship with my partner, but I also was happy to make it official, legal.
What did you think marriage would be like?
I thought it would be very much like being in love and living together and sharing families and work and responsibilities.
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
Honestly, mostly from the relationship I was in. Obviously they also came in part from my parents, who have been married for more than forty years and have a wonderful time together. But my relationship with my husband is very different from theirs. We fight less, get along better. I never thought, frankly, that I would partner easily with someone. I’d been single for a long time, and was very happy that way, and couldn’t imagine having a calm, sensible, loving partnership. Then I met my husband and it was just so easy and fun, so unlike any (fraught, dramatic, overwrought) relationship I’d been in before. I thought, “Oh! This is what marriage/love is supposed to be like!”
What are your thoughts on the word “wife”?
I am perfectly pleased to be a wife, specifically a wife to my husband. But wife was never a word I liked, thought about, cared about or aspired to, and I’ve heard it deployed in a million ugly ways. I think that the word, like the institution, changes shape and feel and tone depending on how you live it.
Why did you make the decision you made about your name?
It wasn’t even a decision. My name is my name. I use it professionally, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have changed it because…why would I change my name to his? It makes absolutely no sense to me. My husband is no less my love, my partner, my family because we have different last names. Honestly, I didn’t think about it for an instant, so I can’t quite describe the decision. Funnily enough, we have a child, and we gave her his last name because I think it’s a more interesting last name to have. He offered to give her my last name, and I considered it because I think that’s a terrifically feminist choice, but I genuinely wanted to gift her with his unusual name. But even though I like his last name enough to want my daughter to have it, it would not occur to me to take it myself.
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
No. Except insofar as it seems to get more intimate, more knowing, more understanding, more permanent all the time, but I actually don’t know if that has anything to do with being married. I suspect it’s just about spending more and more time as a couple.
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
I’m not sure I’ve learned anything related to being married, specifically. I’ve certainly learned that I’m capable of being in a relationship and enjoying it, that I’m capable of being a mother and enjoying it, that I’m more patient in impatient in ways I wouldn’t expect within my new family unit. But again, I don’t know that any of those things have anything to do with the fact of being married so much as with the fact of being in love with someone and having a family with them.