C is a community organizer living in the Northeast.
Why did you decide to get married?
I met my husband almost 7 years ago when I was a struggling single mom. I had an almost 2 year old son whom I was pretty much solely responsible for, no family living near by and a super exhausting job as a faith based community organizer. L and I clicked right away. I sometimes joke when I say I organized him because he was a leader in one of the churches I was working with -yes, I broke the cardinal rule of organizing. But the thing is, he was smart, funny and attractive. Perfect partner material. And frankly, I was so tired of being on my own. I was seeking a partner, someone to help me with drop off and pick up. Someone to warm up supper for me when I got home from my late meetings. Someone to split the bills with. L was a great dad right off the bat and provided a level of discipline and structure that was most certainly lacking in my household. Long story short, after 2 years of being the fill-in dad and partner L freaked out. L is 5 years younger than me and was 22 when we met. He told me that he wasn’t ready for a family. He moved out. My heart was broken.
And then some time later, he came back. He said he missed us, that he didn’t want to be without us. I told him that I was pregnant. I told him that I was thinking about terminating but if I did, that would be the very end of us.
He said he chose us. He moved back in. And while I wanted to feel normal and ok, I was terrified that he would leave again. So I insisted we go to a JP and get married -for insurance reasons of course. He said he wanted to have a ceremony and a reception. To “do it right”. But ultimately he agreed to do a quiet JP wedding with the commitment to doing a more traditional wedding in the future. We had our “real” wedding a year and a half later in front of our family and friends.
When L and I were up in front of the JP, after I insisted we seal the deal before the baby came, and the JP asked me if I did…I felt this full body sensation of dread. I felt like I had pushed us both into something we weren’t ready for. And then it passed. But I look back on that moment with some sadness.
Our “real” wedding a year and a half later -the one with the Rabbi and L’s Pastor- was wonderful. We wrote our own vows and the entire ceremony. L exchanged vows with M, my oldest son. It was great. Maybe that moment of regret in front of the JP was that we didn’t do it “the right” way from the get go.
What did you think marriage would be like?
I thought that marriage would be a place of total emotional security. I thought that once we sealed the deal, all of the feelings of apprehension, insecurity and terror would instantly be replaced by bliss. The first months of my marriage were the final months of my pregnancy and were a time of healing, growing and altered expectations. We fell in love again with each other and with our family. We bonded in a way that is totally ineffable but changed us both more than I ever expected.
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
My roommate in college was one of eight kids. Her parents always seemed to be so in love. They couldn’t be in room together without touching one another every now and again. I thought, THAT’s what marriage is all about. It’s about being deeply in love and intimately tied to the person you are wedded to. My parents argued a lot. They yelled. But the funny thing is, it works for them. They’ve been married for 35 years. I realize now as an adult and as a parent that each relationship creates its own parameters and definitions of marriage. For one couple, skipping through the tulips is the narrative. For another, passion. For me, trust, confidence and solidarity. It’s not a one size fits all institution.
What are your feelings on the word wife?
I didn’t know that I had a feeling about the word wife, until I was introduced as the girlfriend and I cringed because I WAS the wife.
Why did you make the decision you made about your name?
I made the decision to take my husband’s last name -much to the chagrin of my parents- because hyphenating it was too long. Also, it felt more permanent. It took me a long time to totally trust in our relationship even though we were married. Somehow changing my name helped.
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
Yes. we have 3 kids now and having a family changes the nature of the marriage. But it’s more profound now. We work in sync and as a team more than ever. Our relationship is about our family unit which, for better or for worse has subsumed us as individuals.
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
That I have an on-line shoe shopping problem. Honestly, I’ve learned that I have the capacity to love my husband and my family more than myself. It’s a stunning feeling for someone who can be a bit selfish.