J is a writer living in Boston. She’s been married for 3 years.
Why did you decide to get married?
I had a pretty religious upbringing, so I have always seen marriage as a pretty natural part of everyday life. While I am no longer religious, marriage was one of a few things I decided I liked enough to keep in my world view. But instead of getting married because it was part of some larger plan, or because I was destined for life in a domestic sphere, I would be getting married for love, to someone who enthusiastically accepts me for who I am. While I was on my way to get married, I gave my feelings one big sweep to see if I had any lingering doubts. I thought to myself, if I don’t marry him, where will I be? I couldn’t picture my life without him. Whatever I was doing next, I knew he would be part of it with me. We took the leap together.
What did you think marriage would be like?
My husband and I spent years as platonic friends, and long-distance ones at that. Entering into a romantic relationship with him was so comfortable and natural. We just wanted to be around each other all the time. That’s how I saw marriage– a way to be with my best friend all the time –just us goofing off together for the rest of our lives. Of course we could have just moved in together, but we were that committed to each other, so we made it legally official. We saw marriage as an extension of our dating shenanigans. It felt right.
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
A lot of my ideas about marriage came from my destructive religious upbringing, which I have had to un-learn. We share all of the domestic chores and duties, but I would still find myself feeling guilty about letting dishes pile up, or cooking something wrong, or things like that. Thankfully he’s there to remind me that none of that is my “job”. Some other things I picked up very early about marriage come from contemporary fairy tales, which give the overall message that marrying a man is (often literally) the end of a woman’s story.
Growing up my fantasies about marriage always concluded with an adorable wedding and a white dress. It’s so creatively limiting. My wedding was not the happiest day of my life; it was the happiest day of my life so far. But my life, in matters connected to my husband and with my personal development, is so much richer than I thought possible growing up. I think that’s why the divorce rate is so high– people build up the wedding in their imagination, the rest feels like a let-down. A wedding is just the start of something beautiful and an excuse to eat cake. I’m glad I learned that before I got married. Someone needs to get the attention of little girls and tell them their life is leading to more than a wedding. Maybe I’ll be the one to do it.
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
I know the word has a lot of baggage. It packs some possessive meaning and it’s got domestic connotations. But I stress a few semantic differences that make the word nicer to hear. Firstly, when I hear “my wife,” it’s not in a possessive way. I am his wife in the way that I am my aunt’s niece or my mother’s daughter. I don’t own my mother, but she has a specific relationship to me. That’s how I envision wife. He doesn’t own me, but I do have a significant relationship to him that I don’t have with anyone else. We have stitched each other into our families. Husband and wife are familiar titles, among many, that we give to each other.
Why did you make the decision you made about your name?
It was actually a pretty easy decision. I had the same first and last name as a pop star, purely by accident, and I knew I wouldn’t make it far as a writer using my own name. His last name was more unique, more anonymous. I had never met anyone with that last name. It was like becoming my own pseudonym. If I had decided to keep my name he would have been supportive, but I see changing my name in this sense as an act of agency.
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
Absolutely. We’ve grown up more, and become better communicators. And it sounds corny, but I love him more every day. Sitcoms and what-have-you put out this message that marriage is a death sentence to a relationship, that you run out of things to talk about, that the sex gets boring, that you get sick of each other. But I’m thrilled to say it doesn’t have to be like that. We’re constantly discovering new things about each other, widening our comfort zones.
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
Being married– having a friend to help me through life’s obstacles– has helped me work through a lot of personal hang-ups. And I’m amazed at the depth of feeling I’ve found in myself. Putting someone else’s happiness on par with my own has made me a more caring person. I want to be there for him the way that he’s there for me. I’ve also learned to savor and appreciate small moments, because the rest of my life is not enough time to love this man. I wouldn’t want anyone to get married for any other reason.