Ashley Lauren is a high school English teacher and freelance writer in the Chicago suburbs. She writes about modern marriage and gender roles at Small Strokes and about global gender issues at Gender Across Borders.
Why did you decide to get married?
Quite simply, I decided to get married because I fell in love.
But why enter into a patriarchal institution that has been some form of ownership since… forever? That’s a different question. And a good one, at that.
Personally, I believe in marriage. And I believe in partnership. I believe that a strong and supportive marriage can not only make two separate lives feel whole, but can serve as an example of grace and love and strength and social consciousness and devotion and individuality and support. Of course, I am not able to ignore centuries of oppression in the form of marriage. However, I can work to subvert those notions and redefine what the term “wife” means to me.
We toyed with the idea of waiting to get married until everyone had the right to do so, but then, after much thought and much reading, I realized that so many people who continually vote, speak, and work against marriage equality are married. They talk constantly about “protecting the sanctity of marriage.” Quite literally, the Defense of Marriage Act defends the sanctity of marriage by keeping LGBTQ people out of it. Considering the rhetoric that beats us over our heads day in and day out, being a married person that believes marriage shouldn’t be some exclusive club is quite powerful.
What did you think marriage would be like?
I’d like to say that I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what marriage would be like, but that would be a lie. Honestly, I had the worst ideas of marriage. I feared I would turn into the nagging wife; I feared I would lose myself completely; I feared my husband would want me just to have a family rather than to be married and foster a relationship; I feared I’d never be able to trust him with my hard-earned money; I feared getting stuck in a big house with pearls and a vacuum; I feared living in a suburb with the same job my entire life.
I was totally wrong, thankfully. My relationship with my husband has made me more secure in myself, and my creative pursuits. In fact, if I hadn’t been so worried about finding someone to love me, and if I hadn’t been so busy molding myself into what I thought (or was told) men wanted me to be, I might have started living my life this way much sooner. And, while we’ve decided to stay in the suburbs and not make the move to the city, we are so happy starting other, new adventures. Together.
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
I definitely got my ideas about marriage from pop culture. Growing up with shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends, and going to undergrad with shows like Sex and the City, I wasn’t sure it was ever going to be for me. The single, city life looked so glamorous and I wanted to pursue that. When I moved to a small town to start my first job, and then moved home and started grad school and my second job (and met my husband), my life took a totally different path, and I started to realize that this path could be glamorous, too.
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
Some believe that the word “wife” is archaic. Oddly enough, I was a bit queasy about using the term “wife,” but was never all that bothered by the term “husband.” As stated above, I’ve made my version of the term “wife” into what it means to me, and that’s all that matters, plus it’s made me feel better about it. Once I was able to realize that, I became much more comfortable with the word.
Why did you make the decision you made about your name?
I didn’t change my name, nor do I use his name socially. I just kept it the way it is, and I correct almost everyone who assumes otherwise. It’s mostly because I’m a writer, and I never dreamed of seeing “Ashley Lauren SomeOtherName” on a bookshelf.
Honestly, I never wanted to change my name, and once I realized (probably from watching to some TV show or listening to some radio program) that guys had certain “deal breakers” that could end the relationship in a flash, I realized it was probably OK for me to have one, too. So when I started meeting guys that I thought I really liked, I’d tell them that keeping my name was my deal breaker. Every single one broke up with me almost on the spot. (Who knew this was such a problem!) Even my husband was angry with me. He didn’t talk to me for a few days after I told him I was keeping my name, and that was non-negotiable. I figured it was over. But then, he called me and we went out and talked, and he offered to hyphenate his name if I would hyphenate mine. I told him that was very sweet, but then asked if he would really like to go to the Social Security office and the DMV and then change all of his credit cards and billing statements to match his new name. When he said no, I said, “So why don’t we both just keep our names the way they are then? Much easier.” And he agreed.
Out of curiosity, I asked him what changed his mind. He said, “I thought about it, and realized that if I wasn’t willing to change my name, why should you be willing to change yours?” That was when I knew I would marry him. That was two months into our relationship.
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
Oh yes. In the best way. We spent the first year of our marriage oscillating between delirious happiness and some of the worst fights I’ve ever had with anyone. Now, we have become more comfortable together and are starting to function as a unit. We talk things out, and figure it out together. And I’m working on no longer being afraid of all that stuff I was afraid of when I entered this marriage. It’s a work in progress.
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
I’ve learned that I am all of the things I was always afraid I wasn’t. That I am smart. That I am passionate. That I am beautiful, and that I have really great legs. That I’m funny. That I can do whatever I set my mind to. That we can do something spectacular together.