R is 27 and lives in New York City.
Why did you decide to get married?
I decided to get married because I knew that I wanted to get married, and that J was the right person, so I went for it.
What did you think marriage would be like?
I wasn’t really sure what marriage would be like. We were really excited to be able to live together and openly acknowledge our relationship by touching in public, sleeping in the same room, and things of that nature. I also wasn’t sure what covering my hair would be like, so I think that contributed to my inabilityto predict what marriage would mean. Ultimately, though, I thought of it as bringing a sense of calm and peace to our lives.
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
I think I fell victim to the Hollywood Romance narrative, and thought that relationships would fix all my problems. By the time I got married I had long abandoned those assumptions, but until I started dating J (which was NOT an easy thing to do), I just assumed that marriage had its issues but would ultimately make me feel like a completely different person and cause all my problems to disappear. I just assumed that people I knew who weren’t totally happy in their relationships were just screwing it up – I didn’t really want to see that you can be married and still be unhappy (not that I am).
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
I tend to embrace the idea that using gendered terms is ok if you own it, and I choose that approach over using gender neutral pronouns such as “partner”. For example: J and I decided to a. use a ketubah (marriage contract) and b. make it a beautiful piece of art that we display on our wall. Many people find the ketubah to be a completely outdated document that in no way resembles marriage today (all true), and therefore consider it offensive and minimize its role in the marriage process. However, we felt that it is an important part of our religious tradition and that we wanted to have a nice one, even though we of course do not actually uphold any gender roles in our relationship (except for the fact that I make him kill the bugs and clean the shower). So, ketubah is on the wall and husband/wife terms are used, even though I’m pretty sure that our relationship is completely equal.
Why did you make the decision you made about your name?
I decided to change my name because I wanted to have the same last name as my children. I use my maiden name and married name (i.e. my name is: my first name, maiden name, then married last name.) That way people know my maiden name but I also have my husband’s last name tacked on at the end of it. I firmly believe that there is no perfect solution to the name-change question. If you don’t change it, then you save the hassle of dealing with it, and you get to stay you. However, then your kids don’t have your last name (I find hyphenating children’s last names to be pretty dumb). You could just use your husband’s last name, but then no one knows who you were in your previous life. So instead I decided to legally change my name, but use both last names for everything so that everyone would know who I am. I had mentioned to J that maybe he take my last name, but he didn’t want to change his name. And I didn’t want to lose my last name either, so how could I ask him to do the same?
This might be a good time to insert J’s excellent observation that he made a few months back: He said that lots of people have lofty ideas of how they are going to make their wedding eco-friendly, ethical, gender neutral, etc, but that once you’re actually living it, everyone tends towards the mainstream. We definitely followed that model, and I remain very happy with our decisions.
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
I think some of the romance is gone. And I don’t mean that in a sad or depressing way at all. But the excitement of dating is no longer present because you know that you’re always coming home to him. We still do nice things for each other and we love each other tremendously. But when you live with something or someone they become a full part of your life, which by definition becomes less exciting. But that is just fine – I’m ok with life being boring and calm. It’s nice to have your best friend around all the time, and it’s incredible to have a partner – TWO people cooking and cleaning for Shabbos, two people to make life decisions together.
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
I don’t like to share my space. When I had a roommate we each stuck to our rooms and barely used the living space. But now J and I have a big tv in our living room and he sits in front of it all the time – to do work, to eat, etc. This drives me up a wall, but it’s his space now too and I can’t always be the boss. So if I need some quiet time we turn the tv off, or I go into our room. Marriage is all about compromise and negotiating with each other, which is something I am fundamentally not good at. But it’s not fair not to try, so I try.