S lives in Canada.
Why did you decide to get married?
My beloved, I, lived in the US and I lived in Canada. He wanted to immigrate and, although we identify as anarchists and are opposed in principle to the intervention and/or regulation of intimate relationships by the state and/or religious institutions, we chose to register our relationship as a marriage because of the bureaucratic process we were about to undertake. We chose to go along with the bureaucracy because it furthered our own purposes – which was to live together and have free access to one another (in other words, without the barrier of international borders).
What did you think marriage would be like?
I had been married twice before, I three times. I thought I’d had sufficient experience to be able to avoid the pitfalls, the fights and major disagreements. I imagined it would be relatively easy and peaceful. I also thought I had finally chosen the right person, and that was what would make a significant contribution to a successful outcome (read: little or no conflict).
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
Part of it was considering my parents’ marriage: a good marriage was characterized by all the things my parents relationship did not have. It was a cold, quiet, uptight and hostile environment in which to grow up so I sought a relationship that had emotional warmth, physical affection, play, laughter, harmony, open communication.
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
I hate it. It always meant property to me. In my marriage immediately previous to this one, we agreed to call each other partner, but at the end of it, when I started doing things my husband-at-the-time did not like, he reproached me for them, saying in what I perceived as an accusatory tone, “You’re my wife!” In other words, I read him as saying there were things I could not do by virtue of being his wife. I do think it is very important to the health of a relationship to make and keep agreements and/or have open discussions about struggles with them. At the same time, to assume an agreement without discussion, because you think of someone as label, rather than as a person, in my opinion, does not make for a relationship of mutuality, which is what I prefer.
Why did you make the decision you made about your name?
After changing my family name twice already, after this marriage, I chose a family name of my own. I did not want to be identified by my relationship to some man, be it father, husband, lover or whatever. Originally, I had hyphenated family names because I wanted to highlight the relatedness.
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
I don’t know if the relationship has changed but I do know that how I relate to my beloved, to myself and to our relationship has changed. I have chosen to relate to obstacles, difficulties and pleasures as opportunities for personal growth. Now my chosen path, in all relationships, is the path of transformation. I have decided to take whatever comes as an opportunity to learn and grow. I find that this supports an inner experience of freedom and lightness, sometimes happiness, and often gratitude. This is far superior, in my assessment, to the suffering I experienced when I was angry, pointing fingers, and blaming myself or the other person.
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
We have been in a relationship for 9 years or so, married for 8 and living together for 7ish. I feel happy daily, and am more in love with and appreciative of my beloved each day.
In that context, I have learned that, regardless of what is happening around me, I can have inner peace independent of external circumstances. I have learned that it is easier to achieve this peace when I am met in my efforts toward transformation, but even if I am not, inner peace is still possible. It is a choice that is available to me at any time.
I have learned to be less reactive, to listen better (to another and to myself), to demonstrate a listening attitude in a way that comes across effectively to the other person and to communicate more clearly.
My marriage was a Petri dish for this learning, but I want to make it clear this did not happen by magic. I believe it was only because I chose to approach it this way that I was able to benefit. My intimate relationship (aka “marriage”) and its constituent beings (aka “wife” and “husband”) are all living processes: the life in them needs to be explicitly and choice-fully nurtured if it is to grow well.