A is 31 and lives in South Carolina.
Why did you decide to get married?
Marriage was not always in the cards for me. For a long time as a teenager and young adult I was convinced that I never wanted to be married. This was also around the time that my parents’ doomed marriage hit its peak of ugly and really began to unravel. Several years later, I’d met my husband and the idea of marriage kind of just sprang into my head as a given. I never once considered just being committed to each other as partners and not as spouses. The ring and the paper and the promise in front of our friends and families were huge for me. It’s the reason I’m such a huge supporter of marriage equality. The trappings of marriage matter.
What did you think marriage would be like?
I figured that marriage would be hard, but rewarding, like acing AP English. I imagined us wearing ‘Team F’ t-shirts and dominating couples’ game night. I honestly believed that if we were willing to work at it, we could reach a consensus on any topic and truly become this unstoppable force- like by getting married we would somehow be combining Wonder Twin powers or something.
Now I see it as an all out war against the forces that work to divide couples. Seriously. Some days it’s all we can do not to scream profanities at each other in the Target parking lot. Forget matching t-shirts and freaking game nights- we can’t even agree on how to watch Jeopardy! (I say the answer doesn’t count unless it’s in the form of a question, and J steadfastly refuses to acknowledge this rule!) As for marital harmony, well, that’s a nice dream. There is no adorable scene where we’re dancing around the kitchen cooking together in perfect unity! I do take comfort in the fact that we hold the same values on the big picture stuff- politics, organized religion, education, and we’re learning to live with (as opposed to fixing) each others’ quirks. It’s hard to see the dream in the reality sometimes, but I suppose it’s still there.
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
My parents’ marriages, both to each other and their current partners, are undoubtedly the biggest influences I’ve had regarding marriage. I felt like my parents were always arguing. They seemed to excel in driving each other crazy and I believe they probably hurt each other more than anyone else ever had or has since. Needless to say, I didn’t like what I saw growing up. I began to really look at the relationships around me in order to find some inspiration. I wish I could say that I found a lot of happily ever after, but the truth runs more toward a stash of cautionary tales than fairy tales. I’ve managed to compile a pretty extensive list of what not to do in order to have a lasting marriage.
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
I love it! I also enjoy “companion,” “lover,” and the phrase “partner in crime,” but the title of “Wife” is special. It changes the way I view myself, but more than anything, I like the way I imagine it changes my husband’s view of me. I am his Wife. Not just some chick he’s dating or even a girlfriend. It’s like being the Secretary of State or the President. The title alone should garner respect from my husband and myself.
Why did you make the decision that you did about your name?
I had actually decided to keep my last name and not change it at all after reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. In the book she struggles with her own ideas about marriage and partnership by doing a ton of research on the customs surrounding marriage. Taking a man’s last name is derived, at least originally, from the times when women were little more than property. A woman bore her father’s name until she was married, at which time ownership, and her name, changed. Obviously, that’s not how taking your husband’s name is viewed today, but it did feel like I was giving up my identity. I was 29 when I married. I’d lived a good long while as a whole person and I fought long and hard about changing my name. During one particularly heated argument, I declared that since J thought it was so easy to just up and change a name, that we should both change our names to something completely different. I assumed that he would dismiss the idea outright and I would have the upper hand having been the only one to offer a compromise. Instead, he took me by surprise, agreeing, as long as we had the same last name. I challenged him with something like, “Fine! Like what?!” To which he immediately yelled, “Smeggelblatt!” I was both livid and hysterical with laughter! We both cried from laughing so hard! In the end, we compromised on hyphenating my name and any hypothetical children will simply have his name. I think we both realized that going the extreme of Smeggelblatt was too much for either of us.
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
Absolutely, and for the better. In our premarital counseling class, my husband raised his hand when the instructor asked if anybody there already felt like they were married. Now, he laughs and says that he had no idea what he was thinking! I think that we’ve become a lot closer since getting married. And I think that marriage has made our relationship much more real and intense. Being married has raised the stakes on our decisions and on how we treat each other. In a lot of ways I think marriage both strengthens and stretches bonds between two people, constantly building and testing the ties that bind.
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
I’ve learned that I can be full of shit. I’ve learned that I’m not a quitter. I’ve learned that I can put up with a lot more than I ever thought possible. I’ve learned that I don’t ever want to go through my life alone. That I’m a team player. I’ve learned that I want to be married way more than I want to be right, and I’ve learned that I can’t learn everything there is to know about marriage by analyzing other people’s relationships. Each one is unique and the only thing that really matters is that it works for the people involved.