M, 25 years old, got married at 20. Her husband, E., was 19 at the time. She lives all across the US, with their 3 children and a dog, due to her husband’s career in the Air Force but is originally from Missouri. She is currently a homemaker working on her college degree. She is currently married to E., and must stay married due to certain set of circumstances that prevents divorce. But she doesn’t like marriage.
(I sent M questions for married and divorced folks and she answered both.)
Why did you decide to get married?
I thought I was in love with E. We had gone so fast through the dating phase — we started living together three months after meeting and got engaged three months after that — the next logical step was to get married. From meeting for the first time to marriage was a total of twelve months. At the time, I didn’t know there were other options, such as staying single and being happy, besides getting married.
What did you think marriage would be like?
At the time, I thought it would be a dream. I knew there would be fighting and arguments and some hard work communicating…that was drilled into my head from society. But for the most part, I assumed that being a wife would fulfill me and make me happy. It was all very fairytale-like.
Where do you think you got your ideas/concept/narrative about marriage?
Mostly from my parents and maternal grandparents. These two couples were the ones that I saw the most in their every day-to-day marriage. While I watched some television and read books and listened to music and subconsciously soaked up the narrative of marriage they provided – the fairytale marriage — the biggest impact was what was right before my eyes.
Do you think your relationship with your partner has changed since you got married?
It most certainly has. My husband and I were very young when we got married; each one of us had a lot of growing up to do. In some ways, we’ve grown together but in other ways, we’ve grown apart. One of the biggest divides we’ve been through, other than having children, was the initial differences of my not working and becoming a housewife. It lead to problems regarding our traditional gender roles as well as the roles we each wanted to play within the marriage and those that the other person wanted us to play. It changed the whole dynamic of our relationship and our family.
What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been married?
I’m actually a die-hard, flaming, unapologetic feminist. That is the biggest thing I’ve learned about myself. I do believe that this was only brought about because of my marriage. Had I not gotten married, I doubt if I would have learned this about myself and would have gone ahead living the way that I was and believing the same things before marriage. Learning from experience is the best, the only problem for me is that I found out I don’t like being married (at least not right now in my life) but it’s too late to back out for me because of various circumstances. The other things about myself that I learned from marriage, I’ve actually known all along but I never truly accepted them until I had grown older, slightly wiser, and had someone to encourage me (my family of origin never did) to accept things the way they were – this is one of the ways that E. and I have grown together since being married.
Why did you make the decision you made about your last name?
Originally, I was planning on hyphenating my maiden name with his name but generally going by Mrs. HisLastName. However, E. said that he wouldn’t marry me if I didn’t change it to solely his last name. So, I gave in and changed it. But now after five years of marriage, I don’t mind. I actually like it because it is the same name as my children; and that shows the world that they belong to me, at least until they’re adults. I came to realize that my last name isn’t that big of a deal to me. My paternal family of origin isn’t that important, and so my maiden name isn’t that important to me either since I had my father’s last name. My last name could be anything…just so long as it was the same as my children’s.
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
I’m on the fence about the word ‘wife’ right now, even though I still use it. On the one hand, it’s just a word and humans are that ones that give it meaning, and that meaning can change. On the other hand, I feel it implies weakness, inferiority, and submissiveness because of the societal beliefs behind gender and marriage…none of which I like. My biggest problem with the words husband and wife is that there is no words of equal value for homosexuals. Partner, to me, because of societal connotations, just doesn’t quite match up to the commitment that comes to mind with the use of “husband and wife”. I really wish there was another equitable expression for the LGTBQ set of folks.
What changes have divorce/separation brought to your life?
Since I’m not actually divorced or separated by any means, the only changes that have come to me are solely personal ones. When I finally realized that I don’t like being married, it brought me further into feminism and solidified my views and ideals about what I want for myself and my children.
How has divorce/separation changed your view of marriage?
I tend to look down upon marriage more so now then ever before. Not just my own marriage, but that of others as well…it’s probably because of my own personal experience with marriage but it always seems like it’s going to end in disaster. Whenever I hear of people getting married or engaged, I always think, “They are a fool, a moron. They’ll regret it sooner or later.” While I don’t necessarily want marriage to be done away with, I do wish it would be harder to get married in the first place.
Do you think you’ll get married again? Why? Why not?
No. I will never get married again (if I actually get divorced at some point). I do not want to be tied down again. Never. I want my freedom and my life – without someone else hitching along for the ride. Of course I’d like to have relationships with men, but never anything as serious as living together and most certainly never marriage.
What advice would you give to women who are going through divorce/separation?
First of all, research the divorce laws as well as the legal precedents regarding some of your concerns (such as custody, property, money) in your state. This way you know what you are getting into legally and you won’t be blindsided by the judge’s decree. But before that, if you are even considering divorce or separation as a possibility…start stashing away money. You have to keep it off of your name otherwise it will be seen as an asset that needs to be divided up upon divorce. I such suggest pulling out a small amount of money every paycheck on sly (such as $20 at the grocery store) and giving it to your mother or a trusted friend to hold on to for you so that you have it at the end when everything is completely final. The world is not kind to single women, especially single mothers, and that money will come in handy when trying to pay the bills on your own; even more so if Daddy skips out on child support payments.