Tag Archives: marriage

How Marriage is Different

wedding bouquet

I’ve been married about 8 months now, and I was trying to explain to a group of friends from college what it’s like. And I’m struggling. They are single or couples-living-together, and I desperately wanted to make marriage sound awesome. Because I like it pretty well!

But everything I could think of just made marriage sound lame and/or pretty much the same as a nonmarried couple that’s living together. Stuff like having someone to take care of you when you’re sick. Or being totally ok with staying in and watching marathons of a cartoon instead of putting on pants one weekend. Or not always having to be the one to do the dishes.

Like I said, I’m having trouble explaining why that stuff is all cool.

Even the governmental benefits of being married have either not yet manifested themselves (like managing dual property) or haven’t been too easy (filing married

-person taxes sucked this year, in part because taxes for writers are a little different).

So what’s the point?

The biggest boon I’ve personally experienced since getting married has been not the result of moving in together or of a piece of paper. It came from the public declaration: legitimacy.

Both my relationship with my partner and my relationship to society as an adult have become solidified, apparently, because I wore a white dress and he wore a suit and we made some promises to each other. People who have known me for years, since I was little, are starting to listen to me like I have actual input. New people I meet at work are a little more likely to relax a bit if I share a “husband story” at lunch. I give off the impression of being “settled down” (even if I don’t feel it!). We fit into a nice tidy societal compartment.

Sometimes conversations about marriage equality rights focus on the benefits, the legal stuff: undisputed hospital visitation rights, automatic powers of attorney, inheritance, health insurance, adoption, taxes. And those are all good, concrete things that–I believe–everyone who loves deeply should be able to acquire. But the most significant benefit of marriage, the one that will be most hard-won, will be that simple societal acceptance, being seen, officially, as one familial unit.

It’s a pretty great perk. And one of the reasons marriage is awesome…and why there should be more of it.

P.S. Congratulations to the newlyweds in Alabama today!

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I Got Married for the Sick Days

My husband is home sick. He’s gloriously pathetic: a cold-turned-bronchitis walloped him at midday yesterday, leaving him with a hacking cough and bleary eyes. The medicine the doc-in-the-box prescribed has knocked him back on his bum, and a good thing, too, because it is letting him sleep despite the cough (not so me, however, who woke up multiple times to the dry agonizing cough of the sleeping lump next to me.)

I feel so badly for him, and a bit guilty for his illness. Perhaps his cold wouldn’t have worsened had I not dragged him all over the country to see my family for Thanksgiving?

All I want to do is stay home, making chicken soup from scratch and reminding him to take his medicine.

I am no Florence Nightingale; I find his hacking cough monstrously icky and don’t want to snuggle with his germy face. But still I find myself fretting over him, wondering if I put enough honey in his hot water, if he needs another pillow, if I got him sick.

I realized, this morning, that this is one of the reasons you get married. Or at least one of the reasons I got married. The good times are, of course, good. They keep things exciting and moving forward and laughing. But the good times also serve as a reminder, during the bad times, of why you’re so danged committed, of why you promised to be with this person forever in the first place (it’s an absurd promise, if you think about it).

But when we’re sick, it is a tremendous relief to let someone else worry about the essential day-to-day stuff when you’re dealing with something sucky, from bronchitis or a bad day at work or the death of a loved one.

I owe my husband lots of chicken noodle soup and orange juice because my grandfather died suddenly last month. He’s been keeping me going as we took the 8-hour drive up for the memorial service and then back one weekend, and again as we repeated the trip for Thanksgiving so Grandma wouldn’t be alone. He’s kept me fed, dressed, and showered, and even got me to giggle a little, on the days when I want to do nothing but crumple to the floor and cry (there have been many of those days). He was there for the days–and probably more to come–when I was soul-sick; I’ll be there for him for the days that he’s just regular-sick. Not only is it part of the promise I made in front of 150 people, it’s the reason I made that promise. Because I got married for the sick days just as much as the whole ones.

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And They Lived Happily Ever After. The End?

As repeat readers may know, I just got married. And, as you may have noticed, I can overthink things.

Major life shift + tendency to overthink = lots of thoughts, it turns out.

The definition of marriage is the subject of a great deal of controversy in this country right now, as is whether the institution is even worth it. I admit that a few weeks ago, I felt like the ceremony and the piece of paper wasn’t going to change anything about my relationship: I felt seriously, emotionally, religiously, bonded to my other half already. What did it really matter if we had governmental approval or not?

But then we got married, in a beautiful and meaningful ceremony followed by a dance party with friends from all parts of our lives, and we moved in together, and we’ve merged bank accounts and his books are in my bookshelves and we’re talking about what we should have for dinner every night. In other words, even though I can’t tell you exactly why, it feels different.

Which is where the overthinking comes in: I don’t know how to be a wife.

I mean, I went into this thinking being a wife was pretty much the same as being a girlfriend, except we’ve made it permanent. But now that I’m in it, now that I have this feeling, it seems like there’s something different. And I don’t know how to do it, to be it.

And then I thought: Happily Ever After. The stories stop. The story is all about getting to the prince, ending with the poofy white dress and the wedding bells, pan up to the castle and assume that’s all anyone needs to know.

And not even just the fairy tales. The modern movies are all about the chase; when the love interest is found, the meet-cute is over, finito.

And that seems to be true in life, too, at least to an extent: I worked on a book a few weeks ago that was based on the author’s grandmother’s real-life story. It was interesting and exciting through her childhood and youth…and then she got married. The first 20 years of her life took up 80% of the book; after the wedding, the last sixty years of her life made up a paltry 20% of the book.

So one night I panicked. I asked my husband(!): “Is this it? Is my story over?! I don’t want my story to be over!”

Even though I know, in my rational brain, that being married doesn’t have to mean everything stops, that the achievements get dusty and forgotten on the shelf, it feels that way. Most of the stories about marriage are about cheating, or almost cheating: not something to want. The stories with seemingly good marriages in them are about the kids–I’m not even ready to start that conversation yet.

Am I reading the wrong books, here? Or is marriage always too boring to be written about–meaning that any excitement or achievements or forward motion is something I’ll have to produce on my own, pushing past the inertia of knowing whom I’m coming home to every night? Why, if our society supposedly values marriage so much, is there not a plethora of stories to teach us how to be good husbands and wives?


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A Name I’ll Miss

I’m getting married, and it’s made me contemplative. I wrote this just after picking up the marriage license, when I was feeling really contemplative about the whole name-change situation. It is a challenging choice, and I think it’s become so expected that a lot of people don’t even think about it. But I do. It bothers me. It bothers me that it is assumed (at least in my area, in my licensing office) that a name change is just a given.

Anyway, that’s how you get weird prose-poems like this. Sorry.


First, they called me “the bun in the oven.” Then, “sweet baby.”

Then they gave me my name, 21 letters that spelled out my parents’ hopes, the legacy of the family unit.
My name I learned, writing it out in waxy kindergarten hand, scrawling it at the top-left corner, papers held by the lopsided staple poorly mashed in. I knew trouble was my name yelled in full.
 I grew into my name–it always was, and always would be. Even as nicknames proliferated and clung like sticking burrs, the name fit, comfortable as a hug.
Then I owned my name. Proudest moment the first time it blazed in fresh ink on a high school newspaper. My name rang out at graduations to my family’s applause; my name on a resume opened doors to shaking hands; my name on a check at the bank bought a sense of accomplishment, ability to spend.
Once again I’m called “baby,” having found my love.
But to be with him, I am rewritten, my name undone.
Though the change is a choice, it’s often assumed. Something is wrong with me if I reject a new moniker, a new life, all at once.
I grapple with this new name, this unwanted pre-supposed choice. I pin it to the ground an try it on. It fits a little tight; it’s not quite my style, but I suppose it’ll suffice.
(I leave my name on underneath, because it’s mine and I don’t have to take it off, not for no one.)
But outside, I’m different. I’m changed. The shift is subtle, but I notice, the looks, the gentle mentions. The rudimentary paperwork I plow through; the expense, the awkwardness.
In time, this name will fit me, like the one before. As I wear this second skin, it will gain meaning, import, weight. Maybe it won’t feel so strange.
I’ll be ma’am’d and not miss’d… and that I may miss.

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