This feature is dedicated to our #NoChangeNoFuture initiative. From the Women's March, to Australia voting yes to same sex marriage, and the #MeToo movement, 2017 taught us to look beyond ourselves and come together as a collective of powerful women who are writing our own history. Join us as we cancel setting one-dimensional personal resolutions this January and commit to being the change we want to see. Because without change, there is no future.
I'm a few days post ticking my first year as a wife, so I've been reflecting. What's it like being a married woman in 2018? It's no surprise that in a lot of ways, being married is the same as not being married. A relationship and co-habitation are the same no matter what title you put on them, but there is a different cultural construct around being married, and that's where the differences come from.
Just as the #MeToo and #TimesUp wave of feminism is working to rewrite the discourse that says women are nice, compliant and secondary, the discourse for wives is the same, but with an emphasis on being nurturing, obedient and doting. But it's a title we choose to take, rather than being born into it, and adopting it seemed to jar with my fighting-feminist spirit.
"Adopting the role of 'wife' seemed to jar with my fighting feminist spirit."
None of this made me not want to marry the best person I've ever known, but I struggled to rationalise that with one, came the other.
The wife stereotype has never sat well with me. My reluctance to wear the wife label was born out of the way the role was sold to me. Despite growing up with loving, married, dual-income parents, media and social norms told me wife-life was claustrophobic, powerless, thankless, domestic and a lot of hard work. My own young ambitions included a badass job, travelling the world and a person to share it with. In no way did the two align.
In the '90s (and beyond) it was common to hear marriage referred to as a "trap," "the end of your life," and a "misery", with men referring to their wives as the "ole ball-and-chain," a "nag," or, sarcastically, "the boss." Even now, I challenge any bride to get through wedding planning without hearing their fiancé's bucks party referred to as "his last night of freedom." It's no wonder I didn't find the role enticing.
I distinctly remember an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (which aired every weeknight at 6 p.m.) where Debra, Raymond's wife, finally gets the house to herself and uses the time to sits and cry. When questioned about it she says she was just having a good cry. No biggie. Does it all the time. My 12-year-old brain rang loud with alarm bells. Did I want a life where it was normal to sit and sob? F*ck, no!
Realising this, I understand why I had a hard time reconciling that marrying my guy meant submitting to the role I felt robbed me of everything I believed in. While wedding planning, I began to hate "expectation" and feared submitting to it. As if it was a direct attack on identity. I'd go over and over every decision, trying to discern if it was something I (we) wanted, or something that was expected. I grew more and more confused about changing my name, where everyone should sit, and whether I wanted a first dance. I hated the assumptions that I would do something "now that you're married." I don't know many brides-to-be who don't have some kind of breakdown in the lead-up to their "big day," but I recognise that mine was heightened by the fact that a week after our wedding I'd was moving to the other side of the country for my husband's new job. An extremely wifely duty, and low-key trigger for an identity crisis.
Ultimately, my internal struggle was always outweighed by the fact that I wanted to be with my partner forever and make that declaration of love and loyalty to him in front of our friends and family. And throw a really good party. All of which we did, and then I was a wife. And nothing changed.
"I realised I had power over the wife title."
Other than the novelty of new rings, life remained the same. We moved, met new people who only knew us as "married" and I realised I had power over the wife title. It moved as I moved. I could make it my own. Sure, there would be assumptions made about me because I was married, across topics including but not limited to: babies, friendships, money and career, but I was solely responsible for it. In my first year of marriage, I travelled for work more than I ever had before, we got ourselves a puppy, which I couldn't say I cared for any more or less than my partner. I cooked and cleaned no more or less than I ever had before, our relationship kept growing, I still haven't decided about changing my name (it's not urgent), and any changes I made for my family, I made because I wanted to, not because I was expected to.
With a year of wife life under my belt, I've gone from being reluctant to join the club, to feeling like I'm helping rewrite the discourse. Something that's made me feel fierce and feminist like nothing else.