On “getting wifed” after getting married

Guest post by Divamezzo

If you’ve read Offbeat Bride the book, you’ll remember the final chapter is called “Getting Wifed,” aka dealing with people’s expectations about how your life will change after the wedding…

Don'ts for Wives

I’ve noticed something a month after getting married… I feel like I’ve totally been “getting wifed” recently, and not-so-much by strangers or friends, but by my family, who really should know me better. One of my sisters has asked me a few times “how’s married life,” even though she knows I lived with my husband before we were married, and nothing much has changed. Still, in that case, I know she’s just making conversation, and that part is really not bad.

The assumption that now that I’m married I will be a “good girl,” have a nice, predictable, stable, practical career that keeps me home most of the time, buy a house, make babies, is baffling.

My dad, however, has been saying all kinds of weird stuff to me lately. He felt the need to spend most of his speech at my wedding talking about having babies, which at the time, I really didn’t mind that much, plus the whole room had a good laugh at his speech and my reaction. But recently he made a comment that he was glad I was married and “settled down.” I answered that I was married, but not-so-much settled down. There’s something about the phrase “settled down” that makes me want to pull my hair out.

I also remarked that my husband and I are really not sure if or when we will ever have kids, as we have no desire to do so anytime soon. My dad went on to say he hoped I did, and implied that if I didn’t have kids and do everything I could for them, I wasn’t repaying my parents for everything they did for me.

But the big “wifing” stuff came out, when he was making a check out to me, asking which name to use. I told him to use my maiden name/his name and said “You’re not changing your name?” “Nope!” “How does David feel about that?” “He doesn’t care at all.”

What bothered me about that conversation is that the notion that a woman “should” change her name is still prevalent, and whenever a woman doesn’t, or a family has a naming-arrangement (for lack of a better term) that isn’t the traditional woman-and-kid-takes-husband’s-name, people assume there must be some controversy around it.

Then, when I was talking about some of my long-term opera singing/professional goals and traveling abroad for auditions, my dad felt the need to ask, “Well, how does David feel about that?” I answered that he was supportive and it was something we discussed at length. David was given ample warning ahead of time of the realities of sharing your life with a professional singer. Neither one of us is wild about being apart for likely a month or more at a time, but it’s what my career requires, and he wants me to have a career.

When I talked to my sister about my hopes to travel to Germany for singing in the near future, she remarked, “but do you really want to do that your first year of marriage?” Whether I want to be away from my husband or not is beside the point: of course I don’t want to be away from him, but do I want to follow my dreams? Yes, and he wants that for me as well.

I’ve gotten variations on this “but you’re a wife now!” theme from a few people. The assumption people seem to make that I haven’t discussed these things with the person I’m arguably closest to and will be sharing my life with is baffling. As is what feels like the assumption that now that I’m married I will be a “good girl,” have a nice, predictable, stable, practical career that keeps me home most of the time, buy a house, make babies, etc.

Without passing judgement on anyone else’s life, (because I don’t think that people who work in a more “stable” profession, have babies, or buy a house all have the same, traditional life) it seems so odd to me that, in this day and age, the fact that there are so many different ways to be married, to make a living, or to live your life, is news to so many people.

Comments on On “getting wifed” after getting married

  1. Oh the name change question!

    I got married two weeks ago and I NEVER could have predicted how many times I would be asked, “What is your new last name?” (assuming I had taken his) or “What is your new work email address?” and “How many places are you listed on the website that we need to change?”

    In addition to my day job I’m a freelance musician, and people KNOW me by my name. Changing it would be bad business.

    Also, I have a unique last name, that I’ve had for 38 years. Husband’s last name is common. In fact, my single lesbian cousin and I are the last ones with our name. So hell yes, I’m keeping it! And I’m giving it to the kids if/when they come.

    And of course, husband is ok with it. Just as he is ok with ME. Since he loves me, he accepts me for who I am. And my name is part of who I am.

    Besides, no one has asked him about changing his name now that he’s married….

  2. I’ve noticed that, without naming any names *ahem*, there are friends of mine that now don’t seem to think I’m available to hang out unless my husband is also available. Which is pretty foolish, since I work at home and therefore am extremely flexible (as long as I get the work in, it doesn’t matter when) while my husband works evenings and weekends (and weekend evenings.) Pretty much all of our friends are mutual friends, so they do truly want to see him too, but I rarely get a text that says “What are you doing tonight?”- it’s always “Is [husband] around tonight?”

    It’s like…hey. Dudes. Still a person over here. A whole complete and separate one! Capable of going separate places (even vacations!) Whoa!

    • I think that sometimes the words “married” and “wife” carry this weight that many times our friends don’t really know how to deal with. I’ve experienced this even before I got married though, I think just when my relationship with my now husband reached a certain point. It used to bother me too, but then I learned that you just need to show your friends that it’s “OKAY” to do things without your sig. other. For me, they have caught on pretty fast. Good luck!

  3. A friend of mine spoke recently about the evolving definition of family, and though her story is specific to LGBT issues, a lot of her points apply to anyone feeling pressured to fit a stereotype (or scorned for not fitting it). If there is something non-traditional about the way that you interact with or define your family (or marriage in this case) people will never understand where you’re coming from if you don’t approach them positively and talk about it as a real person. Most of the objectionable comments mentioned above (annoying though they may be) come from a place of love–people want you to be happy they just don’t know how you define happy. Here’s the video of her talk: http://youtu.be/n8osOjz4TeI

  4. Thanks for all the comments and support (Still reading through all the comments)! It’s tough, and I feel a little bad, because my family doesn’t mean to be all “anti-feminist” by any stretch of the imagination, and we’re not a “typical American family” in many ways. The sister referenced in this post is a really tough, amazing woman with an awesome husband (and also kept her last name, and my other two married sister’s hyphenated) and just doesn’t fully get the artist/musician life, because that’s just not what she does. I think somehow a lot of these things people say and questions people ask are a reflection of how ingrained these weird stereotypes and expectations still are in our society, people sometimes ask the questions without meaning to reinforce them. But then it just baffles me how some of these weird expectations are still so ingrained in our society, in 2013.
    Right now I’m doing a lot of work from home, investing a lot of money in my career with the hope of a payback, and supplementing with temp work, and sometimes I’m afraid people think I’m a housewife, or someone who’s husband is doing her a giant favor, letting her pursue a “hobby”.

    • Throughout the wedding/marriage process I would joke with my family (and myself!): “You know me! Have I ever done ANYTHING according to tradition?”

      That was the most effective way to remind them that I am ME, not “the bride” or “a wife.” Because we all get swept up in the expectations and traditions sometimes.

  5. “How’s married life?”
    “Oh, it’s full of really kinky sex! We figured, now that we weren’t living in sin and all anymore, that we’d kick up the perversion to keep things spicy. Can’t have things getting routine now that we’re legit! Would you like to borrow my Intro to Pony Play book?”

    … and they will never ask that question again.

  6. I wonder if guys get annoyed when they “get husbanded”. Like, “Oh man, you must have to quit your band/stop playing video games/shave your beard now that you’re married!” It annoyed that shit out of me FOR my husband that his parents were all like “You won’t be able to spend whole Saturdays watching Star Trek anymore!” Uh…cuz we’re going antiquing? WTF? It annoys the hell out of me in the sense that there seem to be more gender attachments to “getting wifed”, but the whole concept of marriage changing your life annoys me no matter who’s getting the shit.

    • HA! Great question… like, after they get married, does everyone think it’s going to be like this for dudes?

      • Yes! This is totally what married life is like. Do all your fun shit now ‘cuz it’s all Home Depot Saturdays from here on out!

  7. Ha! I’ve been “wifed” even before marriage… almost every day his mother calls to ask what I am cooking for her boy, whether I miss him (he is working in another town at the moment), whether I am lonely without him and when we will have babies.

    Good to know that my life is supposed to revolve around him, I was afraid I’d have to continue with my hobbies and carreer plans. ^^

    • This absolutely. My southern grandmother (My father’s mother) will constantly call me and she has come up with the habit at the near-end of the phone call that I shouldn’t be gabbing all day and get to work making my husband food before he gets home. I’ll usually say, “Oh I’m going to make a glorious new casserole I found on Southern Living today.” She gets all excited and lets me go. Then I make ramen or mac n cheese. ^_^ lol I love cooking, don’t get me wrong.. but the “boy” I’m married to is in his mid twenties and knows how to operate a stove. hahahaha

  8. Ohhh man this. I only got “legal married” in April, my reception isn’t even until August but just about everyone who knows has been “how’s married life?” And I have to be like “… uh… exactly the same? With an extra piece of paper and a different driver’s license?” And then the comments on my name.. (where I just added his last name on to mine, but is hyphenated on license) “Wow it’s so long why would you want to do that,” “But Kelly HisLasName sounds so nice,” “So have you gotten new business cards/changed your website/etc. yet? Oh you’re keeping your name the same for work? Hmm” “How does he feel about it” SIGHHHH.

    Husband hasn’t gotten any comments on what he’s doing with his name of course, though older guys keep making comments like “so how’s married life going haha” with apparently some expectation that I won’t let him do things anymore? IDK.

  9. I’ve always hated the “How’s married life?” question. And my stock answer has been: ” We haven’t killed each other yet” which usually gets an awkward chuckle and they never ask again. And I still have to answer this question 4 years into my marriage.

    The funny thing is in my social group, all the married women kept their last names, so it there was more pressure to keep it than to get rid of it. My last name is unique, hyphenated and awesome and his is rather common, so why wouldn’t I keep it? However I still get family checks, letters, cards, etc. made out to my first name, his last name, which really makes me mad, because they *KNOW* I didn’t change my name but insist on doing it anyway…

  10. OMG…yes yes yes…I LOVE this post and ALL the comments! I can relate so much! “How’s married life?” always makes me want to tell the truth:

    Well…I am suffocating being in the box everyone tries to put me in, wrap up and call “wife”; my partner and I can’t get any sleep in the same bed so we have separate bedrooms; I have realized that domestic life is the antidote to passion and sex so we’re exploring alternative lifestyles such as polyamory and swinging; we’re still paying for the wedding after 2 years so we kind of regret having a big wedding; we don’t ever want to have kids and even if we did my husband is trans so it isn’t going to happen by accident and be a “surprise”; I am not changing my name…..his family hates it but frankly I don’t care because it’s my name; and I am constantly exhausted from working 45 hours a week, taking online courses, preparing for weight loss surgery and constantly feeding and cleaning up after not just myself and my 3 cats (one of whom is diabetic) like I was doing before but in addition now feeding and cleaning up after 2 dogs and a man as well. This all leaves me feeling emotionally depleted and physically exhausted with no energy/emotional capacity for sex so my vibrator is still my best friend. All in all, I’d have to say I’m wondering why I even bothered getting married. But thanks for asking!

  11. I had a really difficult time adjusting to being wifed. The assumptions are obnoxious, and it’s certainly double-edged because my husband gets a lot of bizarre questions and comments as well. I’d love it if everyone would stop assuming that marriage means certain things, but I’ve realized it’s going to happen one person at a time. With that in mind, I answer as simply as I can, and I’ve already seen a difference in how people speak with us. The assumptions are less and the questions and comments are a lot more meaningful.

    Q: “You didn’t take his last name?!?” A: “No, I didn’t, and I don’t plan to.” Q: “Why not?!?” A: “I don’t feel that I’m becoming a part of his family more than he’s becoming a part of mine, and honestly his last name isn’t THAT awesome.” *Issue dropped*

    Q: “So, when are you having kids?” A: “Hopefully never.” Q: “Why not?!?” A: “*One of many non-emotional, logical reasons*” *Issue dropped*

    Q: “How does your husband feel about this?” A: “*Honest (and concise) answer about how he feels*”

    As a pointer, I’ve found that the less emotional you get about a wifey subject, the more easily it’s accepted and dropped. On the other hand, family has a special way of pressing your buttons, so sometimes an emotional outburst is inevitable.

    Good luck!

  12. I’m not married yet (9/28!!) but if I get asked after we are married “what does he think of that?”, I am tempted to say: “Well, I do that one thing with my mouth that he really likes, so I make the rules.” My friends would think it was hilarious and my mom would never ask again, so good enough.

    • I don’t want to be the un-fun girl here who doesn’t understand humour, but I know there are girls who actually use sex for blackmail so I’m not using that.
      (also, my FH does pretty amazing things with his mouth too so…)

    • Although I gotta say that 69 deciding disputes (1st one to cum concedes) sounds like an awesome way to settle arguments.

  13. My life has kind of changed since being married, but it’s all kind of obvious things that have to do with sort of merging two lives together. We’re two awesome people, so I dig it:) I work as a scenic artist and designer in Chicago, and he works in digital marketing, so needless to say, we’re not totally traditional–I do the fix-it and carpentry and car related things around the house. I usually make dinner. I do his laundry–something I never thought I would do. I manage the grocery shopping and make sure bills get paid. We split regular cleaning chores. He does the dishes because my hands are usually chapped from washing paint brushes. He makes more money than I do, so he pays a little more, but we keep it pretty fair. We have separate bank accounts and probably always will, but we have full access to each other’s just in case. This is all new for us considering we waited until we were married to live together, but it’s really the kind of teamwork I expected us to fall into.

    I did change my last name to his and I was happy to do it. Personal preference. Now my name sounds like a sneeze;) We are preparing to start a family soon–looking at a bigger apartment in an area with a nice park, each of us putting away money each paycheck to save, trying to make more married and partnered friends (while keeping our single ones, of course–just adding). Pretty domesticated. However…

    Every time I try to find a job that’s a little more stable–some kind of not-too-physically-taxing day job that I can have during pregnancy, my husband challenges me. He is sometimes more supportive of my design and production lifestyle than I am. He doesn’t expect me to stop painting and designing through pregnancy and parenthood–he expects me to adapt, not to change. And that’s kind of what we’ve been doing so far–things are different now that we’re married. But we haven’t stopped being ourselves to be some sort of conventional married couple–we’ve just adapted to being us. And that’s how we’ll deal with having a family too.

    I used to get this panic attack–especially through the engagement–because I thought I would have to give up so much to do the married-with-babies thing, but so far, it looks like I’ve actually gained things. After a tough day painting large scenery and then trying to finish drafting a freelance project, I tried to look up women with my jobs who have kids and I couldn’t really find anything. When I told my husband, he just said, “If it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It means no one’s done it yet. Make it happen.”

    It sounds like people have doubt from their parents and some friends that you can still keep the you-ness and be married and/or have kids if you choose. It also sounds like we’ve found spouses and partners who challenge that notion. How awesome is that?

    Some things definitely get added to your life when you get married/partnered and probably more if you have kids or get a dog or buy a house, etc. But with some thought and some support, you can make your own model of how it all works together.

    And try not to drip paint on the baby;)

    • I just wanted to chime in on the “not-too-physically-taxing-day-job-search” aspect of your comment.

      Speaking from experience, if you enjoy your job and your manager is supportive, you can make being pregnant work with a physically intense job.

      I’m a mechanic and continued to work on and under vehicles for almost 8 months of my pregnancy before I chose to ask for lighter work since I could not work as efficiently as before. Granted, my manager was super awesome about it and was really willing to work with me to keep me and kiddo safe, but still. For me, keeping up with my normal level of activity helped me have a good labor.

      Are there any artist’s guilds or other networks where you could pick someone’s brain about being pregnant in your line of work? Or check out the archives at offbeat families?

      Regardless, happy times!

  14. Some of this, I totally agree with. Some of it, I have a slightly different perspective. Namely, the “how’s married life” and “so, thinking about kids yet” questions. It used to really get on my nerves but when I sat and thought about it, my family in particular are trying to be nice. They’re trying to say “Something big happened in your life! I remember that! How are you?” or “I know you want kids, I’m curious about your plans and feelings! How is your life going?” (This is very much different with random acquaintances who do not know that I’ve wanted kids forever). As with most things, they could probably use a bit of education, but they are not deliberately trying to annoy.

    • I posted something similar, and I like the way you phrased this:

      They’re trying to say “Something big happened in your life! I remember that! How are you?”

      Some people genuinely share these sentiments and aren’t trying to judge. We’ve heard them phrased certain ways all of our lives, so we use that same language- but WITHOUT all the judgement/stereotyping implied. In some cases, “How’s married life?” is innocent. In other cases, it’s not, but you usually can tell this by the next question if it is something like “Now that you’re a wife, do you have enough aprons? You must spend a lot of time in an APRON now, that you’re a WIFE.”

      I think the kid question is still a little invasive for a lot of people, though. It’s much more pointed and personal than “how’s married life?”

      • We’ve heard them phrased certain ways all of our lives, so we use that same language- but WITHOUT all the judgement/stereotyping implied.

        Ooh, this totally reminds me of this post: Parenting cliches as loss of identity, where the author talks about the deeper meanings behind when she hears herself say stuff like “He’s growing like a weed!”

        • Yes! Except I’ve never been good with words to begin with! We owe it to ourselves and our friends to not fall into these language traps.

      • With the kid, question, I very much mean from family or close friends, people who’ve known me for a long time and know how I feel about children. From work colleagues or acquaintances, it would absolutely be too personal.

        I agree with what you say, people say these things as kind of “set phrases”, almost the way you use phrases you know in another language, and don’t really think about the nuance. I also think it’s worth bearing in mind who’s asking. When my auntie who is the breadwinner in her household and has always supported my career asks me “How’s married life” she definitely doesn’t mean the apron thing. Others, well, who knows.

  15. My response to the “how’s married life?” question was to say, triumphantly “about the same as before, but with 100% less wedding planning!!!” That usually got a laugh 🙂

  16. I am getting the same sort of things from lots of people in regards to getting married. My fiance is a full time musician which means lots of hours away from each other, and possibly a 6 month stint overseas which I can’t join him due to university. I can understand people being shocked at us being fine about being away for 6 months – it is a long time, but I also get annoyed that they imply that we must not care about each other if we feel like we need to work on our careers.

    The amount of times I get told that I should ‘drop out of uni and just get a job if I want to be a wife’ or that his job is ‘not a real job’ is frustrating. It does make me smile since I know that FH earns well over what most of my friends do as a muso (he teaches as well as gigs). And the kid thing! *Tears hair out* I can’t wait to have babies! But it gets my goat that people expect women to just become mamaclones with no personality. When we decide to have kids, I know that my life and schedule will revolve around babies sleep time etc, but I refuse to drop having interests or hobbies.

  17. We lived together for several years before we got married and the best thing about getting married was not having to deal with the stupid wedding anymore. Things just went back to normal, which was exactly how we liked them in the first place.

    We get the “How is married life?” thing all the time. My husband (oddly never minded the names) came up with the perfect response. “It’s just like not being married, only now I have one forth of a brass knuckle” Always gets the point across.

    I was “wifed” somewhat even after moving in. My Mother in law didn’t teach the hubs to do anything growing up so he honestly didn’t know how to do ANYTHING. He felt horrible about it to. Now he can do about 2/3’s of the work in the house and is working on learning the rest. Should we have kids we are teaching either gender how to do this stuff, it’s silly for a grown man not to know how. Basic stuff like laundry, dishes and such should not be an issue.

    I can say he’s been “husbanded” as well, though. We are super geeks and we both have areas the other isn’t into. We have no problem with this, however he has to beg for an invite since I’m supposed to mind if he leaves my sight for an evening. Do other women not like personal time?

  18. I actually have that Don’ts For Wives book – my partner’s Dad gave it to us as part of a humourous present before we had our “un-wedding” (aka party with booze and no speeches that my Mum can use as an anniversary because she wanted us to have one). He also included a little LV purse (because I control the cash!) and a photo of my man as a boy mowing the lawn (to prove he’s been good at it a while). I thought it was cute, the fella was a bit weirded out that his Dad could be so tongue-in-cheek I think!
    That book is so hilarious, like reading The Rules but treating it like very dry satire.

    On topic – we’re not married (obviously) but never been wifed or husbanded before. That might change from people who don’t know us once I start my business and he quits the military to become a full time sci-fi writer. Our families know and love our fabulous future plans however, and that makes it easy to wear the occasional “Kids, when? Soon? Now?!” that we get from specific family members (not our parents, surprisingly).

  19. Heh I got a kick out of this post. It’s been a year since my husband and I got married and people still ask me how married life is treating me.
    My answer: “I haven’t kicked him out onto the sofa yet. Although, he’s almost made it to the garage a few times.”

  20. This article and the ensuing discussion were lovely. My husband and I have always had a different relationship as I’m the breadwinner and he’s had to stay home (first for school, now for medical reasons). I just think people don’t know what to do with “different”. My father is still convinced he’s “taking advantage of me” but yet doesn’t think that of his friend’s whose wives don’t work. Add that to the fact that we aren’t having kids and he’s not a doormat husband, and you can likely guess the types and frequency of comments from other, including family. It’s nice to hear that others face similar issues. Thank you all for sharing!!

  21. Hah, I’m in a non-married-non-engaged otherwise committed relationship and my mother still asks (about my style choices, job, things I do by myself) “What does [s/o] think about that?” and she asks him how he feels about things I do and almost surprised (probably wishfully) that he doesn’t object.

  22. OMG THANK YOU! Im just engaged, my fiance and I are going to wait till we or at least he finishes school before we get married. So we have some time. So people often ask me if we are having kids right away. I always tell them we are going to wait and I tell them why. But people ALWAYS act offended or confused like “why wouldn’t you pop out babies right away? ” Well we would like to get our careers going, travel (traveling with and without kids are two different experiences,) build up some money, etc.

    The travel thing. This has been a thing since we were dating. People, friends, family will always say “how does Alex feel about this? ” He is more then happy to support my traveling and the goals they entail. We were discussing that I might study abroad in NYC for a month or Paris for a semester; I said I would love to do it but I would miss him so much. He feels I should go ahead and do it anyway, things I would love it and kick myself if I don’t.

    Sorry for the rant, what I’m trying to say is YOU GO GIRL! Do your thing and don’t let anyone stop you. Besides your awesome significant otter supports you! Yes I meant otter not other

  23. As a theatre professional / wedding photographer I’m in a similar situation. My job requires that I travel sometimes. Every time someone questions my being away I wonder if they think my husband is incompetent? He can take care of himself for a few weeks. He did for years before I came along.

    • I travel for weeks at a time without that guy I married. People question that all the time: “Wait, aren’t you married?” Yes, how… exactly… does that impact my travel plans? “But what does your husband do when you’re gone?” Enjoys having the house all to himself? Takes care of the animals? Also, drinks way too much Coke without me there to nag him about it, I assume.

      I’m 100% positive that he would not be getting such perplexed questioning if/when he goes on extended trips.

  24. I love this article. It makes me feel more accepted when it comes to having an unconventional marriage.
    See I never really wanted kids until I met my FH. He is why I want them. But after recently being diagnosed with kidney failure we found out that healt wise I may never have them due to it being a risk to my life. Its been a yr simce we got that news anf literally everyone I knoe is having babies. Whrn my mother finally asked when I would give her grand kids (mind you I’m not married yet) I bursted into tears and told her why we plan on being a childless couple. Her first question was dose your fiancé know? Of couse he does. He was there when the doctor told me and a month later he purposed. I often ask him if he’s ok with it and his response is always yes. We’ve talked about adoption but realistically it may not be a possibility in our future. We know that there are other couples in the same situation, but it is hard seeing families be created around us..I often feel left out. So seeing that there are couples who choose not to have kids make me feel like I fit in.

  25. I recently got married myself, and this is so well worded! Thank you for sharing you thoughts and expressing in such a gentle and humble way, that the “right” way to be married or a wife, isn’t really a thing. Wonderfully said, Divamezzo.

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