When I started the Reclaiming Wife section of APW, it was because the word wife felt terrible, archaic, insulting, and something I wasn’t. It wasn’t that I had a problem with the word, it was that I had a problem with the connotations. (A simple google image search of the word should reveal why. Ick.) And while we’ve talked a lot on APW about making, and not making, that word our own, we haven’t talked a lot about the word husband. So I’m delighted to welcome Joanna of A Lil O’ This today, talking about how she’s thinking about the word. I can’t wait to read your discussion.
Let me start by saying that I absolutely adore the man I married. He’s hilarious, fun, supportive and, as he says, always on my side. I just don’t want to call him husband.
Matt and I have been married for almost three years, so if I were planning to come around to this whole “husband” thing I would probably have gotten there.
When a friend of mine got married, she spent much of the reception telling everyone how excited she was to call her new spouse “husband.” She used the word as much as she could that night and was joyous that she was finally allowed to be forever aligned with the man she loved and to call him, happily, her husband.
My experience was not quite the same. I don’t think I called Matt “husband” the day we got married, although friends and family did find it (understandably) fun to ask me where my husband was all night. A few months into our marriage, I realized I was avoiding the word to a degree. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel “me.” And I think I finally figured out why.
It feels archaic. It feels symbolic of a role he doesn’t play and like a counterpart to a role I don’t play. I’ve yet to find much joy in many of the stops along the traditional marriage life path.
- I didn’t want a diamond. It felt like something I was supposed to want, but didn’t.
- I didn’t change my name when we got married. It felt like giving up a part of myself I wasn’t willing to part with.
- I wasn’t sure I wanted a church wedding, although we ended up doing it for our families, a decision I’m still unsure of.
- I don’t feel a yearning in my loins to bear children. I’m not even sure I like children.
I don’t call him “husband” and he rarely calls me “wife.” Those words feel like what our grandparents used to describe the roles they led. My grandmother, for example, made dinner every night decked out in pearls. My grandfather, on the other hand, sat at the dinner table expecting meat and potatoes and maybe a deliciously neon Jello cup for dessert. Did he help with dinner? No. Did he help clean up? No.
These are the people I think about when I think of an example husband and wife. And these people are not me. Or my husband.
I think a part of me is terrified of becoming that traditional wife with a traditional husband. So I reject everything that embodies those roles, including the words I associate with them. “Wife” I am not, but I do cook (because I love it) and clean (because I hate roaches). “Husband” Matt is not, but he does take care of the lawn (because it’s relaxing) and grill a mean steak (because it’s fun). Sure, there may be some tradition to the roles we embody, but it’s because we want to, not because we have to, and that makes all the difference.
Matt’s “husband” role has best friend written all over it. He pushes me to be a better person, encourages my ever-changing ambitions and works with me as we both struggle (for the seventeenth time) to decide if having children is in our life plan. He’s my love, my partner and my companion for, as our wedding rings say, as long as the journey will let us. But I’m not calling him husband.