Remember The Lesbians

I’ve started this sentence three times, because I can’t find words to adequately express how excited I am about today’s post. There has been a lot of talk on the blog about wanting to hear about what the term ‘wife’ means from a lesbian or otherwise queer perspective. So, who did I turn to first (more to come, of course)? Well, quite obviously Lisa and Terri. You’ll remember them from their fancy budget wedding, and then their gothic one year anniversary legal Iowa wedding. Oh, and they write the awesome e-comic Godseeker. So here they are, with their post, which pretty much sums up why I think marriage equality is important to EVERYONE. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because the expanding definition of marriage makes all of our unions better, and makes us wiser. And this post taught me the term “role fatigue,” which will give me weeks of thought. So get ready:Lisa (my wife) and I have been talking, on and off, about how we’re utterly baffled at why some people balk at both marriage as an institution, and at the concept of being a “wife”. We understand why not everyone wants to get married, but not why they should by afraid of the institution existing. Here we are, a couple of liberated, over-educated feminists, and all we can do is stare blankly in confusion.

And we’ve come down to this idea- we lucked out by being lesbians. Sure, there’s the oppression, the legal ramifications, and the odd co-worker or stranger that needs a talking-to, but just at the moment, I’m feeling a bit like we won the lottery.

And that’s because we’re new. That as out, married lesbians we are fairly new to this culture as a whole. The media hasn’t ever bothered to tell us yet what a married lesbian couple looks like/acts like/wears/drives/buys to wash their dishes. We’re under the radar of most mass media. And that means there are no rules. There’s nobody to tell us which one of us raises the kids or mows the lawn or washes the dishes or fixes broken toasters.

We’re not a couple that’s easily identified as “butch” and “fem” so for us, society gave us no pre-prescribed roles. Yes, they still tell us what we should drive/wash our clothes with/look like/act like as women, but we’ve been ignoring that for years now. So unlike some of you; we weren’t suddenly hit by a barrage of new societal pressures when we got hitched. That can be a vulnerable time in your life, and the last thing you need is to get hit with a bunch of extra psychological rubble.

Ok, so given the percentages, most of you probably aren’t lesbians. But we still have good news! Our marriage works.

We don’t have any societal roles but we still get by just dandy as a married couple. Which means you straight ladies don’t need the rules either. You might have more pressure to adopt them, I’ll admit, but always remember that you don’t need them. Those rules are bullshit, plain and simple.

If a “rule” doesn’t work for you and your partner, toss it on out the window! The rules are more…guidelines. Not even very good guidelines. In fact, as a graduate student of marriage and family therapy I can mention here that the current “rules” tend to lead to “role fatigue” (that thing you’re worried about in which you get stuck with all the responsibilities of the housewife and the worker and the mother and then you don’t have time to be yourself) which leads to unhappy wives, unhappy husbands, no sex life, and the next thing you know your fighting over who gets to keep the kids in your two year long divorce.

Ok, that might not happen to you. But it sure does happen a lot. Enough to generate a whole lot of studies on it. The main point is that those “rules” really can be toxic- it’s not in your head, no matter what people try to tell you. Which means that for the sake of your marriage, your sanity, and your partners sanity, you really should take a look at what rules you both want to have for your own marriage. Because the rules other people sell you about how you need to cut your hair, take out your piercings, have a baby, and become obsessed with home decor (I am, but that doesn’t mean you have to be) are bullshit.

If a definition of “wife” doesn’t embody the kind of marital partner you are or want to be, then toss it out and make your own! I mean, if the various household chores that come with society’s idea of “wife” are getting done and nobody is being unduly burdened by those tasks–who cares who does it when? The floor is vacuumed. The dinner is cooked. Lets move on.

All a wife is is a female marital partner- any definition more complex than that is just somebody’s personal opinion, which you are no more obligated to follow than when they tell you what to weigh, wear, and watch. Being a wife only means that you’ve chosen someone to stand by and to stand by you, whom you love. If anyone tries to tell you differently, you just remember the lesbians. If we can do it, so can you!

Drawing by Teri & Lisa

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Oh wow. It seems I needed to read this in Plain English to allow all this stuff about "wife" swimming around in my head to make sense. And this makes perfect sense! I get it now! Now I will know what to do when someone makes a stereotypical comment about my role as a new wife – I will take a deep breath, and I will think of the lesbians :) Thank you!

  • I am a newly engaged lesbian and I have recently discovered all things wedding on the internet. I am so happy to see this post on A Practical Wedding! Thank you for letting it be known just how lucky we girls truly are!
    I remember when my fiancee and I moved in together and people said, things will change (in the voice which always means "I know better and it will be bad!") We don't argue about dishes or laundry or housework or garbage or socks on the floor or or or… Any of that gender role bs. And I think Terri hit the nail on the head: we don't have all that societal baggage about how our relationship is supposed to work. We make it up as we go along and we talk about it, and we compromise and we just try to make each other happy.
    And I can't wait to call her my wife. I'll be her's too. And we will still be ourselves, just legally defined as a married unit. (Thank You Canada!)


  • *heart*

  • Lisa and Terri, you are both beautiful and adorable and I want to hug and squish the both of you and then take you out for coffee…

    You're both also very wise. So much of what you and what everyone else keeps saying on here about the roles of bride and wife seem to have the same thread – the rules are there, but you just need to figure out if you like them or not. Recognizing society's impositions on women and men make you one more step closer to figuring out how you feel about the roles and how you're going to react to them. Or if you are going to react at all. When I was taking gender studies classes, I read somewhere that a women's rights activist said that they didn't pave the way for women to abandon being a wife and a mother, they worked to allow women to have the choice. And the fun part is then men also get a choice.
    Which is what I love about Team Practical's posts and comments; They go, "Look, here's the problem with wedding planning or being a bride/wife/mother/woman. But it doesn't HAVE to be a problem…just be aware that it's there and do your own thing. It's whatevs…." And that's why Meg and Team Practical are the awesome.

  • This is a great piece. For a similar topic and equally great perspective, check out

  • Yerin

    I'm really glad to read this post. I felt the same way, and so I really couldn't understand this discussion about reclaiming the concept of "wife". To me, a wife is a female partner. I do all the things I want to do, my fiance does all his things. Some of them line up in traditional gender roles, some don't. Whoop-de-do.

  • Hands down, the best thing I have read on this site to date. And that's saying a lot because there are some gorgeous weddings & pretty righteous discussions that take place on here.

    Oh, and it's nice to finally have a name for what I have been feeling as a mother, (soon-to-be) wife and ambitious woman in general; role fatigue.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

    The final paragraph is begging to be a sticky note on my bathroom mirror.

  • I'm glad to see an active discussion about this topic, but at the same time I find myself rather confused by it from a personal stand point. We have been married about 6 months now and I have to say nothing has really changed in our relationship. Admittidly we had been together for 8 years before getting married, but as we said in our ceremony we saw the wedding as a way for formalising and celebrating a state we felt had existed for a long time. I don't feel like a wife anymore now than I did a year ago… does that mean I was a wife before we got married?
    I don't conform to 'rules' about what women are supposed to do in any other area of my life (I mean come on, I'm an engineer) why would this be different? I just react the same why I would if someone told me I had to do something *because* i'm female and tell them to f-off! And as always Tom is behind me saying 'yeah, we're gonna do it our way so leave us alone!' (he doesn't swear like I do!).
    Having said that I think the post is very thought provoking, maybe things are different in the US than over here in Europe, or maybe I'm just very lucky.


    WOO HOO.

    That. All of it. For everyone.

    Thank you Teri, and Lisa, and of course Meg, who is helping keep me sane as my wedding approaches.

  • Haha, "just remember the lesbians" has got to be the best slogan of all time.
    I actually just blogged about the same kind of thing where people claim that they don't believe in marriage. Which has always kind of confused me.
    But that is some seriously good advice. I will definitely remember the lesbians. Great post!

  • This is brilliant. Thank you, Terri and Lisa. This puts it all into perspective, and really reminds us all that there are no rules/guidelines that we have to conform to. *sigh* I feel like I can breathe again (or at least understand why I feel such pressure to conform to these roles).

    And thanks again, Meg, for starting the conversation.

  • oh. . . my sweet soul. I love it. I love everything about it. I wish I had an intelligent comment with which to explain just how truly lovely and wildly accurate and holy-cow-empowering this is. But I don't. I just have huge eyes and a slack-jawed look of awe. I feel this. I am this. I'm so glad somebody else actually had words to describe it.

  • Meg

    Well, sort of, except what they are saying is that all this cultural garbage is very REAL, and that it can be pretty damaging if you don't watch out. That's why it's worth thinking through and talking about.

    And of course we can let go of it. That's the whole point. I find wife-hood to be fantastic.

  • Thank you lesbians! Just one more thing to add to the list of "stuff lesbians have taught me to do better".

    Seriously though, this is really beautifully and simply put and I appreciate it so much.

  • Excellent! Thanks so much for posting this and to Teri and Lisa for their married insight.

    It's nice to know that others feel as I do: your marriage is your marriage and no one else's opinions should matter about your shared duties and overall lifestyle. They're yours to decide upon and divvy up as you see fit.

  • YES! Thankyou. I want to tell everyone I know to come read this!

  • Lovely!! :D

    You both ROCK!!!

    Much joy, happiness and lurv always to you both,

  • Love it! It's so unconsciously tempting to take the societal template of "wife" as a guide. But in truth, being a wife just means you're someone's partner, however you choose to play that. Thanks for this!

  • Hee – when I read this post, I thought, "Boy, this looks familiar." This could have been written by my partner Desiree and me! ;)

    Great post.

  • How funny–I was just looking at your wedding yesterday and thinking that I had finally found the wedding hairstyle I'd been looking for (I hope that's ok) and here you are the very next day summing up all of the things I try to explain to my straight friends about why being a lesbian is easier. My wife and I are each better at (and more interested in) different things, but because there are no gender rules I can move seamlessly from baking a cake to installing new plumbing and neither of us thinks anything of it other than, 'mmm…frosting.' I'm glad things are as easy for you and your lovely wife! And thanks for putting all of this into words I can send to my mother in law! She needs them.

  • LOVE this. Love. Thank you.

  • best. post. ever.

  • Call me pessimistic, but I have to say I have a more limited idea about what lesbian wives can teach our straight sisters. Sure, we don't have too many models of lesbian wives out there, but I would guess it is far easier to cast off historical wifely baggage and avoid roles when it is a necessity – when your marriage by definition flouts those traditional roles. But my suspicion is that this would be more difficult/complicated when both spouses aren't, like lesbians, in the same boat.

    I'm curious: Are your husbands as interested in casting off their traditional roles as you are? Is anyone married to a man uncomfortable with being a "husband?" I wouldn't be surprised if many (if not most) Practical readers are, but I am really curious if that has been part of the discussion.

    Also, as a lesbian wife, I do feel like I have won the lottery in marrying my partner, but I would frankly take a thousand tons of social pressure to have babies and clean the tub over being in a marriage unrecognized by the state.

    Not that Lisa and Terri are arguing otherwise, and this is sort of an aside, though it does speak to something commenter prettyisa said: I for one am tired of heterosexual friends and colleagues waxing about how it must be so much easier to be in a lesbian marriage. Our marriage is awesome because we work our butts off to make it that way. And we do it despite living in a country where at least half (or more) of the people don't believe it should be legalized, and where it is a daily struggle to be recognized merely as romantic partners, much less wives.

  • Woo hoo!

    Thank you, thank you for this post. This is something which has been doing my head in on some many different levels. I just got engaged in a hetrosexual relationship and the idea of being a wife freaks me out. Not being married – just being a 'wife',

    I am a serious feminist, up until I got together with this guy I never thought I would live with another person again – male or female, let alone get married!

    So thank you for some sanity on this!


  • Meg

    I see what you're saying, but I think you're missing a little bit of the tone here. Terri & Lisa wrote this in a sort of lighthearted in your face kind of way. I've found that when I write like that online (and I do) I get in a lot of trouble with people misreading my tone, taking me 100% literally, and getting enraged. So I'm making note of that here.

    I'm pretty sure EVERYONE here would rather that gay couples had legally recognized marriages – we're all fighting pretty hard for that. And no one thinks being gay is easy. But, that doesn't mean that gay couples can't discuss the strengths of their relationships – and YEAH there are totally strengths – and their differences. Because, yes, I learned things from doing our pre-marital with our lesbian rabbi that I don't think I would have learned with a straight rabbi. She had a different perspective and she asked different questions. That's why more diverse marriage models make all of us stronger.

    As for reclaiming husbands… well… that has been part of the discussion, though I notice it's been rockier (see: man caves). I think there are historically less negatives tied to the *word* husband, but I'd also say that in our particular culture, I feel like I have more choices afforded me as a wife (very imperfect choices, but choices) than my husband has afforded him as a husband (see: lack of paternity leave anywhere that's not San Francisco). I think fixing that side of the equation is necessary to this whole project.

  • @Meg

    I don't think I missed the tone, it's just that I don't share that same lightheartedness about this issue, and as a married lesbian who doesn't, I wanted to bring that perspective into this discussion.

    The fact is, I'm really, really, envious of couples who can get legally married. I'll just put it on the table: I'm jealous! I'm bitter! I wish I had the privilege of weighing whether or not or what kind of wife I want to be, but I'm too busy trying to get people to call me and my wife "wife" in the first place. I'll say it again, just to be clear, I'm bitter, jealous, and angry, and that's why I wrote the response I did. When we're all on the same legal footing I think I'll feel much more comfortable having a lighthearted conversation on this topic.

    You're right – the world is a better place the more models of marriages we have. And you're right too – discussing the strengths of gay marriage is worth doing. But just as there is no one kind of wife, and no one kind of straight marriage, there is no one kind of lesbian marriage. And as a lesbian who feels differently from this post's authors, I wanted to include my voice in the discussion.

    [And just because the tones of these comments can indeed get difficult to parse, I want to go ahead and state that I in no way think that you or any of the readers think there is one monolithic gay kind of marriage. One of the things I love about this community is that everyone is so smart and thoughtful and capable of nuanced discussions.]

  • Meg

    So write me a guest post then, on what wife means to you. It's an open invite…

  • I think this is worth mentioning-

    My wife and I, we're some of the lucky ones. We were born to a liberal, educated, wealthy state, and can, without too much trouble, *buy* all the legal rights of marriage if we need them. It takes a lawyer and 7k, but we can. We have relativly accepting families and have careers with work settings filled with liberal people. Oppression honestly doesn't get to me on a daily basis. Even when I worked at a trucking company as a secratary, nobody ever questioned my use of the word "wife". Not once. So honestly, for us, we feel like we are MORE advantaged than our straight counterparts, for the reasons listed in this post. We know not everyone has that luxury, but we here have the freedom to really focus on it. Not that we wont fight for that sheet of paper from the state, but we both think little enough of the government that it's absence doesn't bother us on a daily or even weekly basis. We make no claims that this is the case for all lesbians, but this is our life.

    Thanks to Debbie for putting things so reasonably, even when bitter. That's not something everyone bothers with!

  • Tree


  • Nina

    @joannezipan: yes, I really do think things are different in Europe. I'm from Finland originally and definitely have a very different impression of what it means to be a wife and mother, and just gender roles in general. The gender roles aren't gone but I feel that societally they are not as enforced – they seem to have found a balance where working and parenting and living can all be done together without anyone having to lose themselves in the process. Taking time for yourself is not a luxury but just part of living.
    The interesting thing is that after 16 years in Canada, I find that I'm feeling some of that pressure to follow the "rules" where apparently women have to run themselves to the ground taking care of everyone and everything even though I know they don't have to be followed. This post was a great reminder of that.. in amongst the societal noise, it really is that simple: just get things done the way it works for you, no assigned roles needed!

  • April

    HELL, YEAH! And so brilliantly written, I'm going to go read it again.

  • This is a really interesting discussion! I have personally felt a lot of angst over becoming a wife, with all the gender baggage that comes with the term, and I love the optimistic idea that we can make a conscious choice to just discard some of that load.

    I also really appreciated Debbie's perspective. Personally, I sometimes get a little uncomfortable with conversations that seem to suggest, on some level, that LGBT relationships are automatically less culturally burdened by gender norms than straight ones. Rather than "remember the lesbians," I would prefer to "remember Terri and Lisa," a seriously cool couple who have some serious stuff figured out. I think we should be careful about stereotyping lesbian relationships, even if its a positive stereotype. Again, I think this is not anyone's intent here, but I wanted to share my own personal response to the discussion.

  • But really, don't you think we need to slow the roll a little on this "all lesbian relationships are perfect" bit? I mean if you really believe that a lesbian relationship is inherently superior to a straight one, then why aren't you saying that you are converting? I mean why would any one choose to be in problematic relationship when there is a problem free alternative available? Are you a masochist?

    This idea of assigning a higher value to one type of sexual orientation than another is very dishonest. It was only when someone pointed out that actually lesbians differ too much for generalities, that it was asserted that it was not really meant to be taken seriously. Lol!

    Gender roles have little to do with the quality of relationships. That's indicated by looking at single sex workplaces. Workers do not all get along perfectly well because they are all the same sex. There are different personalities, different temperaments, different characters. Individuals

    Oh, and believe it or not, domestic violence occurs in lesbian relationships. Also arguments, breakups, sexual incompatibility.

  • Abso-freakin-lutely =) xxx

  • Cat

    First off, I love that this post focuses on some of the positive aspects of queer relationships. I agree, being gay isn't always a walk in the park but I think we get flooded with the difficult coming out stories/homophobia/inequality. I have always thought that the positive stories are what is missing from the equality debate. The wider community should hear that we are happy, loving people in positive relationships as often as they hear that we need equality because of the negative impacts of discrimination. Our similarities are stronger than our differences.

    ANYway, before I completely deviate from the point: AWESOME! I was one of those people that didn't want to get married because I didn't want to be a 'wife', until this very lightbulb went off (though not even nearly as coherently, once again wildly impressed that Team Practical takes my thoughts and makes sense of them). I think I'm going to print this post and hand it out to everyone that questioned the sudden 180 in my thinking.

    And, my wife would LOVE a 'Remember the Lesbians' tshirt, you guys should definitely market that ;)

  • @Punup

    Uhm, nobody (especially Terri and I) are saying that lesbain relationships are perfect. 'Cause that would have been…weird. I mean, we're happy, but I wouldn't even call our relationship perfect. What we were trying to say is that lesbians, as a general classification, tend to have already bucked some fairly large social-pressures, and it is therefore a bit easier to avoid/ignore/throw out the MASSIVE amount of new crap that society tends to heap onto women when they become a "wife." And-this was the important part- we're still happy.

    That is what people are reading as empowering and good to hear. That being a wife doesn't actually mean what society is telling people it does–and that "The Lesbians" can prove it. This isn't empowering because gay/lesbian relationships are better then straight ones–it's empowering because even though they are different–they still work.

    also…I really love saying "The Lesbians" in a movie announcer voice.

  • Meg

    Guys – sharing thoughts is rad, psydo-attacking is not. It's really important to me that this space stay (as much as possible) a place that people can share thoughts without freaking out, "If I say 'remember the lesbians,' because it's cool and funny, will people be offended that I said lesbians?"

    I'm going to share what someone said to me in email yesterday – which was that it was SO great to see gay relationships discussed in a positive way, instead of just in a negative, things are hard/ things are unequal way. And I think that's important. No one's perfect, no one is saying being a lesbian is better (and it's not a choice, so lets put that on the table). But what's being said here is valid.

    Please keep it civil. I'd rather not have to moderate/ close comments.

  • As a lesbian who's also a wedding photographer, I was so glad to read this post. All too often women get caught up in what they believe they should be in a relationship instead of focusing on who they want to be and who they really are. During the wedding planning process some women can lose sight of their partnership and start focusing on the wedding they've dreamed about which can seem void of their person in moments. I love that we as lesbians get to define our own roles with one another. I want more clients like you two! Thanks for the post!
    (Emma Freeman Photography based in Minneapolis)

  • Just want to clarify my earlier comment, which may have been a little misunderstood. I LOVE this post and I think its wonderful to have more voices talking about what makes being a lesbian great, not just the hard stuff. I also think its awesome and really funny to imagine Lisa saying "The Lesbians" in a movie announcer voice. :)

    Its just that sometimes I have heard people, especially straight women, make comments about how they "wish they were lesbians," because it would be so much "easier." No one here is saying that at all. But people do say things like that, and I think those kinds of comments have made me sensitive, maybe hypersensitive, to how positive stereotyping can be unhelpful, even offensive, especially to those of us who are in or who have been in lesbian relationships that are really difficult at times. That's all I really meant to say, and I hope it will be taken as a constructive addition to the conversation, not a critique of this wonderful post!

  • MWK

    Late to the party, as always, but I wanted to just say thanks for the post, I really enjoyed it. Terri and Lisa, thanks for writing such a great post and then being so classy about discussing it in the comments.
    On another note (that my or may not make me seem creepy): I live in Minneapolis and I think of your wedding each time I drive past the Harrington Mansion – it puts a smile on my face.

  • Cate Subrosa

    Remember. The. Lesbians.

    Wow, I think that's my new mantra.

    Brilliant post. Thank you.

  • Great post.

  • I just realized how incredibly lucky I am in my relationship. My fiance doesn't make me feel pressured to be "wife-y" and he sure as hell cooks, loads the dishwasher, and changes the cat litter box when it needs to be done (and so do I). I've never had any negative thoughts associated with being a wife, and I think that is a testiment to how happy we are and how well we just…work.

    This post was undoubtedly eye-opening and relavent, and TRUE! props to you, and congrats on being some of the first married in the gay-marriage movement!

  • "Remember the lesbians" really is a great slogan.

    Also, I feel lucky to have a (European) partner who doesn't expect that our relationship/roles will change once we're married and to not have to negotiate those kinds of decisions. (Now if only his family felt the same way… ;)

  • What an insightful piece! I say it's easier to break the rules if you don't know what they are in the first place. And yes, as a lesbian couple, society hasn't hemmed you in with rules–yet.

    Even those of us who consider ourselves rule-flaunters often don't realize how societal expectations subconsciously affect our roles and decisions. One must be ever-vigilant to live ones live genuinely and ingeniously.

    This piece is a great reminder.

  • mollie

    oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!!! when i expect more and different acts from my male partner, it’s sometimes tough from a societal/cultural standpoint. he’s very open, and we do things that the “other is supposed to do,” but i want to keep challenging that idea when it makes sense and not necessarily have to explain it. nor will i accept “that’s what men do” and just accept “my role.” BS!

  • Gigi

    It’s a year and a half after this discussion started, so I’m really late to the party. BUT, I can finally legally marry my partner and we can become wives. Neither of us has used the word ‘wife’ to describe each other – ever, and it’s been more than 15 years. I’m finding that the switch from ‘partner’ to ‘wife’ is imbued with much more meaning than I ever though it would be. Not that anything will change between us, but it is surprising how much emotion we attach to certain words. This probably doesn’t add anything to the conversation, other than to acknowledge that we are all working through a societal change now. It will be interesting to see how accepted norms & traditions change as same sex marriages become more prevalent.

  • LifeSheWrote

    I love this! Thank you!

  • Pingback: Queering Romantic Relationships | Introduction to Women's Studies()