The Anti-Wife: Marriage In The Age Of Feminism Jul09

Share This

The Anti-Wife: Marriage In The Age Of Feminism

When I was single, I thought that maybe dating a heterosexual couple would be a good idea (I’m attracted to both sexes). They could do boring things like game night and going to Ikea with each other, then call me when it was time for dinner in nice restaurants and sex afterwards.

Everybody would win! I could be my restless, commitment-phobic self and have all the benefits of a real relationship.


Unfortunately, my brilliant dating-a-couple idea was never put into action, because I met J. He shared my hatred of Monopoly and Ikea, and seemed unperturbed by my tumultuous life.

“I don’t want to be anyone’s wife,” I told J on more than one occasion. “I belong to myself!” I insisted. I was desperately afraid that to marry J would lessen my commitment to myself, to my personal growth and desires.

What if I woke up one morning and wanted to move to Peru? What if I couldn’t be monogamous for a lifetime? As my relationship with J deepened and grew, I pondered these questions.

The word “wife” had never been a term I wanted applied to me. It seemed submissive and weak, like to use that label was to lay down for the patriarchy. After all, women have a history of being chattel, of not being able to vote, of even being legally raped by their husbands.

In the United States, those things have changed, but the terminology has not. I didn’t realize that to be a feminist and a wife can be a radical act, one that helps change the institution of marriage.

For me, being a married feminist has been an education. I have learned that I have a bad case of righteous indignation when it comes to cleaning up after I’ve cooked, even if J literally has no time to clean.

To me, it’s okay to do the cooking or the cleaning, but if I do both I’m being treated like that traditional “wife” I so dread being.

Early in our relationship, we ended up hiring a housekeeper to come every two weeks, because J was so busy and I am both messy and not about to do all the cleaning, particularly for a male partner.

These are small things, but to me they have felt big. Our apartment has been my personal feminist battleground, our relationship the one piece of the world I can really change (so far!).

I’ve also learned that I can be kind and tender without losing ground. I can be vulnerable and let J take care of me, show weakness and not be judged.


Ultimately, it was J who changed my mind about marriage. Despite being a highly masculine man, he is as passionate about women’s rights and status in the world as I am.

He owns his masculinity in the best possible way; he is strong but gentle, and always has his own thoughts and opinions. J isn’t afraid to stand up to me, to treat me like a true equal who is worthy of both respect and honesty.

He never brought marriage up unless I did, but the way J treated me made me realize that commitment to him could be about love, instead of a loss of self. When it took six months of hell to stabilize my bipolar disorder, J was steadfast and positive, but never condescending.

When my beloved horse died, he kept me supplied with tequila and listened to countless stories about her. He saw my flaws and weaknesses and loved me for them, instead of trying to change or shackle me.

Two years into my relationship with J, I found myself looking at rings online. I wanted a symbol that I was his, even if I still didn’t want to marry him.


He saved up and bought me a beautiful silver band. When he put it on my ring finger one windy night in Seattle, I cried and then called my best friend to share the moment.

A few months later, on New Year’s Eve, J’s brother told me that J was afraid to ask me to marry him, because he (reasonably) thought I would say no. In that moment, I realized that marrying J wouldn’t be the sacrifice I had feared so much.

I took him aside and told him, with the forthrightness of the very drunk, that I would say yes if he proposed.

We got engaged in a highly sentimental Valentine’s Day proposal and were married a few months later. With marriage came a feeling of being teamed up against the world and the problems we faced.

I didn’t change my name (to the surprise of no one), and J didn’t expect me to. I did, however, start using the word “wife.”

J and I have a decidedly nontraditional marriage, but it’s still a marriage, in the best sense of the word. We’re not equals in a rigid, everything-split-down-the-middle way, but we compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

Instead of the prison I was so afraid of, marriage has been freeing. I feel accepted enough to let my flaws show, enough to let my competitive, ambitious nature run wild.

Because neither of us believes in enforced gender roles, we can define the terms “husband” and “wife” for ourselves.


It is J who pushes me to be my best self, who understands my anxieties and quells them. Instead of losing myself to the gale force of committed love, I feel free to evolve as a person.

I know that even when I don’t recognize myself, he does. To be his wife is to have a tether in the storm; our marriage is my safety net as I pursue my ambitions.

Marriage has expanded my definition of feminism, of what it means to be myself. Sharing myself with J has felt like a radical act, one that has pushed me to be more open-minded and more caring.

Marriage has changed me, but not in the way I feared. Living out my ideas about equality has forced me to examine them, to become less rigid and more realistic.

Together, J and I have created something modern and flexible, part of the new reality of marriage.

Image Credit: Kate Magazine

Image Credit: The Feminist Bride

Image Credit: A Voice For Men

Image Credit: Soda Head