So next time you ask a married friend, “How are you?”, make sure you ask in the singular as well as the plural, advises Mary B.
I’m not sure at what point it happened. Whether after the first few dates, or when we changed our relationship status on Facebook, or when we said ‘I do’ a few months ago. But Etienne and I are now a ‘we’. And I’m not sure I like it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being married
I love that I’m now someone’s ‘wife’ and that we build a home together, even if that does mean dirty socks never quite finding their way into the laundry basket and an endless loop of sci-fi series (seriously, how many can there be?). I’m just not quite sure that I like other people no longer seeing me as just me.
I’m just not quite sure that I like other people no longer seeing me as just me.
You see, about a week ago during coffee with a friend (and before you ask, no, she’s not married and no, she wasn’t just being a cow), somewhere between the first and second latte she arched an eyebrow and asked, “So, how are you?”
Without hesitation I flew into a whirlwind of chatter about my new job, my new boss, my new shoes, my new mother-in-law, only for her to re-arch her eyebrow and state, a little more pointedly, “No, I mean you. You know, you and Etienne?”
I looked at her, confused
No, actually, I didn’t know that I no longer existed. I didn’t know that ‘you’ and ‘I’ had turned into a collective pronoun meaning not me at all, but ‘us’ or ‘we’. Childish, maybe, but I felt a little annoyed. Since when did I answer as ‘we’?
Had I lost my Mary-B self somewhere between the altar and the first dance, now forever tied to answering on behalf of both myself and my husband? “Do you mean how is our relationship doing?” I asked, still perplexed. “No, I just mean, well…everything is about you guys together now, isn’t it?” she responded, confused by my confusion.
And the thing is, she’s not the first person to think like this
In fact, I feel as though when I don’t respond on behalf of both Etienne and me as a default– regardless of whether someone’s referred to me in the singular or, heck, even used my name – I’m somehow insinuating that our marriage is already on the rocks; that I’ve made a Freudian slip alluding to late-night arguments and separate beds.
I’ve even caught myself intentionally including Etienne in my ‘I’ to avoid stirring the gossip pot. And then I kick myself for being sucked into the ‘we’ community.
I don’t like that I’m not a me – just me – anymore
I don’t like that I’m identified first as the wife of someone and then as an individual. I don’t like that I’m apparently supposed to know intuitively exactly what Etienne is thinking, doing and feeling.
I don’t like that I’m apparently supposed to know intuitively exactly what Etienne is thinking, doing and feeling.
And besides, even if I had somehow worked out all of those things, what on earth suddenly turned me into Etienne’s PA – conveyor of his thoughts and emotions, schedule and plans? I mean, what happened to asking him yourself?
Perhaps I’m getting overly sensitive
Perhaps it’s those post-wedding blues kicking in, where you overcompensate against coupledom because, well, you’re now legally coupled for life. (Which is a scary thought, however much in love you are.) And really, when I think about it rationally, it’s not that I mind sharing with my friends how Etienne and I have been doing, together.
It’s just that there’s more to me than that, even though I’m married. I haven’t been swallowed up in my husband’s life since our marriage any more than before our nuptials. I don’t keep his diary or answer on his behalf any more than when we were first dating.
I still have my own life, my own job, my own ideas, my own opinions.
I still have my own life, my own job, my own ideas, my own opinions. So it’d be nice if people didn’t assume that marriage has turned me into an opinionless housewife who can do little, say little, or feel little without her husband safely by her side.
And guess what? Sometimes the last thing I want to talk about is Etienne
Sometimes the last thing I want to talk about is ‘us’. Sometimes I just want to kick back and be me, and answer questions about me – and only me – and not think about being a wife for a whole 45 minutes and a glass of wine.
Does that make me a terrible wife and an awful person? I don’t think so, but frankly, I don’t care, because it certainly helps keep me a sane person. And that’s in everyone’s favour, but most especially, Etienne’s. (Trust me, he’ll be the first to agree!)
So yes, ask how we’re doing…but then ask how I’m doing and see those two questions as very different things, with very different answers. Because, guess what? I may be married – happily married, I might add – but I’m still my own person.
Article by Mary B, first published on Change Exchange