We’re often told that love and marriage aren’t the same thing and it is ordained that everything will change after marriage. Yet it is not marriage that necessitates these changes, it’s the manner in which we socially conduct affairs of the heart. Nothing changed in my life after I married, and this is why.
Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia
It’s no secret that I had no interest in marriage. It’s not only that it’s a sexist institution that has largely benefited men but also that it is an unnecessary agreement that sanctifies love for the sake of society. My husband and I only married because we couldn’t continue to cohabitate without it because of his job, and we often joke about getting divorced once he retires. I don’t need a legal contract to love him nor do we need legal access to one another’s assets, I would just happily give him my 456 books and he would just happily give me his four precious pairs of shoes. We had the world’s most unromantic proposal and we bought cheapest ring possible to commemorate it. There was no element of surprise and our wedding was nowhere near the most amazing day of our lives.
Part of this resistance I had always had to marriage also had to do with a phrase that is often repeated to couples that are just about to marry. We tell them — Everything changes after marriage.
There isn’t a detailed or uniform explanation for this phrase but based on contextual inference it does mean a few specific things. It means that your relationship will no longer exist independently, once you are married there is a familial aspect that is added to your relationship. In some cases it is a relationship you have to maintain from a distance while in many, many others the woman is expected to embrace the man’s family often as a daily part of her “new life”. She is expected to learn and live within new norms. It means there will be freshly added social expectations that you will be expected to meet as husband and as wife. There will be a merger of your financial affairs, or in some cases, the woman will become the financial charge of her husband. It means that you will begin to cohabitate, which also most often means the woman will move from her home to the man’s (and/or his family’s) or in a more modern setup they will both move to a brand new house together. You be expected to dress different, as a woman, and explain it if you don’t. You have to keep your toothbrush in the same room as where someone else poops. Things do actually change after marriage based on how we currently conduct marriage.
Cohabitation is really the big one, I think. Not that the rest of those things don’t rally around it. In essence, what is different is that until you get married, you don’t have a “life together”. You don’t know how the other prioritizes their money. You don’t know how many hours of sleep they deem necessary. You aren’t overly familiar with one another’s bodily functions. You’ve may have slept together before but you may not have a sexual routine that has developed yet, and you may not even know if you are truly compatible. You don’t know whether the person you are with will suddenly decide a yellow leather couch is a great addition to your house. You should but you may not know where the other really stands on having children. You may not know whether you want to or how it might impact you to change your name. You may have envisioned forever together, but you may not have tasted it yet. With marriage the first taste is often the meal you have already ordered, to eat for the rest of your life, no less.
This isn’t as much about marriage though, as it is about how we conduct relationships. Marriage is a step on the relationship ladder and it shouldn’t be at all. As far as I am concerned if it isn’t something you would be willing to do on Saturday morning in your pajamas, don’t do it at all. Nothing changed about my relationship with my partner after we got married. Nothing. Not my name. Not our address. Not our bank accounts. Not the car we owned. Not the jobs we worked. Not the child who we co-parent. It’s not because we didn’t do any of that (though some of it we really didn’t), it’s because we had done it a long time before we decided to get married.
We met. We fell in crazy, stupid love. We drove around in the rain listening to our favourite songs. We had dinner. We spent the night together. We spent the weekend together. We missed each other. I cooked for him, he cleaned for me. We had a fight. We went away together. We got a cat. We had a conversation about children. We moved in together. We got another cat. We started budgeting together. We met each other’s families. We moved to a different city. We went house-hunting together. We bought furniture. We had our families come stay with us. We had a pregnancy scare. We struggled together financially. We almost got a dog. His son moved in with us. We learnt to parent. And then, after all of that, we got married. At that point, it meant absolutely nothing to do it. We had a life together. We just packed our stuff in one suitcase, put our kid in the car went to my parents house, got married and went back home where the bills we were used to paying and the bed we had perfected to our needs was already waiting for us to return.
Of course, I cannot pretend any of that is free of strife because in this country you have to go to the high court even to assert your right to live freely with whosoever you choose as an adult woman. You have to explain to teachers that you are the guardian to a child whose mother you are not and they look at you like you might be demented. You have fight to get your parents to understand that love is what matters, not what you call it. You have to contend with the people who cannot take your love seriously because you don’t call yourself by your partner’s last name. You have to explain to real estate agents that you don’t want to lie about your marital status. We had to do all of that as well and it wasn’t pleasant but it was still the best decision I have ever made. My husband is not a surprise to me at all, I have seen everything and so has he. We’ve danced with each other’s demons and we’ve held each other through the worst of things. In light of that, marriage means nothing. It means nothing when the only thing you care about is waking up to the joy of being with each other.
There is no responsibility in a relationship, it shouldn’t be the place that brings you stress, it should be the most constant delight in your life. It shouldn’t be hard to make it work. Politics is hard, socializing is hard, work is hard, money is hard but love, love shouldn’t be hard. Yet you cannot know if you feel that way until you have all the information and the way we conduct marriage right now, no one has all the information. You cannot know if you truly love when you’re spending all your time associating all your new familial and social responsibilities with the person you married. So everything it seems to change after marriage.
It doesn’t have to though. Marriage is a speck, love is monumental.