I don’t know anything about being a wife yet, so hopefully that headline didn’t fool you into thinking you’d find advice here. Instead, I wanted to share this essay: The Emotional Weight of Being a Wife. With a week left to go before my wedding, it resonated with me, and I think it will resonate with many women who have been in a heterosexual relationship.
I have spent some time over the past 15 months thinking about what it means to be a wife, and more specifically, what it will mean for me. Ultimately, I don’t think much will change about my identity. This will still be kaitlinugolik.com. My bylines won’t change either. I’ll still let dishes pile up in the sink a little too long and go some days without makeup and talk baby talk to my cat until my husband rolls his eyes (and then joins in). I’ll still be a writer and a perfectionist (although I’m working on that one) and an appreciator of all kinds of birds and cheese and books. The main difference, I predict, will be that I will be all of those things, and also part of a new family. That’s how I see what we’re doing, he and I. We’re creating a new family. It may or may not ever include children, and it will certainly include various types and numbers of animals over the years, but it will be a family, a unit of love and support.
Love and support take work, and while my almost-husband is kind and gracious and pulls his weight in many ways, it didn’t come naturally to him to do emotional family work. I don’t think it comes naturally for a lot of men, for various reasons that I won’t get into now but that essentially boil down to conditioning, in my opinion. So when I read the above piece, it was easy to empathize. So many women see the work that needs to be done and try to point it out to their partners, but something gets lost. And it gets tiring to always be the one to point it out. In one conversation I saw about this piece on Facebook, a woman said she told her partner she wanted to set aside time each week to do relationship work – talk about things that are going well and not so well, ask about each other’s needs and whether they’re being met – and he asked her which of his other relationship-related tasks – cooking, doing dishes, etc. – she would like him to skip in order to have time for this talk.
In a way, this may be an issue of mismatched “love languages.” Some people express and best receive love through acts, some through words, some through physical touch, etc. But there does seem to be a major commonality between many relationships in which women feel like they’re the only ones acknowledging the relationship – the family – as its own living, breathing thing that needs attention. Whatever the reason for that, I’m glad it’s being written about, and I hope it inspires a lot of important conversations and self-advocacy from both wives and husbands. And I’m looking forward to continuing to navigate this whole family thing in an official marriage very soon!