The post-wedding sexism guide: Be prepared for these bizarre encounters…

Guest post by Cariad on Toast
Wilton Ball and Chain "Humorous" Cake Topper... yeah...
Wilton Ball and Chain “Humorous” Cake Topper. Um, yeah… this is part of the problem.

This post is not about weddings, it's about the thing that comes after, the thing that a great deal of the wedding industry doesn't give a flying one about; the marriage. I know right, who wants to talk about marriage? Bor-ing. But bear with me, that's sort of the point.

I got married in a little ceremony at the local windmill with our immediate family, a shit load of cake and a basket of custom temporary tattoos. It was an awesome way to celebrate tying the knot with my partner of ten years, and for the first six months after the wedding, most people greeted us with the same question; “How's married life?”

“The same,” we'd answer, in unison, like we were hell bent on morphing in to a post-marital two-headed monster. And we said that because it was the truth — our relationship was, for the most part, exactly the same. We still hung out with our friends on weekends, texted each other at work, and spent most evenings in our pajamas playing Playstation.

But it wasn't the full truth, because we had noticed a difference, a huge difference actually. But it wasn't us that had changed, it was how everyone else saw us…

You might not notice it now, because our culture appears besotted with the search for The One and having that Big Fat Dream Wedding, but marriage doesn't have the greatest reputation. Wives are even more unpopular. I read every blog going about being a feminist bride — “Can my father walk me down the aisle?” “Should I change my name?” “Is it un-feminist to wear a wedding ring?” — but I didn't come across anything about being a feminist wife, and as a result I was thoroughly unprepared for the post-wedding sexism I was about to encounter.

I'm not trying to suggest that as a white, monogamous cis-het couple, we are facing extreme prejudice or stigma here. I know we get all the privileges and then some. But, if you're about to get married, it might pay to be prepared for some of the bizarre encounters you are probably going to have with friends, family and colleagues in the days and weeks after the wedding.

So here's the scoop…

From day one, you are fighting against the idea that marriage is shit, and you, the wife, are probably a bitch

Subconsciously or not, as a newly married couple you spend every day trying to prove that your marriage is not boring, because absolutely everything around you tells you it must be. And every time you are too drunk or too tired or too full of pasta to fuck, you look at your partner's back turned away from you and think “Shit, is this it? Is it happening to us?”

Whenever someone addressed me by name, they'd immediately correct themselves with “Or should I say, Mrs…”

Then they'd throw to me, with a cheesy grin, for the big reveal of my new name. When I told them it was the same as before, no one even tried to hide their disappointment. True story: I was even told there was no point in getting married if I wasn't going to change my name. Seven months later, every Christmas card that arrived in the post was addressed to “Mr and Mrs My Husband's Name.”

“The Old Ball and Chain”

Probably the most surprising sexism I encountered was that for a couple of weeks, every time I said anything to my husband, like “could you please pass me X” or “do you think we should do Y”, the people around us would wink and laugh and elbow each other with a round of “Ooh, look who is under the thumb! Better do what the Mrs says! Old ball and chain, eh?” Wink, wink, wink.

I had no idea what to do the first time this happened, and to be honest I still don't know what the correct reaction is. As society has repeatedly told me, on the day I got married I also became a controlling, passive aggressive, sex-withholding, rolling-pin wielding burden on my partner. Lucky him, right?

Fortunately, my husband is a cool guy, who knows I am the same awesome person as before. But every myth, no matter how cheery it seems, has the danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, because you have such heightened awareness of any part of it that starts to ring true.

Consider this your warning

Chances are, by the time you make it up the aisle (or cave tunnel or forest path or whatever cool thing you're doing), you're going to be pretty hardened to the sexist shitstorm that is getting hitched. But just in case you thought you were home-free after you'd opened the last gift plastered with a bespangled “Mr and Mrs” across the front, consider this your warning that there's more to come.

And do not, for one second, allow the haters to make you doubt that you are still the sexy, fun, independent person (and partner) that you were before you said “I do.”

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Comments on The post-wedding sexism guide: Be prepared for these bizarre encounters…

  1. Completely agree.

    I did change my last name, but I still go by Ms. HisLastName, not Mrs.

    My paternal grandmother in particular seemed kind of offended by this. “But it’s an honour to be a Mrs!” As if women should be honoured by being expected to tell everyone their sexual availability before they even tell them their name.

    Also, my husband is a really soft-spoken guy, whereas I tend to end up in facebook arguments about sexism (someone is wrong on the internet! etc.). And when people do that “old ball and chain *wink wink* *nudge nudge*” thing, I’m put in a position where I either have to smile and imply agreement with them, or tell them to cut it out and, in their minds, prove them right. Even if it doesn’t seem like it because of our personalities and different ways of dealing with conflict, our relationship is an equal partnership. Like, if he wants to go for a guy’s weekend with his friends or something, he doesn’t have to “ask my permission,” but we would discuss it beforehand.

    The idea that I’m either controlling his every move or he does whatever he wants without so much as mentioning anything to me first is ridiculous. Neither of those scenarios are how healthy relationships work, but sexist people will act like those are the only options.

    • On the note of Ms. versus Mrs., I hate, hate, HATE when people treat Ms. like an abbreviation of Miss. No! It’s not the same thing! The entire POINT of Ms. is that it’s a direct analogue to Mr. and you can use it whether or not you’re married! So you’re absolutely right to keep using Ms. even though you’re married and took your husband’s name.

      • For the longest time, I thought Ms was only used by divorced women and that I wasn’t *allowed* to use it. I still occasionally feel like I’m doing something wrong by using it by choice.

  2. Yikes – despite being married before, I NEEDED THIS!! (because it was totally an issue last time)

    Shortly after my now fiance and I became officially a couple, one of his friends started complaining that he was never up for anything fun now that he’s “wifed up.” Fortunately, my Fiance decided that we didn’t need that kind of negativity in our lives and said friend usually doesn’t make the guest lists at our events, nor do we go to his. We stick to hanging around awesome people who love us as a couple and as individuals.

    Work, I’m sure, will be another issue, so these are good things to remember!

  3. One issue I’ve encountered with sexism after marriage, is suddenly, now that “there’s a ring on it”, everyone expects me to be baby-hungry, and that within six months (it has now been 7) of marriage, I should be pregnant.
    Or trying to get pregnant.
    Or planning on getting pregnant.
    Or thinking about when I should plan on getting pregnant.
    Getting married does not change the fact that we both have debt. That I have two jobs. That we work odd hours. That we have multiple side-projects that just dont work with babies right now.
    My only blessing is he gets asked this almost as often as I do.
    Suddenly, now that we’re married, all this has miraculously gone away. Obviously, right? lol
    People are asking me things that they never would have even thought about asking a mere seven months ago.
    It’s boggling.

    • Yeeeessss. I’ve always known I don’t want children and my husband was on the same page. But the second we were married, people insisted on telling me that I was going to “change my mind now.” I even had one person ask me, “Why did you get married if you won’t have kids?”

      Um, because we wanted to?

      • Ah yes. The magical switch that putting a wedding band on my engagement ring turns on.
        >Click< Wut? Married? BAAAAAYYBBEEEZZZ!!!
        We actually had a talk before the wedding about "is no kids a deal-breaker" and we're both happy to be "A Married Couple" right now.
        I got married cuz I wanted to say "HUSBANDO!" all the time to him.
        (no really we did cuz it was important to us – not for any breeding prerogatives)

    • I have 3 male cousins that are all married and none of them wanted kids and neither did their wives. Instead they have furry kids, kids with hooves and kid airplanes lol I hate that people think just because we get married and are female the first thing we want to do is have babies. I know a lot of couples that don’t plan on ever having kids and think that’s great. Everyone is different and has different plans for their lives.

  4. My husband & I had been living together for 4 years by the time we got married. During that time my dude had been working full time and me as a nanny but it was hard for me to lock down a nanny gig long term, I’d just do it for as long as the family needed me and then face some unemployment in between. We were both perfectly fine and happy with this arrangement, me not always having a job, he didn’t mind supporting us. My family never really let me feel okay about this situation until we got married. My mom literally came to me and said, “I’ve decided I’m okay with your arrangement now. Yeah. I like it, it’s fine. You’re married and you stay home and he takes care of you and that’s fine.” I didn’t say anything, I was honestly speechless, as if this whole time I had been waiting for her approval of my life. For fuck’s sake… anyway my point is, now that we’re married it’s fine, expected even, but I was a freeloader up until the exchange of vows… :/

    • Eh, especially for older generations, marriage was the way you two truly committed to each other, and everything up to that was just testing the waters. Your mom was probably worried that he would leave you and you would be homeless and unemployed. Of course, I only know the like three sentences you stated, so… lol. But I could see my mom worrying about that kind of thing. And she would, because of her upbringing, see marriage as making it all okay. It’s not great, but it comes from a place of love, don’t forget that. 🙂

      • He had been my best friend for 12 years and my boyfriend for 5 years by the time we got married, to my knowledge no one we know has ever had any doubts about our relationship, especially our parents.

        I really think that for her it just looked better to tell people that I’m married when they ask about me because, for a woman, that’s enough said. What’s Katie doing with her life now? “Oh she’s married.”

        • I should add, to clarify, that I just think it’s silly that marriage suddenly made it okay. I don’t know why that should have anything to do with it. Not that anyone else should get to have an opinion on our financial situation but if they’re going to anyway I just don’t want to be seen as just “married” now. Like I AM married, but that’s not my whole life.

  5. I’m three years married now and I’m still getting exactly what you’re talking about. It’s dwindling (finally), but the two big ones I’m still getting are if we need to discuss something that I don’t want to discuss in front of others (I’m pretty shy and self conscious, and my hubby knows if I’m in front of anyone but him that sometimes I will not speak up if something is bothering me because I don’t like the fuss of speaking up), there are definitely comments and looks along the lines of ‘oooh, they’re gonna argue!’ which is not at all what we do.
    I also still get “happy wife, happy life” which is the worse phrase ever. I get it mostly from my sister in law and mother in law, any time hubby and I talk about doing something I’m more interested in than him. I actually got frustrated enough last time they said it to tell them I didn’t like that phrase because it’s not about my happiness, his is just as important and they both said that no, my happiness should make him happy and that should be enough.

    • I don’t mind the ‘happy wife, happy life’ phrase. In my head I always turn it into ‘happy spouse, happy life’ because his happiness is just as important as mine. If you’re always supporting and looking out for each other you’ll be happy. I was in a relationship where it was about my partner’s happiness and not mine. No relationship should be so lopsided. I totally get where your frustration is stemming from.

  6. My favorite response to “how’s married life?” is “much the same as living in sin”.

    I can’t say that I’ve gotten the ball and chain stuff too much from other people, but I have noticed that I’ve externalized some of it. I find myself saying stuff like “I’m sorry, I’m being a nag aren’t I?” or “Am I being too controlling?” (usually about financial stuff). Husband is pretty good at reminding me that I’m not suddenly a bitch just because we got married and telling me “No, you aren’t being a nag, I need to get that done” or “No, you aren’t being controlling, I appreciate you taking charge of that.” But it’s telling that I’m more concerned about becoming the “ball and chain” then he is concerned about becoming chained.

  7. The first Christmas holiday after our wedding when we went to visit his family – I had a horribly sprained ankle and lagged behind a bit – we were greeted at the door with shrill shrieks of “Where’s wifey? I wanna see your wifey! Where did your wifey go??” from his sister and then echoed by his aunts.
    Granted I was not in a good mood from ankle pain but I managed to his under my breath “I have a name for fucks sake”, which cued him to get her to stop, at least for the moment.
    Now, endlessly, his family refers to me as “Your Wife” “The Wife” and “Wifey” – as if my individual identity as an autonomous human being has been wiped away.

  8. SO TRUE! I’m a lucky one in that I was expecting some of this prior to getting married, and I haven’t gotten a lot of it since getting married (hurrah for feminist and modern friends and family!) I have gotten a bunch from his family, and it drives absolutely bonkers. I have told my SIL many times that I do NOT like being addressed as Mr & Mrs Husbands First and Last name, and that it was a close thing for me to even change my last time. I’ve only been married since Sept, and I’ve gotten 4 things from her addressed that way AH! She also disapproves of the fact he does more housework and cooking than I do at the moment. He lost his job where I still work full time, and I’m still suppose to do all the traditional female roles in the house? If it was the other way around they wouldn’t question me doing the lion share of the housework while he worked full time. Boggles the mind!

  9. Since I wore a white dress (even though it was short and cost about $115), and my husband bought me an engagement ring (I tried to buy him an engagement watch–he didn’t want one), apparently that means that I’m not allowed to keep my name upon marriage.

    Y’all, I think I’ve figured out why some dudes are sooooo confused by consent. They seem to think that if you agree to A, you agree to the entire alphabet.

    • I’m changing surname, but mostly because I like his surname more than my own!

  10. That ball and chain stereotype needs to die in a fire. Although I had to laugh at the lead image because I totally got BDSM vibes. Maybe a D/S couple with a female domme can reclaim the imagery? Has that been done?

  11. Ugh, I hate hate hate the “old ball and chain” stereotype. One of our friends actually bought my husband a t-shirt that literally had a bride figure and a groom figure with a ball and chain around his ankle and said, “Game Over” to wear to his bachelor party (which was laser tag). We were both pretty furious.

    • It’s even a big thing *at* weddings which I really don’t understand. I hate those cake toppers with the bride dragging the groom along, or the cutesy little signs and glasses that say “I do” and “I do what she says” or “Mr Right” and “Mrs Always Right”. Like ew. Just don’t get married if you hate it so damn much. My Fiancee will occasionally jokingly say “yes dear” when I ask him to do something and it makes me feel so awful. Like I’m some nagging bitch and like he doesn’t really care. He’s just roboticaly going along.

  12. My usual response “that sexist sh!t is not going to be tolerated around here so you better watch what you say.” That shuts them up real quick haha.

  13. I haven’t even been engaged for a month, and I was NOT prepared for the flood of sexist comments that came under the guise of congratulations. My fiance is a male high school teacher at an all-boys school, and there’s a very masculine, sexist culture that exists among the male teachers. We received an overwhelming amount of ‘congratulations’ in the form of “Congratulations to Mr Molony, soon he’ll join the ball-and-chain club”, or “remember, Mr Molony, from now on you won’t have to think anymore, because your wife knows everything”.

    I think what bothers me the most about these kind of comments is that they’re completely generalised and make you feel like your relationship all of a sudden is now being slotted into this abominable stereotype of the bitchy controlling wife and the long-suffering husband.

  14. Sigh! I will say every year I have more & more brides requesting to NOT be introduced for their Grand Entrances as….”Now for the first time Mr. & MRS. His-Name.” Brides are doing first name intros and skipping the “Mrs His-Name” thing with more frequency.

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