I am his wife, was not always so easy for me to say.
When we were first married, I asked the man I married not to introduce me as his wife. I asked him to introduce me by name and then add that we were married:
“This is Christine. We are married.”
I love him. I honor him. I do not own him.
I, also, did not want to be owned. In fact, my ex potential in-laws (from way back) once told me to give up the women’s lib bullshit, and marry their son due to our circumstances (I was pregnant). That, and a miscarriage, were ultimately the end of my relationship with their son.
I spent a period of time, after that particular relationship ended, being destructive, then finding myself and learning about what I wanted (and didn’t want) in my life. Fast forward through some other life changing events, some major introspection and almost two years consciously alone and I had it all figured out.
I knew what my future would hold—single, a child at some point, a major career, owner of some real estate, etc. Then the universe, this grand idea I believe in, made its plans abundantly clear.
On May 9, 1998, I stood with my beloved in front of our friends and family and I swore to love and cherish him. I swore in sickness and in health. I swore ’til death do us part. I also swore to forsake all others.
Prior to our nuptial agreement we sat together, both coming to the table wanting to remain open to possibilities of love with others. We were in agreement that our primary relationship remained mainly to ourselves, rather than to another person. This meant we allowed the space for each of us to grow individually. So, why the forsaking all others? Why did we want to leave that in our vows? So, we discussed.
And talked some more about whether or not it was appropriate for us. We decided, when it came down to it, our relationship with each other (after ourselves) was primary. That any other relationship we could potentially enter would need to understand that.
I was resistant. That was a huge commitment. Forsaking all others. Putting us before any potential love of another. Any potential flame of passion. Becoming a wife (oh, and a mother shortly afterward). Thus began our journey together as husband and wife, then as mother and father, as well as a myriad of other roles we adapted to—together.
We have had relationships over the years and with each one we have grown independently and together. One of our first experiences venturing back into the world of polyamorous relationships was after our daughter was born. She was a few months old; I was still adjusting to my new roles. My beloved and I were still acclimating to each other.
I remember the woman he was dating sitting with me on the grass outside on a stunning day. We were getting to know each other as she and my beloved were contemplating beginning a romantic relationship. We did things that way then. We felt it out. We took our time. She said to me that she had more care for me as her sister, than she did as his lover and that if her relationship with him ever seemed to come between our sisterhood, it wasn’t worth it to her.
To her, our sisterhood was primary. To me, my relationship with him was primary. We seemed to understand the lines. And we were okay with that.
This is a moment I have always held dear to my heart for a myriad of reasons. Her respect for me, not just as his wife, but as another woman was astonishing. Her care is something I have also held close when I have been involved with others in which I was not the primary partner. It has guided my interactions with their primary partners and in respecting their relationship, particularly the speed they needed to move. I am not sure she knows, to this day, how much that conversation gave me the freedom from confusion between my lust and longer lasting relationships.
And our relationship grew—-together. The road sometimes (very) rocky.
Over the years, I have embraced being wife differently. I have thrown my wedding ring out the door in defiance. I have screamed about divorce and incompatibility. I have demanded respect (while I stomped my foot on the floor or pounded my fist on the table). I have accused and blamed and projected. I have suggested we just be roommates and continue to co-parent. I have done many of these things as new mirrors (other relationships) entered our lives.
I have also, however, honored and cherished.
I have also anticipated needs and presented pleasant surprises.
I have also whispered (in multiple languages) worlds of endearment and sexiness.
I have had forethought and planning in order to provide the most comfortable space possible.
I have embraced love and newness.
I continue to be eager for connection.
I have stretched (sometimes more than other times) myself to welcome some into the home.
I have fully wrapped my soul around others.
And the cuddling!
Each new experience teaching and providing opportunities for growth, even when that growth is, no. That was a hard one for me to learn. I will stretch and resist, stretch and resist and stretch some more. I have had experiences where I tried to be heard, repeating over and over, feeling bullied into decisions and worn down by hours long processing. I have hung so far over the edge sometimes I didn’t think I was ever coming back.
Over the years he and I have had relationships independently and together. Each bringing, with it, joy and pain, sorrow and bliss. Some have been easier than others. Some longer. Some spark never enflamed. Some have been dangerously addictive and even more dramatic. A few were truly additions to our home and family and I still cherish them dearly.
I look back, though and I contemplate what I have learned. I look back and see the bliss and the sorrow, the pain and the joy. I look back and see where maybe I could have done it differently, where I could have been more forgiving of myself and my limitations, where I wished I had been stronger. All of the time, knowing that it was that very experience that gives me the strength I have today.
Where I would say, okay, fine, in the past and expect myself to push past my limits, way past, I have learned to say, no. This, no is different, though. This is not the, I’m leaving, you suck, not acceptable, temper tantrum of a, no. This is not even the, that doesn’t feel right to me and I don’t feel heard and I keep trying to tell you I can’t kind of, no. This one is simply,
I have learned to express my limits, understanding the potential consequences (my partner could walk out and leave our partnership) and to still be solid enough to stand on my own. I am in my relationship as wife out of choice and I hold true to my vows and to myself. I am not a prisoner here or a captive held in a cave.
I expect my beloved to do the same work with himself. I expect him to embrace himself individually and to define who he is as a husband. I expect him to feel his freedom as he comes to our partnership, out of choice. Not captivity. I am not a fan of keeping caged animals. They are messy and aggressive or, even more unappealing, docile and without form.
I understand the need for personal and individual growth and I also understand sometimes that growth is neither pretty nor pleasant. Actually, sometimes it can be downright primal ooze and slime, until we slither back out into the light for our vitamin D. Sometimes that growth gets played out with others and we don’t always recognize it when we are in the middle of it. This is where time and history has given me the lessons of faith.
I have learned to embrace my role as wife and to honor the time we have invested in us and our family and to protect that with solidity, my solidity. So, if someone comes my way and promises me the world, the answer is, no thanks, I already have my world, even if my world is hard right now. If someone comes my way and demands rights based on what they feel they deserve compared to what they feel I and my primary partner deserve in regards to time, schedule, etc.—my answer is honest.
I am in agreement or I am not.
This is where I have learned about choice of partner and that, although my body might rejoice at the skills, the partner also has to bring something to the table, not just take. And honestly, if someone is coming into the relationship demanding time, disregarding history, lacking the patience for the trust to build, it’s definitely a very quick pass for me at this point in my life.
This is not about hierarchy for me, but rather about honoring the investment of time, sweat, tears, blood, birth, re-birth and essentially, my vows. Anyone that decides to be involved with either of us (or both) truly has to understand that. At least for me.
I am his wife. He is my husband. I do not own him. He does not own me. We come together as partners in this world, by choice. I can accept ownership of that choice. In my growth, I am enjoying the freedom of that choice.
Thus, continues our journey together as husband and wife, as mother and father as well as a myriad of other roles we have adapted to—together.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock/ Editor: Catherine Monkman