One Year Married: Observations

Just married. July 25, 2018. Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge, Normandy.

Just married. July 25, 2018. Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge, Normandy.

Where did a year go? Far from the first to observe how quickly time passes, I still never fail to feel surprise at it. And just as my grandma told me it would, time goes only more quickly the more years I spend on this earth.

A year ago tomorrow—July 25—Arnaud and I got married. (In fact, a year ago today, we had our civil ceremony.)

Culling observations on the married state versus the single state when I started my married life in a different country makes for a bit of a challenge: How much of what I’ve experienced has to do with where I live and the assumptions about marriage here, and how much of what I’ve experienced can I credit to the difference between single status and married?

Definitively, I can state that Switzerland has marked inequalities between the sexes—which will make for an entirely different article. Suffice it for me to write here that the women in this country have begun to push back (and for more on that topic, read my article about protest in Switzerland).

Doing my best to parse our general observations about the state of marriage versus the state of single (and single-and-partnered)—while also separating out observations on the married-state-in-Switzerland versus the married-state-elsewhere—I have noted the following surprises and adjustments.

Married versus Single: Surprises

Despite warnings from friends that the opposite would happen, I haven’t noticed that people predominantly call me Mrs. Chevallier by default. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I married so late? Perhaps because people would rather get corrected in the other direction than assuming you gave up your birth name when you married?

On the other hand: Why do so many joint things—accounts, taxes, and so forth—require one person in a team to take the primary role? Can’t these accounts have two names listed? Can’t two people have equal decision-making power—and can’t documents require two signatures in these cases?

In all these “primary account holder” situations, the people on the other end assume the male to take the lead role. Why? After a lifetime of an unmarried state, the last two decades of which I paid my own taxes (and as a business owner), must we really name a “head of household?” Does a household really need a single “head?” And this title, per my accountants, defaults to the male unless I push back? Flummoxing.

Primarily due to the latter situation, in which the male becomes primary on all accounts—and with only his name listed—I grew to feel as though the world slowly began to erase my existence (or at least my independence). Mail that used to come to me doesn’t. Taxes I used to sign, I don’t. Bills that used to arrive for my payment arrive for his.

The positive spin on this erasure: In getting married, we moved from true singlehood to formal couplehood. We transitioned from two separate, independent people into a integrated unit. I like this spin. I’d envisioned this spin.

Yet with everything removing my name and giving it all to him, the positive spin felt like just that: Spin.

Married versus Single: Adjustments

Oh sure: Arnaud and I have had to figure out how to meld our habits—doesn’t every couple? The merging-habits process starts during the dating phase, even. Well before marriage comes into the equation.

Therefore, veering from the obvious, I’ll point out the two things I noticed in myself that most surprised me after years of independence and singlehood.

First: When Arnaud asked for my social security number—for some completely benign purpose, one so benign that I can’t even remember the document in question—I felt shocked. For my lifetime, I’d had it drilled into me that I should never share personal details such as social security numbers and banking account information and insurance and health details with anything other than an official body. The United States government, for example. A bank. A hospital.

When we got married, Arnaud became more official than an official body. When the shock wore off, I realized how nice it felt to have someone in my life who has all this information and who can help me in all these official matters. How nice and how comforting and how nurturing it feels to know that I can still do all the things, yet I no longer must do all the things, take all the control, cover all my bases, and do it all alone and without emotional (and sometimes physical) support.

Second: For so long, I traveled and went about my world implicitly understanding that no one cared about my flight details, my whereabouts, what I did with my day, or when I’d come home. I didn’t feel sorry for myself on this count—I just took it for a given and didn’t think much about it. I couldn’t have imagined texting a friend to share when I’d return from dinner or e-mailing a buddy my flight details for an upcoming business trip. (Odd.)

Now that I have someone who does care—another wonderful thing—it doesn’t occur to me to share these details and thoughts. Even when he sends his information to me, I don’t realize I should reciprocate.

Arnaud has patience. Gradually, I’ve come to realize I have someone who has my back and who cares about my day and my safety and my whereabouts in the world, just in case I need him.

And in these two observations, I see that what feels like partnership spin simply applies to reactions from the outside world—many of which need attitude adjustments (at least in the latter two instances). When it comes to the two of us, getting married has melded us into a bigger and better entity than us as separate entities could have achieved. Together, we are stronger, healthier, more fulfilled, and better able to thrive.

First Anniversary Plans

A post like this one begs the question: What will we do for our first anniversary?

We have plans to go to a fun restaurant here in Lausanne for the date of anniversary and to take a weekend trip the weekend afterward.