No, not the book of the same title.

I was talking with my Ghost yesterday about – among other things – eventual, “one of these days” marriage, and terminology.

In a few months, she and I will officially qualify as “common law partners” — which is kind of lovely, really. 🙂 But I got to thinking, again, about the word “wife” and why I like it – and why I haven’t liked it in the past.

I am, as one friend of mine put it, a Gay Divorcee. I’ve been (heterosexually) married before and, at the time, as a ferociously bisexual femme, I shyed away from words like “husband” in favour of words like “spouce” because, in spite of my (at that point) almost non-existent romantic/sexual experience with women, I deeply wanted my querness to be visible and, in spite of hanging around with mostly bi/queer women, I had no idea how to go about doing that without sticking rainbow flags on everything and – in so doing – actively rendering my spouse invisible. I wasn’t “gay”, I was “bi”.

Maybe it should have been a tip-off that I felt so much more comfortable with the words/identities “queer” and “dyke” than I did with words like “het” and “straight” (when applied to me), despite my conviction that I was equally into men and women.


The things you learn.

And so here I am, happily IDing as queer, as a (sometimes bi-)dyke, and looking at my life-partner thinking – in spite of lingering post-divorce fears of Making It Legal – that I want to call her Wife.

So what’s the big deal about “wife”? Why do I want to use that specific term?

I want it because it’s gendered. No one is going to assume my WIFE is a man, and no-one is going to miss my queerness if I’m talking about my life-partner with that very gendered term. Beyond that, though, the word has a (very) long history with a lot of unspoken connotations embedded in it. Connotations that, when I was The Wife in a (more than slightly unhappy) hetero marriage, weighed heavily on me as things that curtailed my freedom, placed expectations and judgements on me in terms of what I did in/for my household/partner, and made assumptions both about what I valued and what I wanted out of life, and about who my energy/body/attention belonged to and where in that hierarchy my own needs and wants existed.


I think that, had my marriage been a happy one, had we had a stronger, better-connected, and (emotionally) safer relationship than we did, the social expectations of “wife” wouldn’t have been as hard on me because there would have been more to my being a wife – that particular person’s wife – than just those social assumptions and expectations.
I’m in a much healthier (on many levels) relationship now, one where my partner and I can be our “whole selves” with each other[1] – which boils down to our being allowed, in the context of our relationship, to be more than “Ghost’s owner” or “Ms Syren’s property” or, for that matter, “Ghost’s/Ms Syren’s girlfriend”. To put it another way: Our relationship is not a 24/7 GFE[3].
Which makes the idea of being a Wife a lot less scary. Because it wouldn’t be the sum-total of my (or her) identity.

The other thing, of course, is that in addition to being a wife, we would also both have a wife. Which totally throws those social expectations out the window[4] (the old joke/appallingly-rude-question about “which one is the man” or “which one is the mom” or whatever? That’s about figuring out who’s higher up in the social hierarchy and who’s “supposed” to do all the behind-the-scenes work).

Lastly, the conotoations embedded in “spousal language” include ideas of “permanence” and “team” and “this is a serious” and “love relationship”… in a way that words like “lover” and “sweetheart” and “partner” really don’t. Yes, I would hope that my wife would simultaneously be my lover, my sweetheart, my dearest partner of greatness, and all the rest of it. But I find that “lover” implies “just sex”, “sweetheart” implies “puppy love” (in the same way that “girlfriend” implies new, not neccesarily lasting, romance — or else “buddy”), and that “partner” can easily be misread as “professional relationship” rather than “romantic relationship”.

So, yeah. I like the word “wife”. Lack of a marriage license notwithstanding, I think it applies here.

Ms Syren.

[1] Once upon a time, on the eve of my former engagement actually, I went out and bought a Fluffy Book from the bargain bin at a “remainders” bookstore. It had a title like “The Go-Girl’s Guide to Getting Hitched” or something to that effect. It was exactly what it sounds like. But there was some good advice in there, too, such as: When you are married (or otherwise in a relationship that you want to sustain for the Long Haul — such as an ongoing, 24/7 D/s dynamic, for example[2]) you have to be able to be complicated with each other. As in “experiencing more than one emotion at a time” in each others presence AND “experiencing the full range of emotions” in each others presence, too. Needless to say, this was not the case in my former marriage.

[2] Okay, yes, technically an owner can order their Property not to display Emotion X in their presence. I personally don’t think this works. Like, at all. Not even if the owner in question has made arrangements for their Person to have regular contact with people to-whom they *can* display Emotion X. Not if we’re talking long-term and No Breaks.

[3] GFE: “Girlfriend Experience” – a type of service offered by some escorts that involves affection and companionship (with or without fucking); the kind of “date-night” experience wherein the client gets to be the centre of the escort’s world for the duration of the contract. As one gal put it – somewhat tongue-in-cheekly – “That’s so fascinating. Tell me more about your car”.

[4] Which, given our D/s dynamic, is maybe a funny thing to bring up, I realize.