And, as a natural consequence to any marriage, we cannot wait to embark on a magnificent honeymoon, buy a house and never again travel separately.
Except we won’t. Ever since our engagement became public, we have been exposed to an endless list of the usual marriage stereotypes that friends feel they must project onto one, for reason no other than because everyone else they know does things in a certain way. I am not sure if these odd presumptions apply to the United Kingdom alone or the first world in general: the truth is that Alan and I have spent the past 10 months answering the very same questions about our future plans.
To avoid any further confusion on the subject, I am taking the liberty to go through the list of my self-defined “marriage myths”: the socially acceptable patterns of newlyweds’ behaviour we are shamelessly planning to breach. Not on purpose or anything, but simply because we never realised, until recently, how little room for manoeuvre newlyweds actually had. Had I known, I would have rejected that proposal altogether! But I digress.
Here goes a short list of false assumptions which our friends, acquaintances and strangers have made about our future together, since last March to date.
Myth # 1: We are planning a honeymoon
Because of course everyone is planning a honeymoon: the only people not planning one these days are, surely, limited to two groups: one, people who cannot afford it and, two, people who marry so late into their cohabiting relationship that a honeymoon no longer seems like an exciting idea.
I disagree: I have disliked the idea of a honeymoon from the start. I mean, what is the origin of a honeymoon? Ignoring some rumours that it originated as a deadline to impregnate a stolen bride to prevent the parents from trying to retrieve her, a honeymoon in my mind is a chance for a chaste couple to experience certain physical pleasures together for the first time. It is also a time to get away for a couple who is otherwise returning to live with their parents and therefore needs every bit of privacy it can get.
A honeymoon in a modern Western society? Sorry, to me it is nothing more than a social convention, albeit a nice one. Alan and I have travelled as a couple before, and we plan to continue travelling as a married couple. But necessarily embarking on a journey right after getting married and calling it a certain name? That is probably not going to happen.
So the plan, for now, is that I head out to Chile alone at the end of March, meet Alan in Punta Arenas a bit later to catch the flight to the Falklands together and stay there for a week. Among a variety of other activities like visiting the Pebble Island and driving around East Falkland, we plan to tie the knot quietly in the local registry office in Stanley. Call it honeymoon or whatever – may penguins and sheep be our witnesses.
Myth # 2. We are buying a house
Every newly married couple I know in the UK started nesting even before the ringing of the formal wedding bells. It seems to be an accepted practice in this country to start your happy life together by taking on an enormous amount of debt to buy what usually is property of questionable quality (years spent in the Nordics have ruined me for life) located even further away from where you work than before. As a result, you join the vast crowds of commuters bussed and trained into London (or any other big city) on a daily basis. Often, the property is not up to your liking straight away, requiring even more investment in the time to follow, thus reducing savings and increasing debt.
We possibly have a cultural clash here. Coming from Latvia, where the percentage of renters vs. home owners is greater than in the UK (please don’t ask me to find the numbers), I am not that obsessed with the idea of owning a home, especially for the price of a little fortune. An avid traveller, I also fret at the idea of reducing my travel budget for the sole reason of moving into a poorly constructed, claustrophobic terrace house somewhere in Peckham or Dulwich – the places which seem to be “happening” for young working couples these days. I am also lucky to have a very appreciative landlady who has hardly raised my rent for years.
What about pension, you say? Some of you may remember that Alan and I became proud owners of a beautiful flat in a newbuild structure in Riga last year. In a way, this is our pension home, hopefully answering everybody’s question: no, we are not buying a(nother) home after getting married.
Myth # 3. I will never travel alone again
I recently met two old friends – a married couple – whose first question was how many countries I still wanted to visit before the wedding. Excuse me: had I realised there was a cut-off date, I would have never agreed to the deal in the first place.
I guess the thinking here was twofold: first, that it would be unfair for one party of the marriage to spend time separately from the other, and, second, that no party in the marriage would want to spend time away from the other, anyway. To tackle these in order: first, Alan is very supportive of me continuing to travel, especially given that I have about four times more holiday than his self-employed self. He works a great deal out of Germany, and I try to travel when he is actually abroad too. And, second, I have managed, in my 32 years as an unmarried person, to accumulate habits and hobbies – such as travelling solo for pleasure – which could not possibly change overnight.
There could be another aspect here, having to do with jealousy: that dark time of my life when I was dating a manically controlling person, I was indeed forbidden to travel on my own. I can only feel sorry for anyone in such an unhealthy relationship.
So my response is no: I am planning solo trips even after marriage. I will be visiting Bolivia and taking a handful of weekend trips entirely alone this year – only with a new ring on my finger.
Myth # 4. I am moving to Germany
There seems to be a widespread belief that a new wife has to follow her husband everywhere. It is a well-known fact that Alan works in London on some days only because I am here, and would otherwise be based in Dusseldorf full-time. As a good wife, I should perhaps give up my London job and look for opportunities in the glorious state of North Rhine Westphalia.
Or not necessarily. I am amazed by how many couples maintain a certain lifestyle choice for ages while dating and then shift their ways dramatically as a result of a simple change in the marital status. Dating is supposed to be training ground for marriage, and changes after the nuptials should be minimal. Somehow though it is women in particular that are expected to comply with some societal norms as soon as the marriage certificate is duly issued by the relevant authority. If anything, why couldn’t Alan rather move to London than the other way around?
The silent relocation rule is slowly giving way to reality: a rising number of new couples base themselves across borders and even continents. I personally know a married couple where he lives in Istanbul and she in New York, have done so for years and are having a second child together. Another couple spreads itself between Birmingham and Brussels. Yet another is based in both Latvia and India at alternate times, thanks to jobs that allow them plenty of working from home – but not being together all the time. There certainly are disadvantages to such arrangements, but the major plus is being able to pursue each other’s dream jobs in the optimal locations. And, despite being somewhat disenchanted with my job at the moment, I still prefer this suboptimal status quo to a blind leap into unemployment in a new country.
Myth # 5. I am changing my name
I am not sure why I am even discussing it. Some women take their husband’s last name after marriage to “be more like a family”, some women find that doing so in their home country is illegal, and some women curse the moment they orchestrated the change and reclaim their maiden names shortly after a divorce. I have heard stories from friends about certain pressure from husbands for the name change, but the choice is (mostly) up to the women.
There is one local aspect about Latvian grammar, however, that has sealed my decision regarding any name change forever. In Latvian language, foreign names are changed to fit a stiff grammatical framework. Every noun has to have one of six permitted endings: -s, -is, -us (masculine) and –a, -e, -s (feminine). Foreign names failing that (i.e., most of them) get the appropriate ending ruthlessly added.
Moreover, Latvian language is nearly entirely phonetic and cannot accept many languages’ creativity with pronunciation. To put it into perspective, a man called Jones would be “Dzounss” in Latvian, and a lady called Clinton – “Klintone”. I will not spell out my fiance’s last name, but I assure you it would start with a different letter in my Latvian passport and look nothing like his altogether.
To state the obvious, I have no plans to change my name.
Myth # 6. We are immediately having children
I notice with many newly married couples that the first offspring pops out bang 9 months after that magical first dance. And that is frankly wonderful: I imagine a formal marriage is for many a signal that the relationship truly is serious enough to start bringing little people into the world.
On that myth, I have no answer. Many of you have heard about my dichotomous attitude to children. On the one hand, I enjoyed my stint as a babysitter of infants years ago; on the other, I have sort of lost interest in children now that most people my age that I know have them. All are fairly normal little creatures that tend to look cute on photos but are apparently far less cute in the everyday life.
I have also been slightly put off by how inaccessible friends typically become once a new family member arrives. Alan and I recently attended a housewarming party for some friends: we arrived duly armed with a bottle of wine and flowers, only to see a carefully arranged pile of colourful presents in the garden: the “housewarming” was really a birthday party for our friends’ toddler. Soon other parents with young children arrived and, for the rest of the event, Alan and I kept each other company while failing, miserably, to get past apologetic smiles with people who all knew each other and each other’s children and did not seem to be the least bit interested in the odd childless couple that happened to be present. We ran away eventually, vowing to each other never to lose friends to our little monsters – if we ever decide to have any.
Notwithstanding the above, I did however comply with one marriage myth that I myself used to swear I would never fall for: the wedding dress. I used to insist it was a waste of money, but Alan himself went online, chose the wedding dress he wanted me to try on – and convinced me to buy it. I will certainly not be able to wear it in the Falklands (it is too cold there), but for our photo shoot in Greece in June? Certainly yes. Stay tuned!