To Women: Marriage Does Not Have To Destroy Your Identity

07/25/2016 10:21 am ET Updated Jul 25, 2016

I’ve been married for 5 years, but I’ve been with my husband since we met at 12-years-old. I like to say we grew together as we grew up together. Our relationship, thus, has contributed greatly to my identity. My teenage and adult years are marked by my relationship with my now-husband.

I am a married woman, but I am also a staunch supporter of strong, independent women. I believe every woman is entitled to live the life she chooses, free from social pressure. If this means marriage, great. If this means staying single, great. Women in 2016 should be empowered to live the life they choose, no matter what that looks like. A woman is not solely defined by her relationship status.

Lately, though, it feels like marriage has come under the firing squad. Married women are sometimes accused of being dependent, anti-feminist creatures—especially if you’re willing to take your husband’s name. Recently, articles have noted society’s tendencies to see marriage as a bigger accomplishment than other aspects of a woman’s identity. I’ve read so many warnings about how marriage can make you lose your identity, the fear perhaps being that we’re going to morph into the 1950’s housewife toting around pot roasts and painting on a chipper, fake smile.

There is sometimes a sense of judgement when you say you’re married, you took his last name, and you are proud to be a wife.

Let me be clear: Marriage can damper a woman’s sense of identity. I’ve known plenty of women who have become so absorbed by wifely duties, they put their own dreams on hold. I’ve seen women crushed by an overbearing husband. I’ve witnessed women bow to social expectations of what it means to be a wife.

I myself have sometimes struggled with finding balance. I’ve had days where, expletives flying out of my mouth while holding a toilet brush, dinner simmering in the crockpot, I wondered if this was what married life meant.

Finding balance in a marriage, keeping your identity as an independent woman, it isn’t easy. You have to be dedicated to finding it.

But this does not mean marriage in its entirety is a villain.

Marriage is a huge part of my identity…but it is not all of who I am. I am a teacher, an author, a writer, a cat lady, a friend, a daughter, a pink-wearer, a Keith Urban fan. I am countless pieces and swatches. To me, being a wife does not mean letting go of all of those other elements. Being a wife, though, helps me be a better version of myself because my husband makes me a happier version of myself.

Marriage can be positive for a woman’s identity as long as a few things are in place.

If you marry the right person, marriage is a blessing. I cannot imagine life without my husband. He lifts me up when I’m slumping to the floor because of rejection or sadness. He’s the one who can give me a look across the room and know exactly what I’m thinking, sharing in a silent, inside joke. He’s the one who holds my hand when things are beautiful or things are awful. He’s the one who I want to share everything with, who helps me explore this crazy thing called life and maintain a sense of optimism. He helps me laugh when the gallon of sweet tea spills all over the kitchen floor or when someone leaves a scathing remark on my social media account. Married life strengthens me as a woman because with my husband, I’ve found a better version of my life and myself.

My husband supporting me at one of my author events.
My husband supporting me at one of my author events.

Additionally, marriage can be positive for a woman’s identity as long as she maintains a sense of individuality. When fusing your lives together, you must be careful your individuality doesn’t morph right into your husband. We hang on to who we are as individuals through our hobbies, our friendships, our finances, and our personalities. Does this lead to conflicts in our union sometimes? Absolutely.

However, we’ve both come to the conclusion a partnership in marriage should not equate to the loss of either one of us as individuals. We’ve managed to make it work, to live the best of both worlds.

I am proud to be a 28-year-old making monogamy work. I am proud to call myself a wife and to know this doesn’t nullify my dedication to being a strong, independent woman in 2016, no matter what opponents of marriage say. Sharing your life with someone does not mean you have to lose your identity, and it doesn’t automatically make you a less independent woman.

Married women are not weak, dependent creatures hampering women’s rights or any version of feminism. Marriage and identity do not have to be mutually exclusive, especially in the modern world.

Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and contemporary romance author. To learn more about her writing, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com.

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