Husband Or Wife?

1 Apr

I’m currently reading Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages, by Katie Roiphe which is proving to be interesting in many ways.

A recurring theme in these marriages is that the women in them feel like they get the short end of the bargain.  In the chapter on Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry, Katherine’s health is in decline and she calls upon an old friend Ida to care for her instead of her own husband.  Roiphe has this to say on the matter.

And I got thinking about the definition of a wife.  In this case it’s that Mansfield wants Murry to wait on her.  She wants him to be upset about her ailments and bring her soup, sleep on the couch in her room just to be on hand at a moments notice.  And she knows Murry will never be that person just as she was never that person for him.

So why do we call that kind of martyrdom behaving like a wife?

Wife isn’t just the word we assign to women in marriages. We apply it to anyone who cares for us, dotes on us. Anyone who wants to marry me is going to have to get over that notion. We’ll be spouses, the two of us. Otherwise, no deal.

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