I’m a dedicated Swagbucks addict, which means I participate in online surveys on practically a daily basis. As most surveys do, these usually collect your typical demographic data, such as sex, race, gross annual income, and marital status. These should be relatively easy questions to answer, but I’ve often hesitated when I came upon the marital status question. I know what the technical answer is, but I have strong feelings regarding what I feel is my “real” answer.
The marital status question typically gives the survey respondent the options of married, divorced, something regarding living with someone you’re not married to, and single/never married. Technically, I was legally married at one time, and I was then legally divorced after about ten years of said legal marriage. However, when I look back upon that marriage, I don’t feel as though I was ever actually “married.”
You see, my ex-husband became abusive very quickly after our wedding. We had known each other for a very short time before he pressured me into the marriage, and I didn’t really know who he was or what kind of person I was dedicating my life to until a few short weeks after the union was made official. What I would deem to be a “real” marriage never happened for me.
Marriage, to me, should be a union of two people who love, respect, and support one another, through good and bad times. This was never the case with my so-called marriage. The fact is, I had unwittingly signed away my freedom and most of my most basic human rights when I signed the marriage contract. I soon became subhuman, a piece of property for my so-called husband to use and abuse at his will. I was never his “wife.”
For ten years, I was a housekeeper, baby incubator, sole child-carer, grocery-shopper, yard-mower, snow-shoveler (even at eight months pregnant!), back-rubber, beer and cigarette-getter, bill payer, and beating-taker—but never a wife. I often thought I was as important to my “husband” as a piece of furniture. I was there for him to use me when he needed me, but I never mattered to him as a human being, any more than our couch did. Some days, he felt like sitting on me, and other days he preferred sitting on some strange woman he met out at the bar. We were all the same to him; me, the bar flies, and the recliner in our living room where he commanded the best view of the television and absolute control of the remote.
I was married to a narcissistic sociopath (this was an official diagnosis made by a marriage counselor I once coerced him into seeing with me) who was – and probably still is – incapable of feeling proper human emotions. He lives in the moment and only cares about what makes him feel good “right now.” Other people matter to him only as far as what they can provide to him. The day my divorce was finalized was one of the happiest days of my entire life.
So, was I married? Is my marital status now, “divorced?” Technically and legally, the answer is yes. However, I feel as though I am being untrue to myself and my actual lived experience when I select that answer. The truth is, I do not feel as though I have ever been married. I feel as though I was a piece of property for ten years, contracted out to a horrible person who was finally induced to sign away his rights. Though, even after the divorce was official, it took some time for me to extricate myself from his influence enough for him to no longer be able to exert his control over me.
In practice, I continued to be my ex-“husband’s” property for at least a year or more after the divorce. He continued to control and abuse me via the family court system until he finally got himself thrown into prison for a short time and was denied visitation rights. Until my youngest turns eighteen, I will continue to live with the fear of him dragging me back to court in an attempt to regain some amount of control over me and my child. Regardless of how long the divorce has been finalized, I believe my ex-“husband” will always consider me to be a piece of property that he has a right to abuse as he sees fit.
Whatever the legal definition of marriage may be, I do not consider myself to have ever been married. I finally came to the decision that I would vote my conscious, so to speak, and check the box next to “single, never married” from now on. I don’t care if that skews your survey results in some way. I refuse to acknowledge what I unwittingly signed myself up for as a marriage anymore. Because that’s not what a marriage looks like. I was an owned piece of property—a slave, not a wife. From now on, I will call it what it was.