The customs officer took our passports with a grim countenance, giving us a thorough once over as she looked at the photos to determine our fate. We had been traveling for 24 hours, it was late and cold, and we were tired and hungry. Please, God, let us pass through without any further delays

“Where were we coming from?” We nervously answered feeling as though we had done something wrong.

“What is the nature of our relationship? Why do we have two different addresses?”

The questions came at us. Well, here we were, a couple in our forties who needed to declare our relationship status to an authority figure. We looked at each other, what to say?

We’re dating…doesn’t seem to cut it since our feelings are quite strong.

Seeing each other… again seems rather informal.

Girlfriend/Boyfriend…by far seems the most ridiculous, childish and meaningless way of describing our relationship. Twelve-year-olds have girlfriends and boyfriends and they are tossed away like a piece of tasteless chewing gum.  Here we were in our forties, being confronted with the idea of defining our relationship in a way that made it seem important.

Girlfriends and boyfriends come and go, dating is fun and friendly, seeing each other is heading towards cavalier. What do you say? How do you describe a relationship with someone you really love, yet don’t live with, without demeaning the depth of your connection? My lover? My significant other? My partner? My beloved? There simply didn’t seem to be a label I felt comfortable with. Labels are tricky and have many connotations and associations with them. How we define ourselves and the roles we play have a huge impact on our everyday lives.

The customs officer continued to look at us suspiciously, as if she was doubting our story and our declaration of goods. Finally, after an interminably moment she stamped our cards and sent us on.

This interaction brought up more conversations on the ideas around living together, commitment, marriage, and what type of relationship we genuinely wanted.

I began a secret investigation into the realm of relationships, asking others questions about their choices, beliefs, ideas and fantasies. Here it is, 2012, and there is still very much a childlike innocence and fairytale aura around weddings and marriages. Most people do believe in the idea of love. It is the reality of love that challenges us to our very core. I attended a beautiful wedding last summer, one year ago, and already the twenty-four-year-old bride has left her devastated husband. It sounded like she had a very unrealistic expectation of what married life was supposed to look like. It was supposed to be funner (yes, I know funner isn’t a real word, but I like it) – more happily ever after, blissful, and idealized. Idealized love is like poison; no one will get out alive. No one can live up to an ideal. Sooner or later the nitty gritty reality of creating a life together challenges who you really are and who you choose to be.

Marriage: some believe in it and some don’t. It is my humble opinion that most young girls still long for the dreamy white romantic wedding. In fact, I am certain that many couples spend more time planning their wedding than they do their married life. Married life is almost an afterthought. Everyone comes into marriage with a host of expectations, wants, desires and needs. Unfortunately most of these are unarticulated, and often are hidden in layers in our subconscious mind. They might lie dormant for years and then suddenly, POOF, there is another example of a stored belief, story, or idea exploding onto the scene like a large cat stalking its prey.

Meanwhile how do I come to terms with all the labels and what do I use to describe my relationship?

Alas I have opted again for the moniker of wife, (happily married for 5 years) since so far that one reflects most closely the love in my heart and declares my intent for longevity and building a life together.

Still the questions keep on a coming.

As the customs agent challenged us to explain our relationship I sought to clearly and thoughtfully understand what being a wife means to me.

Stick with me as I uncover some really interesting finds.