The Devastating Way I Found Out I Wasn't Actually Married To My Husband

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The Time I Found Out I Was Not Legally Married To My Husband

Despite being "married" for over twelve years, my husband and I apparently never bothered to get a copy of our marriage certificate. But let me back up. After my husband, Wolf, and I got married, his uncle, who officiated the wedding, gave us a handwritten proof of marriage so I could legally change my last name changed before the Canadian government was done processing our marriage registration.

However, 12 years later, when I finally went to legally change the name on my photo ID, the province of British Columbia demanded a copy of my marriage certificate — not just a handwritten one. 

They needed proof as to when, how, and why my last name changed from what's on my birth certificate to my new married last name. OK, fine. We've joked about needing to prove that Wolf "owns" me and that we really need to get a copy of my "ownership" papers.

Since we lived on a day trip from the Alberta border, we went to pick up our marriage certificate. It was supposed to be simple. Wolf would hand over his photo ID, fill out a form, and BOOM, certificate ordered. 

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Except it wasn't because they couldn't find any record of our marriage.

The clerk searched three different times for our marriage registration and no dice. She promised to do a more extensive search (AKA something above her ability) and we'd hear from them in two weeks or so. But if they couldn't find the registration, we weren't actually legally married for the last twelve years. 

My brain started contemplating potential legal issues. I had a friend who was declared dead by the government back in the 90s, which came as quite a shock to her. Even showing up in person to government offices wasn't enough to have them reverse it — she actually had to get a letter from her doctor to prove that, yes, she was still alive and not a ghost. I started crying.

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The idea that no, I wasn't actually married totally screwed with my head.

Some folks say, "Marriage is just a piece of paper," but this conundrum proved that gosh darn it, that piece of paper means a lot! Thank god, my husband and I share a twisted sense of humor:

Wolf: "Well, we always talked about a wedding 'do over.' Now we have to."

Me: "If our first wedding didn't count, you'd better damn well up your game. Get all romantic and sh*t. This proposal better be good."

Wolf: "I need to propose again?"

Me: "Damn right. And after twelve years, you'd better make it convincing. Plus, I'm going to need more jewelry."

Wolf: "Want half of my sandwich?"

Me: "I don't share with men I'm not married to."

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After further investigation and involving the Alberta government office of Vital Statistics, we found out that the clerk at the registry office screwed up.

She had our last name switched with Wolf's first name. So, thankfully, we're married. Still. I told Wolf, "I have the urge to watch Armaggedon again," and he laughed at me, suggesting, "Just listen to the song."

That's our wedding song. I'm glad it still is and that we haven't missed a thing.

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Melissa Charles is a freelance writer who has appeared in Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, and more.