Things We’ve Learned About Marriage – No. 6 – “What Did You Call Me?”

It’s weird when your spouse calls you by your first name.

“You call your friends by their first name, not your wife,” I told Sajan the other day when out of the blue he called me “Sheena.”

Now this is not something I knew before marriage. What I did know is that in the Kerala/Malayalee culture, you never hear a wife utter her husband’s first name, simply as a matter of respect in the culture. Wives call their husbands “Achayan,” what you might even call an affectionate term.

At our first get-together at our new house with family friends, my mothers heard me call Sajan by his first name. I needed his help emptying the trash or something like that.


“You don’t call your husband by his first name in front of elders,” my mom said. Sajan’s mom affirmed my mom’s sentiment.

“Can I call him sugar pie then?”

That didn’t seem to fly either. “Sajanachayan” was their preferred method for me to beckon my husband. Hmm. I think I’ll just stick with “Hey, you, husband.” I’m just not used to rocking the achayan.

Anyway, back to the original point. Sajan and I tend to call each other baby or boo. My personal poll has confirmed many other couples do the same. I think I make up a new name for Sajan on a daily basis, but getting into that right now would take this post off the charts for cheesiness, and I myself might even throw up from the cheese factor. Only in public do we call each other by our first names. Unless, of course, the elders are around and we’re in “hey you” mode.

Bottom line: Husband and wife have a deep, sacred, awe-inspiring relationship. First names just don’t cut it.

What do you think? Do you know of other couples who are perfectly fine using first names?

Read the precursor to this post, Five Things We’ve Learned about Marriage.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Melanie Barr Fitzpatrick says:

    I love this topic, since I just had a talk with my husband recently about not referring to me as “Mel” to professionals or new people with whom we might do business. Granted , this is a nickname that persons clos to me use and I will use myself. But naming me that to strangers is somehow…discomforting. In this case, specifically, I wanted him to use my full first name when he spoke of me with potential child care providers. We have a 2 month old son for whom we’ll likely need child care soon. In touring/interviewing potential centers, Sean referred to me several times as “Mel.” Admittedly, it was in this first year at my current job that I realized this bothered me. Sean’s friend & colleague sought me to fill the job, but, since he’d always heard Sean refer to me as “Mel,” I was introduced me to my new boss and colleagues as Mel. Now, somehow this felt like a line was crossed. First, do ya even know what my real name is? Can you spell Melanie? Much less my last married name, Fitzpatrick? Please!

    So, that my take on spousal endearments. Watch were ya throw that Mel. Incidentally, my favorite is Pooky. I think we picked it up from the episode of Seinfeld where he & his girlfriend make fun of mushy couples with pet names for each other. Incidious and heart-warming. And now we can’t stop using it.

  2. Liz says:

    My parents would never even suggest for me to call my future hubby “achayan”. That’s something very archaic, in my opinion. Along the same lines. I have a malayalee couple that are friends of mine from Dallas. Neither of them like calling their in-laws “mom or dad” or even “mummy and papa”. The grooms argument is, “i already have a mom and dad”. I agree. It upsets the parents. He usually just doesnt formally address them. He’ll just walk up to them and start talking without calling them a name. I talked to my co worker about this. She’s white. She calls her in-laws by their first name. This, I would never do just because its not respectful in our culture. When I asked her why she didnt refer to them as “mom and dad” I received the same response, “i already have a mom and dad”.

  3. Dudley Jacob says:

    I don’t understand why Sheena can’t call Sajan————–Sajanachayan. I do.

  4. JimmyJack says:

    I think its wierd when aunties call their husbands “daddy”…I guess they pick it from the kids…but still…its wierd.

    With our generation…i think its all about tone of voice. I think the only no-no is using a nickname…like “saj” for example.

  5. Liz says:

    I thought all men want their woman to call them “daddy”. Sheena call Saj “daddy” or about combine the two, “saddy”.

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