The relationship between husband and wife is the driving force behind these selections.
Some stories will feature a character who is focused on marriage, or who is thinking about their marriage.
See also Love
Popular Mechanics | Raymond Carver
A man and woman, possibly married, have an argument as he’s packing to leave home. The subject of their baby comes up, causing a quick escalation of the conflict.
Shiloh | Bobbie Ann Mason
Leroy has been off work for four months since getting hurt. His wife, Norma Jean, supports them both by working at a drugstore. Leroy is glad to be home with his wife, but he’s worried that she’s drawing away from him – maybe his presence reminds her of their son who died as a baby.
Separating | John Updike
A middle-aged, middle-class couple has plans to separate. They decide to wait until the summer break, so their four children will have time to adjust to the news before returning to school.
The Enormous Radio | John Cheever
The Westcott’s live in an upscale apartment and enjoy music. Mr. Westcott buys his wife a new radio – big, ugly, and able to pick up conversations from neighboring suites.
Cat in the Rain | Ernest Hemingway
An American couple is on vacation in Italy. The wife looks out the window at the rain and sees a cat huddled under a table. She wants to go down and take it in out of the rain.
Chablis | Donald Barthelme
A man’s wife wants a dog, even though she already has a baby. He was against the baby but he got worn down. Now he’s imagining the hassle of a dog.
The Kiss | Guy De Maupassant
A woman is upset when her husband leaves. Her aunt thinks she kissed her husband too much, so she explains the power of and proper use of the kiss.
The Life You Save May Be Your Own | Flannery O’Connor
An old woman and her daughter live on a run-down farm. The woman hires a drifter, Mr. Shiftlet, to do work around the place in exchange for shelter. She’s angling to marry off her daughter to him.
The Storm | Kate Chopin
While her husband is waiting out a storm at a local store, Calixta is at home. She goes to bring in her laundry from the front porch when she sees an old love, Alcee. She invites him inside.
This Blessed House | Jhumpa Lahiri
A newlywed Indian couple has just moved into a new house in America. As they prepare the house, the wife finds many Christian items left by the previous owners. She likes them and wants to keep them, but her husband disapproves.
Neck | Roald Dahl
Lady Turton behaves indiscreetly at a dinner, paying undue attention to a male guest. Her husband is aware, but he doesn’t take any immediate action.
Here We Are | Dorothy Parker
A newly-married couple is riding a train. They talk about their wedding and what they’re going to do. Everything that comes up leads them into a petty disagreement.
Joining Charles | Elizabeth Bowen
A young woman, Louise, is staying with her husband’s family. She’s leaving this morning to join him in France. Charles’s family reveres him, but Louise isn’t eager to go.
The Huntsman | Anton Chekhov
A hunter is walking down a country road when a woman whom he doesn’t see often – his wife – starts talking to him.
A Point at Issue! | Kate Chopin
Eleanor and Charles, newlyweds, go on their honeymoon and then, because of different interests, decide to spend time apart. Local society doesn’t approve of married people living this way.
The Other Wife | Colette
A husband and wife go to a restaurant for supper. The man sees his ex-wife seated at a nearby table. The man and his new wife talk about his ex.
Bliss | Katherine Mansfield
Bertha Young is happy with everything in her life. She’s throwing a dinner party, and one of the guests is her friend Pearl. Bertha’s husband doesn’t really like Pearl, but she hopes they will grow to like each other.
Marriage a la Mode | Katherine Mansfield
William is on the way to visit his wife and kids who have moved to the suburbs. William thought they had been happy, but his wife, Isabel, wanted a change. He has an eye-opening visit with his wife and her friends.
Say Yes | Tobias Wolff
While doing the dishes together, a husband and wife start discussing interracial marriage. The wife thinks it is fine, but the husband believes the cultural differences would be insurmountable.
The Good Deed | Pearl S. Buck
Mr. Pan has moved his mother from China to his home in New York. She is homesick and isolated by the language barrier. The family arranges for Lili, a young Chinese woman, to visit Mrs. Pan. When she finds out that Lili is unmarried with no prospects, she takes it on herself to arrange a match despite the family’s insistence that things aren’t done like that in America.
Love Must Not Be Forgotten | Zhang Jie
Shanshan has a handsome suitor but she’s uncertain about marrying him. She remembers advice from her late mother, not to leap into marriage if she’s unsure about it. Shanshan’s mother didn’t remarry when her husband left, and Shanshan wonders why.
The Gilded Six-Bits | Zora Neale Hurston
Joe and Missie, happy newlyweds, live in a modest house in an all-black community. A new man in town, Otis, opens an ice cream parlor, and makes a show of his gold accessories. He talks about his money and his success with women. Joe and Missie’s marriage is put to the test.
Mrs. Spring Fragrance | Sui Sin Far
Mrs. Spring Fragrance is a Chinese woman who’s lived in Seattle for 5 years. She has adapted quickly to the English language and American customs. Next door lives a young woman named Laura, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Laura’s parents want to follow tradition and have her marry a man she’s never met, but Laura is in love with an American man. Mrs. Spring Fragrance wants to help, and when she travels to San Francisco to visit her cousin, she sees an opportunity.
Jaws | Donald Barthelme
William and Natasha tell a cashier at the A&P about their relationship problems, including money issues, an extra-marital affair, and Natasha’s biting problem.
Hodel | Sholom Aleichem
Tevye’s daughter, Hodel, becomes acquainted with Feferel. When they get engaged, Tevye is upset; he wanted his daughter to marry an educated, wealthy man.
The Letter | Laura Bulger
Domingos, living in Canada, writes a letter to his parents in Portugal. His letter puts a positive spin on things but it’s interspersed with his real thoughts on his life and family.
The Painted Door | Sinclair Ross
John walks five miles from his farm to his father’s to help him with chores. His wife Ann doesn’t want him to go because they’re expecting a storm and she wants the company. He says he’ll ask their neighbor Steven to drop in to play cards while he’s gone. Ann decides to do some painting to pass the time. After a while the weather turns bad.
Rope | Katherine Anne Porter
A married couple have just moved to the country. The husband comes back from the store with some rope but he has forgotten the coffee, which his wife wanted. The rope sets off a discussion and argument about many things.
Blackberries | Ellen Hunnicutt
A man returns to his campsite with freshly-picked blackberries. His wife starts talking about being out of milk, and a theater tour in New York. He talks about frying up some cattails and other things they can do where they are.
This Plumber | Bret Lott
A plumber comes to Rick’s apartment to check for a leak in the bathroom. Rick’s wife has taken almost everything. The plumber asks if he’s moving in or moving out, but Rick doesn’t want to give any details.
Playing with Dynamite | John Updike
Fanshawe is in his sixties and has slowed down a lot. His wife is a bit younger and spryer. The narrator gives us a look at Fanshawe’s childhood, middle years, his marriage, and how his attitude about life has developed.
Read “Playing with Dynamite” (Ctl + F the title)
The Poison of the Blue Rose | Yasmin Marri
The narrator loves the silence of her house. She gets a visit from her friend Gulab Bibi, who has been getting letters from Rafiq. She wants to be with him but her parents have already arranged a marriage.
Five-Twenty | Patrick White
The Natwicks like to sit on their veranda to watch the traffic. They are getting on in years. The husband, Royal, is in a wheelchair with a hernia, heart trouble, and severe arthritis. The wife, Ella, is still able to get around. They get used to seeing a man in a pink and brown Holden at five-twenty. We’re told about their earlier life, how they got together and the dynamic of their relationship.
The Arrangers of Marriage | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A woman from Lagos arrives in America to join her new husband. She discovers the reality of her new life, getting to know her husband, living situation, and American customs.
See also: Four Summers (Coming of Age), William and Mary (Sci-Fi), The Way Up to Heaven (Revenge), A Country Love Story (Women)