Living the Self-Partnered Life
The truth is I've been sitting on this blog post for months wondering if it will resonate with anyone other than me. I came back to this post recently when the actress Emma Watson caused a stir when she stated that she was 'self-partnered', a term she preferred over the more often used word 'single.' I applaud Watson's use of the term and the implication that she is not in a state of searching or longing, but in a relationship with herself, perhaps evolving in a way she wouldn't be if she were not self-partnered.
As a person who has long been self-partnered, I have often questioned our culture's belief that romantic love is the end all be all of human existence. The notion that romantic love is the most profound and exalted of all forms of love in our culture is harmful and hurtful. As someone who has been self-partnered for the majority of her adult life, I’ve spent a lot of time working through the pain resulting from buying into the notion that there is something wrong with me if I am not partnered. There are both subtle and egregious denigrations of the unpartnered person at play in our culture. We bestow privileges on those who partner in the form of tax savings and insurance benefits; it literally pays to be partnered. My employer once sent out an invitation to employees offering a support session for singles to cope with loneliness as if there is no other state of being if you're not partnered. And then there’s Valentine’s Day, an entire holiday devoted to reminding the self-partnered that they are less than because they haven’t partnered with someone. That one day out of the year is made to exclude people that our culture deems unworthy simply because they haven’t partnered. It’s a holiday built on marginalization and shame.
I question the notion that romantic love is the most profound love; I believe it is self love or love of a higher power, both of which are life giving in a way that romantic love is not. Self love is perhaps the most difficult to attain, I believe, and requires a depth of self acceptance and self respect that romantic partners are not able to give us. It’s true that as human beings we are built for relationship, but relationships come in many forms such as friends, children, parents, and family. I’ve often thought that because I’ve remained self-partnered that I’ve had the opportunity to not be shaped by the expectations and dreams of a partner. I’ve chosen my own path to follow and haven’t had to compromise myself for another. In being self-partnered, I’ve embraced myself and grown in ways that I don’t believe I would have with a partner.
Despite my delight in my solitary life, I’ve often bought into the cultural notion that I’m missing out because I’m not partnered. It’s taken me a long time to not feel shame about being uncoupled when our culture tells us at every turn that being partnered is the end goal and a measure of success in one’s life. No one ever asks married people if they are missing out by being coupled, as if it’s the only way to grow as a person. The truth is that I mostly find life very fulfilling on my own. I love solitude and I’m fortunate to have non-romantic relationships that are fulfilling and life giving.
I’d like for our culture to be more open to the self-partnered lifestyle. Perhaps if people were more open to being with themselves, the world would be a better place. I believe if we stopped putting romantic love on a pedestal, stopped building entire industries around it, we could see that being self-partnered is a beautiful life as well. One filled with opportunities for growth, depth, curiosity and exploration. We sell ourselves this notion of romantic love as being everything that should fill us up, that our one partner should be everything to us and meet every one of our needs, but that’s not realistic.
If more people were open to being self-partnered, even for a short time in their lives, they would come to see that it’s actually quite a fulfilling way to live. We self-partnered people don’t need pity at all. All we need is freedom to live our lives as we choose without the shame our culture projects on us.