Alas, Marrying Oneself is Now a Thing … Really

Sologamy must be the meanest of modern marriage myths.

By Carolyn Moynihan Published on September 3, 2016

It sounds like a joke, but it is not entirely. Still recoiling from the insanity of marriage between two people of the same sex, we are told that people — women largely — are now marrying themselves. That’s right: having the dress, the ring, umpteen guests and saying “I do” to your very own ego. The UK’s Spectator magazine is the latest to survey this weird trend, the origins of which some writers trace back to 1993.

Admittedly, there are still only a handful of women in this lunatic fringe, but it includes writers, artists and life coaches who attract media attention. There’s an earnest TED talk about it by Tracy McMillan, an American television writer with a trail of broken marriages behind her; an online business peddling the I Married Me Self-Wedding In-A-Box, complete with ring, “ceremony instructions, vows, and 24 affirmation cards (so you can continue the practice)”; and lawyers to tell you, quite unnecessarily, whether it’s legal or not.

There is even a new word for these narcissistic nuptials: sologamy, which takes its place alongside monogamy, polygamy and polyamory as an apparently intelligible concept.

Yes, it’s ridiculous, but it is also sad to think of the dashed hopes, confusion and loneliness that would make ritual self-affirmation seem like a replacement for marital love.

That is why, although it would be easy to dismiss same-self marriage as a passing minority fad — already parodied by women marrying themselves to objects (a rock, a sandwich, a rollercoaster) and animals (a snake, a dolphin) — that will soon exhaust itself, we must take it seriously. It it is symptomatic of a serious dilemma facing women, and men, today: the difficulty of finding someone to marry. The difficulty of even understanding what marriage is.

Marriage rates in Western countries have fallen dramatically over the past 40 years, and especially since the 1980s. Economic changes affecting men’s employment, the rise of women’s employment, delayed marriage, the decline of religion, the social acceptability of pre-marital sex and cohabitation, ideas about the meaning of “equality” in marriage – these are just some of the factors in the decline of marriage.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data, in 2012 one-in-five adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) in the US had never been married, compared with only one in ten (9 percent) in 1960. Though they were not “out there” marrying themselves, men were more likely than women to have never been married (23 percent vs 17 percent).

But do these singles even want to be married? In a survey accompanying the Pew analysis, most young adults (67 percent) said society was just as well off if people had priorities other than marriage and children, while among never married adults, one third said they were not sure they would like to get married and another 13 percent said they did not want to marry.

This is the really awful story behind the ladies pledging to love, honor and obey themselves till death — the fact that so many young adults are not even sure that they want a spouse and children; the fact that they cannot see marriage as the institution that builds society and brings men and women, on the whole, health, wealth and happiness.

This is the sad bequest of the older generations to their children and grandchildren.

It’s true that marriage is not the only way to serve society and fulfill yourself. There have always been people who remained single because of some other compelling vocation (the Florence Nightingales, the missionaries, monks and nuns, the daughters and sons who supported their siblings and aged parents…) or simply lack of opportunity, but if marriage were not the natural vocation of most people the human race would wither and die. Women do not, on the whole, bear children without a commitment from their mate. And children do not generally thrive as they should outside of a married-parent home.

What the West has done in recent times is behave as though neither commitment nor children were essential to anyone’s fulfilment or to society. Look what you can have without marriage, we tell women: sex, a better job than most of the men available have; the support of the state if anything goes wrong; and if you really do want a child, there’s adoption or a sperm donor. Oh, and now the wedding! The ring! The anniversaries of your vows to yourself! Who needs a husband?

In truth, it is difficult to see what a husband adds — unless it is a good wage and another pair of hands — under the prevailing egalitarian model of marriage that seems to be so successful among the highly educated. You know: “gender equality”; fifty percent each of paid work and household chores.

Many scholars have observed that this idea of marriage does not appeal to working class men — and perhaps much of the middle class as well. A more equal sharing of roles, yes, but not with the precision of a business partnership, which is how marriage often is represented today.

What is lost in this model is something so fundamental that it could explain much of the current disenchantment with the institution: complementarity, the idea that man and woman are two halves of humanity, signifying our essentially relational nature.

One doesn’t have to be married to participate in the giving and receiving of human relationships, but marriage, with its typical fruitfulness in the form of children, reminds us all of an existential need and call. Given that it is also the way civilizations — especially the Christian civilization of the West — have grown and flourished, the idea that marriage can be replaced by self-love is both absurd and cruel.

Of course not everyone needs to be married. Of course we must love ourselves, in the sense of accepting ourselves and wanting what is truly best for us. Of course we must have a certain “wholeness” in order to give ourselves to others and receive what they have to give us.

But wholeness is a lifetime project that can only be achieved in relationship with others. Marriage is the great exemplar of that human project and the way that most people would pursue it in a sane society. We should be doing all we can to encourage young people to aim for it, to show them what it really is and to foster their hope for a good marriage, not manufacturing myths to protect failed sexual and gender revolutions.

 

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

Copyright 2016 MercatorNet.

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  • Gary

    I suppose that if I marry myself, and then divorce myself, the courts will make me pay alimony to myself. Well, at least I could use the extra income.

  • LK1976

    This is just plain weird to me, but marriage hasn’t been a good thing for me. After being told I need to abstain indefinitely for a medical reason, my husband has emotionally left me, and there’s nothing I can do to change it.

  • Jerry Kliner

    I am a divorced, middle-aged, man who takes my vows…the vows I voluntarily made…as binding. I am surely not “married to myself,” but I am in a solo-marriage. I married my wife, she chose to break those vows. My choice is to continue honoring the vows I took, so I bought a ring and wear it on my right hand.
    The vows I took were “until death parts us,” and I took them in front of a Pastor and a congregation. Just because my wife decided that she wouldn’t abide by those vows and a civil judge decreed that civilly and legally we are separated does nothing to those vows. I have decided to live as single and celibate for the rest of my days.
    Certainly this is different than the “I married me self” nonsense, but still…

    • John F. Kennedy

      BTW, Mr. Kilner, your position is that of the Catholic Church. It is difficult and in this day and age, it is incomprehensible for the average person to understand your principles.

    • qwerty

      i wanted to ask you this, do you know of a woman named liz chaney allen? she is a pastor from morgan town?

      • Jerry Kliner

        I don’t think so… But the city is bigger than you’d think and spread across several ridges, which breaks it up into funny sections. So I don’t always know the other clergy because we function in our own communities.

        • qwerty

          she was an ame minister, and eventually moved to charleston, i believe..

    • Royce E. Van Blaricome

      I wanted to say “God bless you!!!!” for your faithfulness. You didn’t mention whether your wife professed to be a Believer. I am in the same boat as you. My dilemma is that my wife professed with her mouth to be a Believer and yet all other evidence, including some things she stated, would be evidence to the contrary. After much prayer and counsel with many, including my pastor who stated he would say she is an Unbeliever, I am standing on 1st Cor. 7:15 and believe I am no longer in bondage and am free.

      I’ve been single now for 6yrs and while I’m quite content to remain as such, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to find a godly woman to spend the rest of my life with and make what memories we can together with the time the Lord continues to give us.

  • ARB

    At this point, from a strictly legal perspective, marriage *has* basically just devolved into a way to discriminate against single people anyway. It doesn’t favor reproductive couples, much of its original purpose, because of gay marriage and the acceptability of divorce, and many of its advantages are entirely decoupled from reproduction at all. So, on some level, the maintenance of this perverse distortion of marriage by the state simply disadvantages and discriminates against single individuals, whether they be simply lonely or intentionally celibate, which only multiplies the intrinsic economic disadvantages of being single (as opposed to being part of a child-avoiding couple).

  • Jim Walker

    Frankly, a marriage is about giving into it and not taking from it.
    Most Americans go into a marriage expecting something from it, most expecting a Bed of Roses, but in reality, its a Bed of Roses alright, but with thorns and both of you have a lifetime to trim it off.
    The more thorns removed, the stronger the marriage.

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