Last weekend, I sat in the Chicago O’Hare airport sipping a Caribbean Passion smoothie from Jamba Juice when a friend sent me the essay “Against the Couple Form.” I opened it, expecting an okay analysis of living life without a romantic partner, but instead, I found one of the most radical, validating pieces of writing in my entire life.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I care a lot about finding, cultivating, and maintaining love and connection outside of romance, in particular outside of romantic relationships with men. But fighting the patriarchal, heteronormative narrative that I need a man to complete me – the story sold to us by Disney movies, dating apps, and the wedding industrial complex – can feel lonely. It feels lonely when the majority of students in my graduate program and one of my feminist book clubs heavily prioritize romance and/or their romantic partners. It feels lonely when people post about their weddings and engagements and no one comments or adds a disclaimer about the problematic origins and implications of marriage. It feels lonely when people view my anger about the over prioritization of romance as a symptom of some unresolved internal pathology, as opposed to a justified emotion that acts as a reaction against the oppression of femmes, women, and all those who want to thrive outside of an antiquated social more.
But when my friend sent me the essay “Against the Couple Form,” I felt so validated and happy. I immediately texted it to a few of my closest friends. I put in my earphones and blasted BlackPink’s “Kill This Love,” with a renewed appreciation of the radical feminist implications of hitting the “annihilate” button on the over-prioritization of romance (i.e., I stan). I thought to myself, “sharing this provocative essay with my readers for their benefit is a great way to justify disclosing about my life on the internet.” This essay articulated so many ideas and feelings I have journaled about, written about, and dreamed about for a while, ideas ranging from how femmes and women reinforce patriarchy when we spend a lot of time talking about men, or how it feels so sad and devastating when I see and know people who have never experienced happiness or contentment outside of a romantic partnership.
“Against the Couple Form” inspired me and reminded me that oftentimes when you do something different from the norm, from the established conventions of society, you will feel lonely, and that’s okay. In fact, that feeling of loneliness may reflect a capacity to create a praxis or a lifestyle that defies normalized oppression, or antiquated traditions that trap us in small boxes.
I’m recommitted to doing what I can to stand against the prioritization of romance. I’m always going to post just as much, if not way more about my closest friends on social media than any romantic partner, no matter the likes received. I will never settle for a man who does not inspire me with his commitment to social justice and compassion, the same values I cherish in my friends. If I do date a man, I will continue to prioritize my closest friends just as much if not more than I prioritize this man. In fact, I am starting to consider marrying one of my closest friends – because we should all receive the benefits given to married couples – regardless of our romantic relationship status. I am thinking about and looking more deeply into ways to dismantle the wedding industrial complex. I bring up my closest friends in conversations on purpose, to show that they matter to me, to highlight that romance is unnecessary.
Despite the lonely moments, I have found great connection at least in part thanks to these anti-romance beliefs. I felt so seen when I read Let’s Take the Long Way Home, a memoir about best friendship, when I watched Girlhood, a movie about the radical solidarity of friendship in the race of racism and sexism, and when I listened to this podcast from an alumna of my PhD program in which she emphasized the importance of friendship and what makes friendship work. I laughed so hard a couple days ago when my friend Bri and I FaceTimed and we talked about rejecting mediocre men in a society that so often gives them a pass. I felt understood when I texted “Against the Couple Form” to a member of my other feminist book club and she told me the essay resonated with her too, before we proceeded to text about other feminist things.
I love love. I love love that flows between friends, that transcends tradition, that entails healthy communication and shared values and lots of humor. I hope we can create a society where this love flourishes in our friendships, within ourselves, in our relationships with nature and in our pursuit of justice. I hope we know we each have the power to make this love happen, for ourselves and for others, all of us.
What do you think of the essay “Against the Couple Form”? I know I didn’t really analyze or go into it much, I avoided that on purpose because it would have taken 27 blog posts and I wanted to share the piece as soon as possible. How else can we advocate for friendship and other forms of non-romantic relationships? Other reactions to this post? Honestly I love being happy without a romantic partner because if I ever do invest in a man
which is highly unlikely because we’re going to build an independent bookstore on Neptune before I find a man who impresses me enough to invest in him I know I will do it because I want to, not out of loneliness or pressure from our patriarchal heteronormative society. Also, feel free to post any comments stanning Itzy’s masterpiece “Icy,” probably my favorite song of this year. Until next post!