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!
13 responses to “I Love Myself, I Love My Friends, I Love My Life Without Romance: Thank You to “Against the Couple Form””
Thanks for this amazing post!! Will definitely have to check out “Against the Couple Form.” Hope you have a lovely day! ❤
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Holly! Hope you are having a fab day too.
Hi, Thomas. Nice to meet you. Sometimes I read your blog because I’m inspired by your openness about mental health issues, social justice issues, and feminism. Oh, and books. I recently read about an interview by Alok Vaid-Menon that I think you might resonate with: https://www.documentjournal.com/2019/02/alok-vaid-menon-wants-you-to-embrace-vulnerability-this-valentines-day/
Observation I had: In a way, our focus on coupledom and romantic love, as the defining aspiration of life, doesn’t actually make sense. People can be adaptive and healthy if they have a strong network of friends and not romantic partner. Yet, I suspect people would agree the opposite is not true- if somebody has a romantic partner, but no good friends, that would be very troubling. And, in fact, somebody depending on a sole partner for all their emotional needs is unhealthy for the relationship. You’d think, with such a truth, there would be a greater drive to encourage people to have supportive friendships we can feel vulnerable in.
Aw Kevin, nice to meet you too and thanks so much for stopping by and reading my blog! It means a lot to me that you would take the time to comment too. I just read Alok Vaid-Menon’s interview and loved it, thank you for sharing.
I appreciate your observation. It’s so interesting because when you write it out like that it does make a lot of sense to have strong social support, yet so often because we glamorize romantic love and expect little out of friendship, we end up devaluing friendship for romance, which I’d say is problematic. Thanks for your take and I hope to hear from you again soon and I hope you’re doing well.
Kevin writes a lot of sense above. I am fortunate in a life that allows me to give support to my friends when I need to without having to consider my husband being jealous or pissed off, and when he can support his elderly parents without me getting in a fuss (OK today I am stressed he has gone to make their garden furniture because our cat has been really sick and I’m alone with the responsibility again and had a freer day yesterday – but I wouldn’t have stopped him going). I’m glad you’ve found – and been sent!- this empowering resource and will check it out.
Thank you for your validation Liz and for being a role model for me in how I want to live my future life if I ever date a man (which is unlikely because of extremely limited options but oh well)! I hope your cat is feeling better and that you’re doing well. Thank you for reading and commenting, it means so much to me as always.
Thank you! Unfortunately I am having an actual well we don’t call them nervous breakdowns now, do we, but a mental health crisis caused by my reaction to the cat’s illness (he’s no worse, not better at the moment) and am on anti-anxiety meds. I’m being a good Mental Health Champion and being open about this on my running stuff but not my actual blog (because People read that, urgh) so not fun. However being supported equally by husband and friends and our (my) friends supporting husband is a great safety net and community for me to play this out in.
In my circle of friends, I don’t know anyone that places their relationships with friends on equal platform with their marriage. I’ve always accepted the fact that friendships will suffer. I remember attending the wedding of a friend and in his speech, he said he wanted to continue spending time with his friends because those friendships were important. That was about 3 years ago and I’ve seen him maybe twice.
I do hope you’ll find a partner that will share your values, beliefs and taste in music. I mean, what if he thought Black Pink was some retro punk band?
p.s. I’ve bookmarked the article and will find some quiet time to read it. Cuz anything you recommend has gotta be good.
Ugh I’m sorry to hear about the friend who said he would prioritize his friends but then didn’t, that’s upsetting to hear about. 😦 Yeah, it’s been hard for me to see my friends prioritize men when they start dating them, but I do have one friend who dated a guy for several months and when she did she was very intentional about still prioritizing me in a meaningful way, so it can be done! Even if it involves a lot of effort and self-awareness, it can be done.
Haha we’ll see if I find a partner who shares all of those things with me, though I genuinely appreciate your well wishes a lot. He’d have to listen to BlackPink before getting with me tbh. Hope you enjoy the article if/when you read it and thanks again for stopping by.
Wow. I read “Against Couple form.” Holy s–t. Need to think on that for a while, um like a lifetime. Lol. Talk about gutting any semblance of desire for “couple form” with the deepest thought provoking points!
And I loved your post, but for me it was without frame of reference. Like wandering in water for the first time and having no idea of how you are going to survive it, I just never hear ANYONE talk like this. And yet, it warmed my heart and made you seem very plugged in and aware of life. And the true value of things not just the pre-determined definition of value in say — dating or coupleship.
Your post is the best thing I’ve read in weeks and honestly “Against couple form” blew me away, and in the best way possible. Inviting you to my rock garden! ❤
Yes, that essay blew my mind as well and I’m glad to hear you may be having a similar reaction to it! And awwww I appreciate your compassionate words about my blog and my writing, it means a lto to me. I try to be plugged in and aware of life, while also understanding I am still learning and growing all the time. I do place a heavy emphasis on the true value of things beyond their predetermined definition,
So grateful for your kind words. I hope you stop by again this blog soon!
Oh my goodness, I still have the tab open with that piece of writing. What a gift for us single ones huh? Cuz the world has a pretty heavy — better get hooked up — narrative huh?
Anyway, keep your focus the true value of things, instead of going with the herd.
It’s refreshing and a relief! And I will stop by again (in fact follow so i remember to).
I ended up getting intrigued by your review for the book “Adult children of emotionally immature parents” by Lindsey and then followed it to your profile and then to your wordpress page and thereafter I kept reading your posts one after another. Man! You totally resonate with me on this particular topic—on crushing this preconceived standard of being in a romantic relationship to be happy. It is extremely strange that I landed in the page. Exactly 1 day back I was thinking about the exact same thing. I was thinking if I didn’t bother entering a relationship at all, unless I found someone who shared the exact values as me. If I didn’t I would stay single. That was a debate in my mind and my mind was at war with what society wanted of me—-husband/marriage. I come from India—-here girls are often forced to marry men beyond their choice….can you believe that! ANyways, I simply loved your articles….It highly matches the kind of person I am. So, thank you beyond words!
I love how openly you speak your views and how free you are with challenging the constructs of the society.
I can’t wait to read the rest of your articles.