I am delighted to say I know a whole of happily married folk, who don’t need to make marriage the entire focus of their lives, it is an enriching element of their lives. I’ve been to some wonderful weddings.
But then there are always, those weddings and those couples who once lived inside an actual fairytale and now it ain’t healthy and today is their day, dammit.
So I suppose today, the most commercial celebration of love, is as good a day as ever to post my cultural cynicism! Welcome to the gory 14th of February! When celebrating beheadings and martyrdom and the oppression of pagan peoples is converted into flowers, declarations of love and the day of the year the most people get engaged to marry! Even some young folk believe in this!
One thing in the hell of 2020 that stood out for me, from the depths of two lockdowns was how desperately some cling to the ideal of romantic love; and just how weird that feels for me, as an asexual person. And also someone whose been happily single for 16 years, with the odd pause for vain attempts at otherwise, I’ve never been happier without any romance for the last 6 of those years.
And news flash, I am not the slightest bit lonely. I have bucket loads of love in my life. It’s just not the desperate kind. By desperate kind, I mean capitalist romantic headfuck that dominates the covers of women’s magazines (still! wtf!).
There seems to be a persuasive cultural conflation between romance and love. Because romance (infatuation, lust, coveting etc. etc.) is quite different to love. Can we stop smashing the two words together into “romantic love”? Have you not noticed the contradiction yet? Valentines Day is the epitome of this; a day of drowning in fake sentiment and once a year efforts from the typically disinterested.
I need to stress that I love celebrating when others celebrate. Be it a marriage, a birth, a promotion. Fuck it, the world can be so dark, I want to celebrate with you and to do that I don’t have to agree with you on the merits of the institution of marriage or the romantic ideals often associated with it. I experienced my fair share of pain during the plebiscite, I fought for the right to marry for my community, but just don’t tie me to the idea that marriage is good for everyone.
But…recent experience prompts me to say…to those addicted to romance, please resist the urge to make your happily long term single friends your own personal projects in the name of love.
Love encompasses self-love, love for humanity and the planet, love for friendships, love for ideas, love for each other. But in 2020 I lost a handful of friendships, because I prioritized my own self love over other people’s needs to use my home and my life as dumping ground for their relationship problems. Because I was single I was expected to play counsellor, savior and provide haven to people in the name of love. There was also a kind of manipulation in there that because I have a history in a profession that fights for the victims of domestic and family violence, that I was expected to be a trauma dumping ground. When I resisted and tried to protect my own safety and wellbeing, and recommend they use official supports, I suddenly became the enemy of ‘love’. There are ways to be actively supporting someone without handing them your safety as well or retriggering your own trauma. People help each other through trauma in our private lives, and I’ve certainly done that for many, but like the unrealistic expectation that love solves it all, helping and loving others should not be overly dangerous to your own well-being.
Trauma in our most intimate relationships can be a hellscape for our future relationships, both intimate and personal or it can be a learning ground, or let’s face it, a lot of both. But the experience brought home just how happy I am not shackled to romantic ideals and a number of my other long term single friends have expressed the same.
This maybe an yet another unpopular opinion, but I am a little bit tired of hearing about people having a “love of a lifetime”. And somehow, for some people, having the love of a lifetime seems to be code for putting up with more shit than Flash Gordon (including abuse).
Being in love with the idea of love to a point where you will give your identity away, is not love. Take it from someone who did it, as a young person desperately trying to be what was modeled to them. Then when I embraced my asexuality and stopped seeing myself as an anomaly, it was like the fairy godmother of relief had visited.
Sometimes, people say “you are so lovely, you deserve someone who loves you” to people like me; the irony of which is not lost on me as an out and proud asexual with no desire to be shackled in romantic conquest. I have quite a visceral response to this, and it almost makes me want to vomit.
I feel like asexual people are used like an insurance policy no one read the fine print on; people’s ‘sadness for us’ is the insurance that promotes their own scramble to be shackled to the nearest wild chemical attraction, then when it all falls apart we are the fine print that says “I told you so”.
The societal need to prove asexual people wrong is strong. But we don’t exist to make anyone feel better about their own sexual and romantic urges and particularly not when things go bad for them. People go out their way to involve us in their romances, weddings and romantic stories with such vigor it is as though it might be contagious and suddenly we might change. News flash, the short answer is no.
You can love each other however you like, but enough with the romance ruling your life to a point you are confusing it with abuse. Romance spawns reality TV and an ever burgeoning and expensive wedding and divorce industry, that isn’t about love, it’s about money and control of people’s bodies.
If you are like me and reject romantic ideas for broader ideas of love, then the idea of until death do us part, is well, akin to dying on the spot. Yet my parents did have a happily codependently romantic marriage that appeared to make them happy. Honestly I don’t begrudge anyone else who prioritizes this.
But kindly fuck off if you think that the choice to live alone makes me lonely or that I am loveless. Embracing who I am, which is aromantic, asexual, has made me the happiest and least lonely I have been in my lifetime. The search to be other than that, was the loneliest time in my life. Being freed of that was the most liberating thing to happen to me. That does not mean I do not experience love.
The pressure I experience to be married is still there and I avoid these conversations endlessly, but still there is always someone who will ask why I am not married and if I have been as a matter of priority, not in passing. In my view the wedding industry is a case in point about modern capitalist agendas, not really about love.
Again, love isn’t either/or. It’s not a binary between love or loneliness, but the romance/wedding industry depends on binaries. There IS such a thing as being alone and liking, or dare I say it, loving it. And then there is loneliness. True loneliness is a pervading feeling of sadness at your lot in life, and you can be in love and experience that. Romantic love does not conquer all.
That true loneliness like that can be experienced surrounded by people who are supposed to love you. Anyone who comes from abuse knows how muddled the boundary between abuse and this romantic notion of love conquering all can get. I’ve experienced a lot of ‘negging‘ relationships associated with romantic ideals rather than realities and thanks, so no thanks.
I eat out alone, I shop alone, I live alone, but I am not lonely and I am very loved, thank you very much. I’ve stopped socialising with people who flap their gums about romance and get excited over weddings like it’s the pinnacle of a life times achievement, because frankly, I find them, well…boring. Give me politics discussions and robust philosophy any day. But gossip about who married who is my equivalent to watching paint dry. And because I was assigned female at birth – this attitude means I am apparently a dreadful traitor to the patriarchy. Thank goodness for that!
I have a simple rule when it comes to relationships, because where I show love is often in friendships, and during lockdown I’ve found them challenging with the coupled up heady romantic types. I will stand beside friends that others have abandoned, I’ve gone beyond and above for people I love as friends, over and over. But the moment they start blurring abuse boundaries, I’m out. I’ll try for a while to put boundaries in, but if they consistently cannot respect my boundaries, it won’t work.
I’m not a fan of capitalist agendas, and to me, the need to spend large amounts of money celebrating weddings in the name of something that is meant to be pure in essence (love) seems a tad egregious. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve then laboured through the “how much it cost” conversation with people. If you think talking about how your wedding cost more than my car, chances are the look on my face will resemble Lucille Ball’s most cringeworthy. And my car is secondhand.
This need for people to validate romantic love is symptomatic of romance-itis in my view and I remember my own wedding having a life of itself. I wanted to jump off the wedding train but it had a life of it’s own.
How many people will get engaged today on Valentines Day and stuck on those tracks because of an idea rather than the reality? Will they feel pressured to carry on relationships that are literal train wrecks? Will they just find themselves constantly complaining about it, and focus on the romantic wedding bit (as opposed to genuine love), as though that will fix EVERYTHING? A text book foundation for abuse.
I’ve got plenty of coupled and/or married friends who don’t feel the urge to bash me around the head with their ideas on romance and marriage and I won’t do that to them either. If me being honest about romantic bullshit makes me the asshole, I am quite happy to be the asshole. If you have to bully your friends into your worldview about love and marriage and not except that this may not be their view, I’m out! Because I will them as best I can, but once it becomes all heteronormative, that’s dangerous for me.
Some people believe a marriage ceremony and reception are going to seal a happy union, therein lies the rabbit hole of institutionalised thinking. Bridezillas are created by this patriarchal bullshit as women grapple for their piece of the sexism pie. I will fight for people’s right to marry, but as for the institution and industry of marriage and the oppression it stands for, is something I have long railed against. Like all institutions if we are empowered to use them in a constructive way that can have deep meaning, and we will benefit, but if we use them in a Valentines once a year way – they will last waste to us.
But not all of us have whole identity pivots on the premise of being married. Basically married folk who know me, have to be really secure in their marriage and their identities (instead of shackling the two together), because I ain’t going to gush whenever they use the language of ownership “my husband, my wife”.
If they use these terms in too close an order, like three times in less than ten minutes, I become like a three year old whose just handled a itchy grub. I will have to fight the urge to verbally itch out, “what’s your husband’s name again?”. And what’s worse, is that people will not see I am being ironic, seeking a name for the chattel they are talking about.
Love doesn’t have to be the love of your life to have meaning. In fact, I would argue some of the loneliest people I know lean on notions of romantic love like it’s more important than oxygen and then appear like gasping goldfish in an inch of water, searching to find joy.
IMHO, there isn’t one love that without you are doomed to loneliness; there are many types and forms of love. Ultimately, love is where you find it and you won’t be lonely if you appreciate what all types of love mean to you.
Happy beheading day, don’t lose yours to romance.