In the grand scheme of things, though, why is this an important issue?
If marriage and couples are supposed to be this magic bullet, and your relationship is the thing that is supposed to define and make the world for you, that’s putting an enormous amount of pressure on that relationship. This book is not against couples — it’s really against the primacy of the couple, the anxious over-importance of the couple that actually makes couples fail because you can’t by definition make a whole world out of one other person. If you try, you’re shrinking your world and your existence in the hope it’s going to cure everything. It creates a lot of distress and at the same time it’s invalidating your other experiences you had when you were by yourself, when you were dreaming up other kinds of associations you might have.
Can you imagine a presidential candidate being unmarried? The only people who can get into high political office while unmarried are basically Supreme Court justices and that creates an enormous amount of anxiety, gossip and innuendo.
I was very happily single for most of the first five years I lived in New York, and almost all of my group of friends were single too. Now I’m in a relationship, which was a little awkward at first, mostly because it involved renegotiating my relationships with my happily single friends, and I was paranoid about creating resentments by, for example, talking too much about my boyfriend.
That probably comes from the fact that couples culture wins every time, so the resentment is that now you’ve become “legitimate.” So the perception is [that you’re going to say], “I’m still going to be your friend and I’m going to try to be respectful that you’re in this damned condition even though you’re happy about it.” Hopefully you’ve determined that your relationship doesn’t invalidate the earlier [single] history you had, and they’re simply different moments in your life. You’re most likely the same person you were.
I think that’s very true.
What I’m saying is: You’re still a mess.
I posted this on twitter already, but this interview in Salon with Michael Cobb is fascinating and deserves wider broadcast by me.