What does it mean to be self-partnered?
This isn’t just a cool phrase, or trendy term sweeping a community of female millennials. The term, as spoken by actress Emma Watson in a recent interview is more valid than you think.
A Call For a New Term
Language plays a huge part in the way we understand concepts. The term single used largely to describe anyone who is unmarried insufficiently describes the current dating landscape. We are all born single. Meaning we are all born without a legal commitment to another person. To understand that we are naturally single is to accept that we choose marriage. It might not feel like it, but single is not the choice; marriage is.
But as we lean into a better understanding of the way language shapes our reality, being labeled single connotes a decision instead of the natural order of things. For this reason a new term is all too necessary.
Why Women Lead the Charge
In a recent article celebrities like Lizzo, Selena Gomez, and Ariana Grande were hailed as being icons of a new movement of female independence. But these famous names just reflect what has been happening in society for decades. Women today are dynamic. They’ve accepted the challenge of taking care of themselves in every aspect of the term. Their desire to be financially, mentally, spiritually, and physically healthy is undeniable. This ability to ‘take care’ of themselves in a way that marriage never supplied is a huge factor in why women are marrying later, or not at all.
The common narrative is that women are delaying marriage for education, but this isn’t quite accurate. Yes, it seems the choice itself going to college, or pursuing a career will delay marriage but the underlying driver is not a path of education or bust. Women are motivated by a need for both fulfillment and independence. A marriage, in the traditional sense, supplies neither. How appealing is it to be in a romantic relationship yet deeply unfulfilled? Living with the regret of what women are expected to give up to be married has become a far bigger burden to bear.
Women are more inspired by partnerships than relationships. They are looking for men who can both recognize and support their emotional needs, as well as contribute to the emotional labor necessary to sustain a healthy relationship. A task men have never been asked to do, until recently.
Partnership as commonly defined is severely lacking when referring to personal relationships. From a business standpoint a partnership is an arrangement where parties, known as business partners, agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. But more accurately, a partnership is an agreed investment of time, energy, or resources to someone for the betterment of oneself or one’s interest.
With a clearer, updated description, self-partnership would be the decision to invest time, energy, and resources to oneself, for one’s betterment. Not a bad deal. We have upended the status quo when it comes to relationships, preferring to foster only those interpersonal connections that as Marie Kondo would put it; spark joy.
You Can’t Choose to Be Single
Single by choice is a narrow minded, and inaccurate way of describing a group of adults who’s lives don’t revolve around a romantic partner, or the search of one. Self-partnered more accurately defines the decision to focus on one’s own self-fulfillment instead of seeking that fulfillment in another person.
While this might arguably deflate the value of marriage, it doesn’t negate the importance of partnership. The need to feel loved, supported, and valued will never go away. The idea that it can only come from a romantic relationship, or needs to come from one relationship at all, goes against what humans have always known, or lived. Self-partnership allows our core needs to be met with intention. We are no longer seeking what we feel to be missing from an external resource and have a term that conveys this at our disposal.
What self-partnership can mean, if adopted correctly, is the concept of investing in the fulfillment of one’s own emotional needs. Beyond the assumption that being single doesn’t mean miserable, it reinforces that individuals can invest in their own joy.
While we can’t change the conversation overnight, it’s been a new generation of language that has allowed adults to further heal, and find fulfillment in their lives.
This term, like others, puts a concept into reality, and helps us foster meaningful conversations. No longer does the government get to define your relationship status. Especially when being single is something you have little choice in. In today’s world there is no reason being single shouldn’t include the same nuance as a term, as being single embodies as a lifestyle.