Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why do fools stay in love?

Things you cant do if you're a couple: "You can't leave the house without saying where you're going. You can't not say what time you'll return... You can't be a slob. You can't do less than 50 percent around the house, even if the other person wants to do 100 to 200 percent more housecleaning than you find necessary or even reasonable...You can't sleep apart...You can't not 'communicate your feelings.' Except when those feelings are critical" (Kipnis, 2002)
If not being a couple gives you all sorts of freedoms (and Laura Kipnis suggests these include the pleasures of wearing badly matched clothes, of which I approve), the key question is not so much why do fools not only fall in love, but why on earth do they stay together?

Going through the process of uncoupling has provided me with some answers. It's because somewhere along the line you stop being a person and become a couple, and people don't relate to you as a person any more, rather as a unit of social reproduction. Initially, this feels kind of weird (like when you start getting xmas cards that aren't for you any more, but are for a couple that includes you), and then you get used to the idea and then you cant remember what it was like to not be a couple. And then when you start to realise that you're not living the life you want, but the life you think your partner wants (but probably doesn't), you start thinking about life alone and you get scared. Because everyone and everything tells you that not being a couple is sad, lonely. Almost every shit pop song ever is about finding the boy/girl of your dreams, doing coupley stuff and being in love: more worryingly, even the good indie stuff that dares to suggest that being in love may not always be so great also suggests that not being in love is a great deal worse. And that becoming an un-couple is the most gut-wrenching, painful, and, saddest thing you will ever do.

And so while becoming-couple is a process that is celebrated, mythologised and heartily encouraged, uncoupling is discouraged socially, politically and economically. So I think we need more people to talk about the pleasures of non-monogamy, the joys of uncoupling and the tyranny of coupledom. And while the fact I'll get 50% fewer Xmas cards in the future will continue to piss me off, I'll take some consolation from fact that when a couple becomes two singles, a predictable life can become two unpredictable lives. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with being 'normal', I've come to the conclusion that two fully-lived unpredictable lives are probably better than two half-lived half-arsed lives based on the petty fear of being alone.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, nice to hear some stories from the other side!

    I think although uncoupling may be discouraged there is still quite a wealth of stuff out there about the joys of singleness. Not that I politically approve of any of it as it tends to fall into an individualistic 'me me me' self-help type genres.

    Anyway... i think you're on to something with the fear of being alone. But do you think it really could be described as 'petty'? Surely the fear of being alone is an incredibly powerful force?