With everyone marrying anyone, it would seem only a matter of time before someone would end up marrying no one. Leave it to the postmodern imagination to open up absurd frontiers in non-marriage. Marrying no one is now an option.
Officially, it is called sologamy. It consists of a person marrying one’s self. It sounds bizarre, but the fact is that these same-self “marriages” are now happening, although not on a mass scale. People—mostly women at this phase—are holding public ceremonies in which they say “I do” to themselves, and celebrate, complete with ring, wedding dress, cake and reception. Predictably, trendy writers, artists and life coaches, who already live in an unreal world, are the ones not tying the knot.
Marketers have even latched on to the trend. There is an “I Married Me Self-Wedding-In-A-Box” kit that can supply lonely self-spouses with ceremony instructions, sample vow formulas, fake certificates and other materials. It is to be supposed that the photography would be taken care of with selfies. As for the legality of the act, there is nothing to “legalize” since this ultimate private fantasy only exists in the imagination of the one-ple (not couple).
A Logical Consequence
As crazy as sologamy sounds, there is something terribly consistent and logical about its appearance on the “define-your-own-marriage” scene. It is a fitting metaphor to represent the failure of the promises of the Sexual Revolution to make people happy. It is a lonely indication of just how extreme individualism can go when given free reign.
Indeed, once one ventures outside the bonds of a traditional indissoluble marriage as defined by the Church, every other bonding has something of sologamy since self-gratifying unions eventually become narcissistic.
The Autonomous Being
The solitary march down the aisle toward sologamy is part of a long process toward moral chaos inside liberal society. It is the fruit of modern individualism, which declares each person is an entirely autonomous being. Individuals are told that they are the sole architects of their freedom and destiny. Their principal purpose in life is to engage in an inebriating pursuit of self-interest.
This myth dominated American society until the sixties and still lingers on in other forms today. There seemed to be no limits to what one could achieve alone.
The Need for Social Institutions
In the beginning, modern individualism worked around the complications of human nature that are contrary to its basic premises. It had to deal, for example, with the reality that no one is an entirely autonomous being.
In fact, all individuals are social beings that need other people. People naturally crave society. They tend toward God, their creator. There are certain social bonds and institutions (like marriage) that form and shape the individual and anchor the person to reality. People need those strong ties to religion, tradition, family, custom, or moral law so as to keep society in balance and provide the social capital that makes a nation prosperous.
Modern individualism never fully acknowledged such realities, but rather lived off the rich social institutions from which it sought freedom. It was much more these institutions that helped individuals achieve greatness than the sheer power of the individualist will. America had just enough social capital before the sixties to build a vibrant economy and sturdy social fabric.
A Constant Tension
However, there was ongoing tension between the liberal myth of individualism with no limitations and the traditional model with its natural restraining social institutions. In theory, Americans preached the desirability of pure individualism without restrictions. In practice, they clung to the family, church, and other social structures that gave their lives meaning.
Regarding marriage, the American ideal before the sixties was traditional marriage since it contributed substantially to the desired prosperity. At the same time, the pre-sixites culture already started eroding the foundations of marriage with the gradual promotion of divorce, promiscuity and contraception.
War on Restraint
The Sexual Revolution shattered the uneasy peace between restraint and unrestraint. A new more radical postmodern individualism exploded onto the scene.
The modern individualist knew how to use restraint to advance self-interest. The postmodern individual knows how to destroy any institutions that hinder self-gratification.
Above all, this individualist became the ultimate judge of what is right and wrong. This attitude was infamously reflected in the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which read: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
The Imagination Gone Wild
The tragedy of postmodern individualism is that it goes beyond reality and degenerates into fantasy. The old individualism chafed under the restraint of the natural external structures of tradition, custom, or community. At least it stayed inside the logic of the real world and natural vice.
The postmodern individualist seeks to destroy the internal structures—logic, identity, or unity—that impede instant gratification. This can be seen in the blending and blurring of distinctions and “genders” that has so destroyed certainties. This trend can be found in the deconstruction of identity, as individuals now find the “right” to self-identify as anyone or anything that they desire at the moment. Finally, postmoderns avoid all that is reasoned, structured, or systematized by escaping into fantasy, dreams and ecstasy found in the experience of drugs, bizarre sexual promiscuity or online fantasies.
Once, these internal structures come crashing down, there is no limit to the absurdities that can be imagined. Hence, sologamy.
The Tyranny of the Unrestrained Self
There is a particular tragedy associated with the fantasy of self-marriage that makes it so symbolic of individualism’s failure. It is an extreme expression of a denial of all contingency. Each person becomes a world unto himself. Society becomes at best an occasion of what Sherry Turkle so expressively called being “alone together.”
With sologamy, the individual reaches the sad conclusion that there can be no happiness with another. Indeed, many who self-marry, do so only after a string of failed relationships, which they blame on the tyranny of others. They mistakenly believe they can live happily ever after only with themselves.
But such happiness is yet another illusion. It is only a matter of time before the person will experience a greater tyranny: the tyranny of the unrestrained self. Eventually, the lonely self-spouse will meet in the mirror the tyrant responsible for all past failures. The person then will embrace the nihilism that so marks postmodern life bereft of meaning and purpose.
The appearance of sologamy underscores the rejected beauty of sacramental marriage. The Church protects marriage from the tyranny of self by uniting two individuals who generously give themselves to each other until death. The Church sanctifies a fruitful and uniting contingency blessed by God, from which children are born and society is built.
The Sexual Revolution promised happiness and has delivered loneliness. By “doing your own thing,” people thought they could reach personal fulfillment. They are now finding a sad and empty celebration of self.
As seen on Crisis Magazine.