If the word sologamy sounds to you like something served on pumpernickel with cheese and mustard, you clearly are hungry for something other than a relationship with yourself.
That, or you don’t live in Britain, where stories of sologamy have been all the rage lately. (A Japanese travel agency, reports thesun.co.uk, has gone so far as to offer a two-day “solo wedding” package for a mere $3,200.)
Or perhaps you just didn’t know there was a word — or a protocol — for marrying yourself. An event, by the way, which apparently first occurred in the U.S. 24 years ago, when a woman named Linda Baker married herself to celebrate her 40th birthday.
“I kind of think it’s brilliant and dumb all at the same time,” says LeeAnn Rayburn, 33, who works as an academic adviser and teacher in Flower Mound, Texas.
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As a happily single woman who is regularly asked why she isn’t married, she appreciates the concept of celebrating devotion to yourself with a formal ceremony: “There’s still this expectation to have a significant other, so I love this push to celebrate individualism and self.”
Dallas-based relationship expert and Methodist pastor Sheron Patterson was familiar with the concept but not the word.
“I affirm it,” says Patterson, an author whose books include Single Principles: The Single Woman’s 10 Step Guide to Power (Perseverance Press). “Singleness is hard. Some singles tear themselves down because they are single. This idea affirms them and endorses them as they are.”
Although she notes that marriage is between two people — thus, sologamy is not technically a marriage — she does call it “a very nurturing thing to do.”
We’ll come back to this positive aspect momentarily. First, though, go ahead and scoff at the idea of sologamy. Roll your eyes. Lament the self-centered society we’ve become in which we marry ourselves, for crying out loud.
Finished? OK, now we can move on to the deeper aspect of this.
“There’s so much pressure on single people to have a mate,” Patterson says. “Our society is sometimes prejudiced against single people: Why aren’t you married? Something must be wrong with you.
“This new wave affirms them as they are, affirms them as being whole, finds their value, allows them to be satisfied with themselves as they are.”
Rayburn, the teacher, says it “boggles her mind” that people think they have to be with somebody in order to be happy. “If you can’t be happy by yourself, why do you think you’d be happy with someone?”
When she was in her teens and 20s, she says, she “kind of had problems being single.” But one day, “it just dawned on me that I was OK with that. I’m sure if I found someone I really wanted to be with, I would make it work, but if I’m happy with myself, I’m not going to let myself be in a relationship or in a position I’m not comfortable with” just for the sake of being part of a couple, she says.
Rayburn doesn’t anticipate ever having a traditional wedding, and she probably wouldn’t throw herself a sologamy one, either. “Maybe I’ll settle for taking myself on a solo vacation or two or three instead,” she says.
If at some point you do plan to be in a relationship, working on loving and accepting yourself is imperative to its success, says Malissa Melton-Otunba, a behavioral health counselor at Dallas’ Parkland Health & Hospital System. “Two broken people don’t make a whole person, but two whole people make a healthy relationship.”
Patterson agrees: “They’ll be happy with themselves and won’t be as fractured, like a half waiting for someone to make them whole. They’ll be more selective in dating, not, ‘I’ll go out with anybody with a pulse.’ ”
In addition, she says, “you’ll calm down, be less fearful, have less anxiety and less worry.”
Even if you never do settle down into a relationship, feeling content with who you are has other major benefits, Melton-Otunba says.
“When I’m happy with myself and encourage myself and pursue my goals, I’m a better friend and better able to help you do the same. I’m a better mom; I can help my children realize they’re valuable as well. It’s almost like the idea of throwing a pebble in the pond. As I become healthier, that has a positive effect on everyone I interact with.”
“You’re going to be more confident, more laid-back, less judgmental of others. If you’re more accepting of yourself, flaws and all, you’ll be more accepting of others, flaws and all.”
HOW TO BE A BETTER SINGLE
Get out and focus on yourself, Rayburn says. Do things you want to do. Go to a movie by yourself. Go to dinner by yourself. Go hiking by yourself. “Do something to explore the world by yourself and get to know yourself better.”
Learn to be by yourself, she says. “If you can’t stand being by yourself for hours at home, how will anyone want to spend hours with you?”
Find your hobbies, Patterson says. “Do you paint? Do you garden? Develop yourself.”
Be present. “Slow down, savor life,” Patterson says.
Start today, Melton-Otunba says.