I saw on the Internet that some random ass chick on Instagram was asking, “What’s so wrong with wanting to be in a relationship? What’s so wrong with commitment?” Which made me think, mostly because I felt like that question was directed at me because I’m pretty sure that I’m the person who’s out here spouting all this feminist anti-relationship bullshit. So I took a moment to answer her, but typing out comments with more than thirty words on Instagram is kind of an insufferable thing to do, so I figured I’d flesh out my response to that on my silly little sex blog.
I actually don’t have beef with relationships. We need relationships to survive. Yet for some reason our society codifies romantic relationships as the ne plus ultra of relationships. Romantic relationships are the model that all other relationships are built on, and sexual relationships, professional relationships and platonic relationships are put on the back burner as auxiliary. This doesn’t really make sense to me, mostly because we are social creatures, and vaunting the romantic relationship ahead of other types of relationships makes it easier and more justifiable to socially isolate oneself within a romantic relationship. This can incredibly unhealthy, especially for women.
My problem with romantic relationships is that the basic framework of romantic relationships is heteronormative, and with heteronormalcy we also get the notion that women play an ancillary role within the relationship. The modern romantic relationship is oppressive to women because women are expected to cater to a man’s needs within the relationship. In our patriarchal society, men earn more money (not because they earn it, but because of the wage gap), and because men are financially superior in our society this translates into the microcosm of the relationship as the reason why a woman needs to cater to a man’s needs. By design, a woman is less able to go out into the world and earn enough money to support a family. Due to this, her needs and her wants become less important within the relationship. This is incredibly degrading to women.
As a feminist, I believe that a woman’s decision to be single is one of the greatest freedoms that we have in the modern era. Our conscious decision to be independent in the world, to support ourselves and to stand our own two feet is powerful, even if at times it can get lonely. However, I don’t know about you, but pretty much all the women I know who have come before me weren’t given the option to support themselves and instead were forced to seek a mate out of financial and social necessity. They needed a partner in order to survive, but that is different from wanting a partner in order to live a fulfilling life. The necessity of a partner for survival creates circumstances that force women to choose partners who are the best at surviving or who can best help them survive. When a woman is allowed to be independent, she can create her own set of standards for her partner, and those standards will be based on her own desires rather than her need to eat. This is why being a single woman in today’s society is not a travesty, but, rather, an expression of our liberty. Being a single woman was so often frowned upon because a single woman was seen as someone who would not survive on her own. Although being single can often times be lonely, it is certainly not shameful, and it can be an empowered decision. Society tells us that if no man wants us, then we are worthless, but that’s not true. We can still have each other and prosper, and who’s to say that it’s not because no man wants us, but because we want none of these men?
I don’t support the modern notion of romantic relationships, but I understand that people have needs. We are social creatures, and we need each other. While it may seem that the easiest answer to our need for each other is to get into romantic relationship so that we can have our needs for sexual, physical, emotional, romantic, financial and social stimulation met, in reality the societal expectation that one person will fulfill all the above needs and fulfill them well is pretty ridiculous. The idea that we go on dating apps like Tinder and OK Cupid looking to meet strangers who we then vet as potential partners and as people who have the capacity and are eager to fill those needs is illogical because few people are already able to fulfill those needs for themselves. Personally, I believe that it makes sense to have a large social network, one where a variety of people are able to fill a variety of needs so that the pressure to be a great lover, a caring person, stable, gainfully employed, going somewhere in life, attentive to another person’s needs, emotionally available, socially agile is spread among several people rather than heaped onto one poor, unsuspecting, unprepared individual. Sexual stimulation doesn’t have to be the same need that is fulfilled by a person with whom you engage in mundane social activities.
When it comes to commitment, the ability to commit to people, places and experiences in the long term is a very healthy practice. However, commitment doesn’t work for everybody all the time, and it’s not always appropriate. Committing to people who are in your life and elevate your self worth is an excellent choice, but the expectation of commitment within the context of a romantic relationship isn’t always the best decision because committing to someone who fulfills a romantic role in your life simply because that is what we’re supposed to do – that’s not a recipe for success. That’s a recipe for rushing into things. The nature of our relationships shouldn’t be dictated by commitment, and the freedom to come and go as you choose is what allows people to rationally stay in one place and with one person. Likewise, not all personality types jibe well with commitment. Some people crave it, yet other people – due to whatever life experiences they have had – are less inclined to settle down. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with wanting commitment, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting fluidity in your relationships. It’s wrong to force your personal agenda on someone who doesn’t want it or isn’t prepared for it.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be in a relationship or wanting commitment. But there is something wrong with perpetuating heteronormative, misogynistic relationship patterns and expecting commitment from strangers. It’s on us to fix these things, and rather than bemoaning being single, we should celebrate our liberty and appreciate the relationships that we already have with the people in our lives rather than downgrading them to a status as lesser than because they don’t fulfill certain romantic or sexual roles. Romance is a snake oil that too many people are selling as the antidote to loneliness and the cause of so many other problems.