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Time to kick the couple habit?

Date
Would Barack still be POTUS without Michelle?

Would Barack still be POTUS without Michelle? Photo: AFP

Should we kick the couple habit? (What if it really does make life better?)

Yes. It’s that time again. The Americans are getting ready to vote – or the Chuck Norrises are at least – and that means Australians get to view who in class Americans think is most likely to succeed. As it stands, B-Rock is fist-bumping in the blue corner, Gritty-Mitty-Rom-Comney is ramping up in red, there’s a sexy side-fight brewing between a women-hating budget-hawk and gaff-making set of dentures just beyond the main arena, and the economy is on the line, again, stupid.

And that’s all good and well. But as we all know, it’s not policy that makes a president, it’s his people. And by people, we mean wives, though not in the Mormon way (oh wait, no – Ann may luuuuurve women, but she aint that kind of LDS (*no-one is, technically)).

Why are wives important? Because, rightly or wrongly, the brides of a prospective POTUS have come to represent his ‘human side’. And human sides win votes. Human sides, and the wives that make them, complete the perfect Presidential picture - a picture that paints ‘Commander in Chief’ as a man who’s lover and father as well. This image is important because rule one-o-one of winning relates directly to how you rate on the ‘be-or-be-with-you’ scale.

But what does it say about a society that ‘needs’ to hitch their Head Honcho to a ball and chain before votes of approval may be issued? And if you take American society as the dominant force in the Western World, what does that say about us?

It’s no secret Julia Gillard’s ‘unfortunate’ lack of a husband had made her less popular with some. Not with me, but with a very vocal group of people who would much prefer to see a ‘proper family man’ ensconced alongside progeny on the Kirribilli Christmas cards. Awkwardly, there are some similarities with this church of thought and that which would pave the way for Mr and Mr Prime Minister similarly smiling with season’s greetings.

It all comes down to the cachet marriage still carries as Coveted Life Experience Number One.

But this isn’t just a blog about whether marriage really does make you a winner. We’ve trod that well beaten path before, and there’s just so much conflicting science on the subject coming to an accurate conclusion aint easy. This blog is also about whether being with someone really does make things better – whether you really need someone else to be ‘completed’.

Usually, I would say – almost without thinking – no-one ‘needs’ to be with anyone to be happy. This response is based on years of blogging and reading and talking about what actually matters when it comes to love and life and, y’know, stuff.

The general conclusion from all that is this: it’s not about ‘needs’, it’s about ‘wants’, and those wants must be self-determined. Instead of thinking “I need to be with someone”, we should think “I want to be with someone”, the idea being you’re already able to meet your own needs – you’re already a whole person – so anyone you are with isn’t put upon to fix you somehow (goodbye crappy co-dependency!).

Though there’s always room for new thought on your own, older ideas. And so I was prompted to reconsider my default position against the marriage-begetting ‘we need to be completed’ idea. Basically, I saw the movie Chasing Amy (I highly recommend the movie Chasing Amy), and found a neat idea contained within the script’s great bits about lesbianism, cunnilingus, comic books, and so much more.

Rather than needing to be with him because it would ‘complete’ her, our heroine wants to be with her man because he ‘complements’ her. Complements. I heard that, and thought, how nice! Being complemented.

And then I thought:

“Oh no!”

Because I could feel a subtle shift taking place around my preferred position on this whole ‘do couples do it better’ thing. A shift that posed a daunting addendum to my happiness hypothesis; we might not need to be completed, full lives are possible without a partner, BUT would it really be better if we each found someone who complemented us...

Shit. Does this mean I’d have to concede those smug 'single-life-sucks' people had a point?

Not necessarily. I still think that there are plenty of examples in various cultures around the world, at various points in time, which show how we can live a life without a life-partner and still be happy, still find fulfilment.  Getting married, getting partnered-up, getting with someone who makes you want to be a better human – these are all very wonderful, valuable experiences. But I still really do believe that happiness doesn’t hinge on a ring, or other human thing.

Happiness, surely, is what you make it.

Don’t you think?

I do. So spin that one, spin doctors!

Will we ever see a single person sitting at the head of state? Will we ever accept the legitimacy of a single lifestyle? Could you ever be comfortable flying solo forever? Should you be?

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kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

84 comments

  • Genghis Khan tried valiantly to make a go of being a single man - adding 30+ porcupines (or was it concubines?) a year to his harem - just looking for that special someone to 'complement' him (Nice tie, Mr G! ;+P ).
    Before he found his perfect Mrs Khan, his quest led to ... ahemmm .. activities resulting in his modern-day descendants numbering some 16 million (against the typical 800 or so we might expect).
    His efforts were documented in that rollicking series "Marauder Wants a Wife" ... which of course led to ...
    CK - I gotta say - the last couple of columns ... I worry about you ...

    Commenter
    wimax
    Location
    SEQld
    Date and time
    September 07, 2012, 6:29AM
    • must be with the name Khan
      Imran Khan had at least 30 porcupines a year as well

      Commenter
      I am the Walrus
      Location
      coocoo coojoo
      Date and time
      September 07, 2012, 7:38AM
    • @ wimax

      I agree, Katherine Feeney is now 'our' City Hall reporter and someone else is writing 'her' CityKat columns.

      I reviewed several of the CityKat columns from before she went to China with now. For me, a quite different style of language use, and the context in which ideas are put is very different.

      That said, is the column an exchange between she and we? Or, a means to discuss social issues?

      - - -

      On today's topic, history shows that monogamous 'coupling' a quite recent phenomena. And, the notion of the pretty tupperware party princess minding his house and making his meals became dominant with the introduction of TV in the US post WW2.

      As thinking, rationalising individuals, there is no reason why people ought live their lives in the company of a single other.

      As emotive, feeling and caring 'animals', that is a sufficient (even compelling) reason to share one's life with another.

      And, if one seeks deeply loving and bonding sex - well, it ain't gonna be a one night stand!

      I suggest long term coupling isn't the result of a social norm. Rather, the social norm of long term coupling reflects commitments made to each other (however fashioned and/or described) about how to share life in a together mode. Thus, coupling becomes 'relationship'.

      That our leaders have a significant other in their life articulates the norm that we, as a society, pay regard to those who can maintain a long term relationships.

      Having a long term relationship also signals that despite all the travails that threaten stability, each - to some degree or another - can make the relationship work. And, generally, the person involved in a long term relationship is not typically self centred or selfish within that relationship.

      Cheers

      Commenter
      Dalliance
      Date and time
      September 07, 2012, 8:15AM
    • Dear Dalliance,

      I can assure you there is no ghost writing going on. It's me. I may be different, but really - who wants to stay the same?

       

      Commenter
      CK
      Date and time
      September 07, 2012, 9:24AM
    • @Dalliance
      “history shows that monogamous 'coupling' a quite recent phenomena”
      “As thinking, rationalising individuals, there is no reason why people ought live their lives in the company of a single other.”

      In history terms that is true but the way I look at it is that it is clearly part of human development, eg gender equality etc. but you have the right to select a subset of development and wish to justify why it shouldn’t of have changed, personally I disagree with your views.
      In the western world parallel human development and progress also got rid of(mostly I know) the death sentence, torture and slavery, If I was so inclined I could construct a view supporting any one of those practices, is it that different? Maybe but I suggest that it’s all part of progressive human development, no point looking back at the “good old days”.

      Commenter
      Victorious Painter
      Date and time
      September 07, 2012, 9:12AM
    • Kate

      Then may I suggest you must have then had time to write more constructively. No claws intended.

      @ VP

      The word limit did not enable me to include a last sentence.

      I would liked to have added (and now do)...

      I appreciate that those who are still beholden to the pain of divorce will offer a different view about singlehood and coupling. But, I suggest the pain of a lost relationship defines why it is still held in such high regard.

      Cheers

      Commenter
      Dalliance in reply
      Date and time
      September 07, 2012, 9:40AM
    • @ VP

      After writing the above, my inbox had this message...

      HOW TO DECIDE WHO TO MARRY

      You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
      -- Alan, age 10

      No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.�
      -- Kristen, age 10

      WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED?

      Twenty-three is the best age because you'll know the person FOREVER by then..�
      -- Camille, age 10�

      HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?

      You don't have to guess, it's based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.�
      -- Derrick, age 8�

      WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?

      Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.�
      --Lynnette, age 8�

      On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.�
      -- Martin, age 10�

      IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?

      It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.�
      -- Anita, age 9�(bless you child )�

      HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?

      Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck.�
      -- Ricky, age 10

      Hehehehe

      Commenter
      Dalliance
      Date and time
      September 07, 2012, 9:51AM
    • @Dalliance, we'll just agree to disagree them.

      Commenter
      Victorious Painter
      Date and time
      September 07, 2012, 10:10AM
    • My policy is to fill your time up so you have the best possible single life and from this position if you find someone who can add to this great, if not then life is still brilliant!

      Also, why do we have to stick to the one man one woman model. What's wrong with trying different combinations to see what works best for you?

      Commenter
      greywolfie
      Location
      London
      Date and time
      September 07, 2012, 7:53PM
    • The large number of apparent descendants of Genghis Khan has more to do with the fact that many of his proximate descendants were doing the same thing.

      I am curious why you think 800 is the number you "expect".

      One of my ancestors, who came to Australia from overseas in 1793, had over 15,000 descendants, and there are many 19th century Australians with a similar outcome. But many of the descendants of that person have zero descendants.

      In fact, in each generation, about 25% of people have no children. And even some of the ones with children, have no grandchildren.

      Commenter
      enno
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      September 09, 2012, 4:53AM

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