In 2015, writer and PR consultant Sophie Tanner married herself in a cultural ceremony, taking vows of self-commitment in front of her family and friends. This has since been released in her novel, Reader, I Married Me, based loosely on her own experience of sologamy. We spoke to Sophie about what self-marriage means for her self-worth in an age of choosing yourself.
What is sologamy?
In a nutshell, sologamy is the act of marrying yourself. It’s not legally recognised but you can have a cultural ceremony during which you make vows of commitment to love and respect yourself until death do you part. You can tailor the size and format of the ceremony to suit you. I chose a big public affair, with all the traditional elements of a wedding including a wedding dress, ring, celebrant and first dance. But other people may prefer to perform a small ritual as a private event. Sologamy has happened all over the world (most recently, India), and each individual has their own unique reasons for saying “I Do” to themselves.
As I see it, the Western world doesn’t have much spiritualism, which is a shame because ritual is fundamental to human growth, identity and development. Other cultures have coming-of-age ceremonies which act as a gateway to adulthood and independence. In Britain and the States, many people are choosing to marry later in life or not to marry at all, which means they have nothing to mark their personal milestones. A self-wedding offers an opportunity to officially recognise a feeling of personal growth.
Why did you choose marrying yourself?
Well, the idea actually came to me as I was turning 30 and recovering from a bad break-up. It wasn’t the first time I’d been cheated on but this time it sent me into a bit of a downward spiral. When the person you thought knew you inside out breaks an agreement, you can’t help blaming yourself, right? I kept comparing myself to the new girl and feeling like a massive failure.
Then, one morning, a few months down the line, I woke up and was so relieved to feel my usual sense of optimism returning. The sun was streaming through the window and I looked around my bedroom and realised that I wasn’t the loser. I had a great life – I loved my family, friends, home and, most importantly, myself. I wanted to jump up and celebrate the realisation that I could be blissfully happy without another ‘half’ to complete me. In our culture, people applaud you when you announce you’re ‘in a relationship’ but you don’t get nearly the same reaction when you decide to focus on your relationship with yourself.
In fact, everyone treats you with unspoken sympathy when you’re single: “don’t worry, the right man is just around the corner”. Sod that; I decided it was time to rejoice in my wholeness – and what better way to celebrate self-love than with a wedding?
Would you say sologamy is a feminist statement?
It can be, yes. Women get the brunt of the stigma surrounding being single — bachelors are eligible but spinsters are ‘crazy old cat ladies’. Historically, a marriage’s success depended on the woman’s willingness to subordinate her selfhood for the good of her husband and children. Today, when a woman has a wedding without a husband, it is an empowering response to a society that tells her she needs a man to live happily ever after. She refuses to feel ashamed, rejected or ‘left on the shelf’. She is choosing life – she is choosing herself.
In the same way feminism isn’t just for women, sologamy is, of course, an option for other genders, too. In our society, men are often raised to be less able to openly demonstrate emotion and are often hamstrung by their inability to deal with their situation. There’s a growing need for individual self-care and self-worth across all genders.
Some critics say sologamy is narcissistic — how do you feel about that?
Narcissists don’t love themselves, quite the opposite. In Greek mythology, poor old Narcissus became obsessed with his own reflection in a pool, staring at it until he lost the will to live and died. Narcissism is a fixation with your physical appearance and public perception of you. In psychoanalytic theory, traits of narcissism include insecurity, difficulty with empathy and inability to sustain satisfying relationships.
In contrast, marrying yourself has nothing to do with vanity or seeking adoration. Sologamy is committing to be responsible for your own happiness and, as a result, becoming more emotionally available to accept and understand others. Developing a sense of self-worth, as opposed to insecurity, allows you greater capacity for human connection.
Through sologamy I’m saying that self-love is as important as romantic love – but they can both feature in my life. I think it’s an important skill to learn to be happy on your own. Even when you are part of a couple, it’s liberating to seek solitude and enjoy your own company.
When you marry yourself you’re creating a standard of what a happy relationship is, meaning you don’t settle for scraps. Feeling secure and content should mean that you’re able to recognise what you deserve and are capable of more generous, fulfilling relationships. You can only truly love someone else when you know how to love yourself.
What’s your advice for someone who may feel lonely when they’re on their own?
The difference between loneliness and solitude is so interesting. Loneliness is an emotional response to feeling unloved; you can still feel lonely when you’re in a relationship or in a crowded room. I think the best way to deal with loneliness is to recognise it and treat yourself with kindness. Stop the negative self-chat and know that you are not alone, everyone feels unloved at some point in their lives. The more self-compassion you develop, the more empathy you have for others – which is a good start in making human connections.
What does self-love mean to you?
For me, self-love is about more than taking a hot bath with a glass of wine or chocolate. It’s about paying attention to what’s going on in your body and mind. And it’s about acknowledging that there are some things you can change and learn from, and others that are out of your control. I think self-love is also about gratitude and being ‘happily ever now’ – it’s important to want what you have and not always have what you want.
The fact that I’ve had to fight to defend my position as a sologamist has made me even more of an ambassador for self-love, and I’ve met some amazing people on my journey. I will never regret marrying myself. And, in a serendipitous turn of events, I’ve also been able to achieve one of my greatest dreams which is to write a novel. Reader, I Married Me was released in 2019 and is based loosely on my own experiences. It’s been an amazing opportunity to explore the many different layers to self-love.
Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveller like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.
Images: courtesy of Sophie Tanner