We have come a long way from the term “spinster”.
Emma Watson’s recent self-description of herself as self-partnered,* instead of the more commonplace “single”, has garnered much social media attention.
And so it should.
Whether or not you like the term self-partnered (and it is not my favourite term – it honestly sounds like a euphemism for masturbation), it shows that language has power.
Language has power.
Take the word spinster. It might have a playful edge among friends, but the loading is undeniably negative. It conjures up an image of a lonely old lady, pottering about the house, doing her best to stave off boredom and depression with distraction.
The spinster label is also reminiscent of other pejorative terms such as hag or crone.
These days, women are resisting these labels. Perhaps the rise of feminism is somewhat responsible for the willingness of women to challenge the status quo of negative singledom. Even Christian women are taking up the notion that they might be ok without a partner.
More than ok. Many single people are living happy and fulfilled lives.
Many single people are living happy and fulfilled lives.
This challenges the mainstream concept of completion. For decades, we have believed the lie that we need the love and acceptance of another person to be complete. We have devoured the notion that our validation comes from others, rather than from within.
Think about any romantic comedy movie you have ever seen. It is filled with rhetoric about how “I’m lost without you” and “You complete me”. Then there are people who refer to their partners as “my other half”. It is engrained in our culture.
But I am not half a person. And this is what I like about the term “self-partnered”. It turns this notion of other-completion on its head.
It says we are complete people on our own.
It says we are capable, acceptable, loveable without a partner.
It says we are ok just the way we are.
I am not half a person.
It is a countercultural concept, the idea that we are ok without needing a partner to tell us so. And it is far from the notion of being an island. Singledom is not about the power of one. It is not a statement of eternal independence. We all need each other. Community is a part of who we are.
It also does not negate the need for salvation. All of us need Jesus to do what we cannot do for ourselves: rid us from sin and all its influence. We cannot do that by whim or willpower. I possess no sin-repulsing device.
But it certainly challenges the notion of needing another human being in an explicitly romantic relationship to complete us.
We are ok just the way we are.
For Christian singles, this might relieve the pressure to find a spouse and instead turn the focus to the one who spiritually completes us – Jesus.
What do you think of the term “self-partnered”? Is there another word for being happily single? How can you challenge the norm of looking to others for completion? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.