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It was a perfect, sunny day. The bride, Sophie, wore a gorgeous vintage gown and was attended by 15 beaming bridesmaids. Under a rainbow of bright confetti and smiling faces, she was ‘given away’ by her adoring Dad. Sophie felt nervous as she prepared to say her vows.
“Do you Sophie take Sophie to be your wife?”
“I do!” announced Sophie.
The whole crowd partied and danced all night long – but there was no groom in sight. “It was magical!” remembers 37 year-old English woman Sophie Tanner of her special day in May 2015. “There was the most amazing atmosphere of happiness.”
That’s right. Sophie married herself. After a nasty breakup, she emerged from a sad fog feeling strangely optimistic, and started writing a novel. In the book, the main character, Chloe, decides to marry herself. “The more I investigated the concept of self-marriage, the more intrigued I became,” explained Sophie. By the time the author had finished writing, she had decided to follow in her character’s footsteps. “I believe that being single is a viable lifestyle choice,” explains Sophie. “Any woman can be a valuable member of her community and enjoy her own company without having a partner to ‘complete her’.”
Sologamy or self-marriage is officially a thing. Whilst not legally recognised in any countries just yet, it’s a movement that’s gaining momentum around the world. In 2010, 30-year-old Chen Wei Yih married herself in Taiwan. With no suitable man in the picture and yet pressure to ‘settle down’, Wei Yih decided to marry herself. At the time, she said, “When I look back at my wedding, at the self-commitment I made, it will remind me that I should not betray myself in any way and any time.” Hollywood has recognised self-marriage too. In Glee Sue Sylvester married herself to herself, as she’d determined that she was her perfect partner. And remember in Sex and The City, that episode when Carrie decided to marry herself after being shamed by a friend about her excessive shoe-spending?
Now that more than one quarter of Singaporean marriages are ending in divorce, is it any wonder that women are looking for The One right in their own bed? Singapore Counsellor and Life Coach Ralitza Peeva agrees. “Singaporean women in 2016 don’t need a man for security. They are smart, educated, well-travelled and have fantastic careers. They’re not willing to ‘settle’ for anything less than what they deserve.” Ralitza can see the appeal of making an internal commitment to look after yourself.
Fewer of us are making the leap into marriage each year. Following the patterns observed in developed nations across the globe, the numbers of never married single Singaporeans have increased by 25 percent in the past decade. And if we do get hitched, we’re older than we once were. In 2014, the average age of Singaporean woman at her first wedding was 28 years old. Just ten years earlier in 2004, she was 26 years old.
“In spite of Singaporean women’s independence, there’s still a huge stigma of being a single female, especially over the age of 30,” explains Dating and Relationship Coach, Cindy Leong, of Relationship Studio and Chief Dating Coach and Co-Founder of Divine Connect. Even if we can navigate the questions from well-meaning aunties about when we plan to ‘settle down’, there remains an internal feeling of failure or shame that we haven’t fulfilled our womanly duty to society. “This can be so damaging to a woman’s self-esteem,” says Cindy. “Even in 2016, bachelors are praised and adored and yet women are still warned about becoming spinsters or expected to be lonely without a man.”
What does self-marriage really achieve?
“Marrying yourself promotes a sense of self-worth,” explains Sophie. “And surely it’s healthier to aim for self-love over insecurity?” It’s a commitment to loving, honouring and empowering yourself, and being happier with who you are. “For many people, marriage is an important rite of passage that we associate with entering adulthood and taking on certain life responsibilities,” explains Ralitza. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a ceremony existed for a community to celebrate a woman’s official entry into adulthood? A ritual announcing that she is now ready to take on the full responsibilities of life.”
“I have really noticed a change in me,” shares Sophie about her life post wedding. “Understanding and caring for myself has given me greater capacity to empathise and to love other people. I spend more quality time with myself but I also enjoy hanging out with other couples – my friends joke that I bring my wife to dinner parties!” laughs Sophie. “But I haven’t signed up to be a nun” she freely admits. “I wouldn’t rule out marrying someone else, but it would never change the commitment I made to me.”
But not everybody is happy about the sologamy trend. Critics around the world are damning self-marriage as a statement of extreme narcissism, indicative of the excessive self love of ‘the selfie generation’. “Actually, it’s nothing to do with vanity,” counters Sophie. As Cindy says, “the old saying is true – we cannot truly love another until we love ourselves.”
As any single Singaporean woman of a certain age understands, the constant interrogation from well-meaning friends and family about finding a partner so you can ‘be happy’ can wear you down. “It can be exhausting and demoralising to be fielding these types of questions all the time,” agrees Cindy. If self-marriage continues to spark the imaginations and hearts of single women around the world, maybe one day things will be transformed. Because single or coupled up, we can all agree that what the world needs now, is love – sweet love. Maybe one day, we’ll be able to answer Aunty with, ‘I did find someone Aunty – I found me, and I am happy. Right now, I am The One for me.’