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And Just When You Thought the Seventies Were Over. . .

This should not reflect ill on South Dakotans, but they have a woman up there who married herself. Yes.

This is not a stunt, gag, joke, or sarcastic social commentary. Nadine, our new bride, is quite serious. She had a wedding, invited her friends and family who showed up, schlepping wedding gifts under their arms. She does the intentional work that all healthy relationships require. She plans special date nights, explaining to an Anderson Cooper film crew, “It’s been a while since my wife and I have been on a date, so this is long overdue.” And out the door they go to their favorite Indian restaurant, so happy to be with each other. Apparently Nadine orders for both of them.

She doesn’t seem to have split-personality disorder. She decided — after she divorced an actual other-embodied person and her two kids deciding to live with dad — to commit herself to that one person she realizes she loves most . . . and who loves her, confidently explaining that “the love I need, it’s in here . . .” tenderly patting her heart. She tells herself regularly and assuredly that she loves her, as good marriage partners do.

What is really wrong with this when we are constantly told what we all have the right to marry the person we love? Why let it keep us down if that person is yourself?

Of course, this raises a number of curious questions, relationship-wise:

  • Who proposed to whom? And was their any question she would say “yes”?

  • Did they agree on caterers for the nuptials after-party?

  • Do they split household chores equitably? Who cleans the toilets?

  • When they have a fight, who sleeps on the couch?

  • How do they get that all important “alone time”?

  • If ever to divorce, who moves out, and would she need to show fault?

Perhaps this is a natural consequence of a culture that has so dramatically subjectified marriage and family; make it all about what’s best for you! If you’re happy, then those around you will be happy. And what could be happier than that? This is the present version of the I’m OK, You’re Ok nonsense of the 1970s. Been there, done that. It didn’t work. But here we are, trying it again.

Fritz Perls – the guru of 1960/70s gestalt psycho-babble – had no small number of couples marrying in those days reciting his “gestalt prayer” as their wedding vows:

I do my thing, and you do your thing.

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations

And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you and I am I

And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.

If not, it can’t be helped.

But it truly does cause one to feel great, genuine sympathy for Nadine, her narcissism masked as self-care and her surprise that anyone could possibly think all this is the least bit wacky.

Real life truly is stranger than . . .

— Glenn T. Stanton is the director of family formation at Focus on the Family and the author of five books on the marriage and parenting, the two most recent: Secure Daughters Confident Sons, How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity (Multnomah, 2011) and The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage, (Moody, 2011).

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