The Case Against Independence
After my divorce of several years ago I put together a playlist of “Divorce Music” as a psychological exercise to help work through the blast of crushing emotions that came with the death of a marriage. The playlist included songs such as:
- Free Bird
- Beast of Burden
- Time to Fly
- Foolish Games
- I keep Forgetting
- Walking on Broken Glass
You get the idea…
The playlist spanned a range of feelings from rage to grief, and it really was helpful in giving me a context to face the terrible truth of divorce. Divorce is a form of death, even if that which has died was sick and without hope. But my “Divorce Music” masked a bitter turn. I felt I had been cast into the jetsam of a generation of displaced, disoriented, and dispossessed Boomers.
This is the conundrum that is faced by singles, and more specifically, conservative singles. We believe in self-sufficiency and independence. It is our nature to gut through adversity, often alone. Rugged individualism is the differentiating characteristic that drives us ahead through pain and terrible loss. But as Conservatives we believe in marriage and family and the nurturing of the next generation within the structure of a committed and loving relationship between one man and one woman. We value romantic love. And this pains us greatly. We get high marks in marriage and family theory, but in practice we have failed.
Rebuilding after divorce is exceedingly hard, but we carry on and survive as adaptable and independent Conservatives do. We become so good at doing for ourselves that we sometimes forget how to need one another. We are stubbornly autonomous in our insistence that “we don’t need anybody else!”
I’ve raised four incredible, gorgeous, smart, witty, and resilient kids as a single mom. Their dad is not a significant part of their lives although they love and respect him. I give credit to my Mormon faith and the precepts of common-sense Conservatism for the success of a my children. The Mormon Church has a marvelous system that ensures that young men and women have numerous righteous role models with whom they can interact. But being both a Conservative activist and part of the Mormon community can also be a thorn in my side. If one is to find a population of happy, committed, long-term married couples, it is within those communities. Here there is no theoretical or practical niche in which the Conservative divorcee fits comfortably.
That being said, those of us who are alone don’t want to impose our needs upon others. We strive to be self-reliant. We bear our own burdens and trudge along with the best dignity we can muster. The very qualities that make Conservative singles good citizens and go-to patriots, also tend to prevent us from forming, and reforming the very bonds and institutions we admire. But the very concept of “personal independence” can be counter-productive to “national independence.” Can we remain an independent nation if the individual parts of the nation are separate and disaffected–united in ideas but isolated in love?
We honor those couples who have weathered years and countless hardships to stay together. For independent singles, the ingredients to lasting, loving marriage are as mysterious as quantum physics. The “couples” of the world seem to belong to an exclusive club. And it feels like we single religious Conservatives, whether through sins of omission, commission, or just plain rotten luck, got kicked out of the club. But, being independent Conservatives, we bear it all without whining, and take it like good Americans should.
“Independence” is a pregnant word, heavy with fervor and the symbolism of liberty. But when individuals become so fully independent that they lose the impetus and skills it takes to be united in marriage and family, then the entire purpose of their value system is frustrated. Many singles of the Conservative, religious, chaste (sex-after-marriage) ilk, have become pathologically independent. We live our lives as if we need no one else. The stark and distressing truth is that being alone, competently independent, and admirably self-sufficient often prevents us from fulfilling the theoretical model of marriage that we know is so important to civil society and the individuals it encompasses.