Marrying Yourself: Empowering or Creepy?

Nadine Schweigert

I’ve been closely following the story of Fargo, ND local Nadine Schweigert, who “married herself” in a commitment ceremony last March. Last week, Schweigert appeared on Anderson Cooper’s day time talk show to talk about her ceremony. During the introduction, Anderson bluntly asked, “Is it empowering or is it creepy?”

Presenting the question in such a way is, one supposes, good for ratings. These days, it would seem, a story is hardly news worthy without some inherent controversy. Brad Wilcox, for instance, Director of the National Marriage Project, accuses Nadine of being “a bit confused.” His concern, apparently, is that marriage is not a “solo act.” Marriage, according to Wilcox (who also appeared on Anderson’s show), is about “bringing two different people together.”

Well, yes. But as someone who performed a similar commitment ceremony in 2001, I can assure Mr. Wilcox that those of us who “marry ourselves” are not confusing an important symbolic gesture with the institution of marriage. (Did I really just have to write that?)

No one – not even Mr. Wilcox, I daresay – would quibble with the idea that committing to a program of self-care makes good sense.  What some of us recognize, however, is that while making a commitment is one thing, following through can be quite another; because lifelong habits (of co-dependency, for instance) are hard to break. But by specifying and ritualizing the commitment and, better yet, by wearing a ring that serves as a constant reminder, the promises one makes to oneself seep into the cells, as it were, and  become a part of one’s permanent makeup – the framework around which to build a life. For those of us who have spent years in relationships in which we performed daily acts of self crucifixion as a matter of course, the value of this particular symbolic gesture cannot be overstated.

It’s a good thing, as it turns out, that Nadine is committed to taking good care of herself in good times and in bad, as she’s been the recipient of some relentlessly snarky commentary – all of which she’s handled with uncommon grace. Now, don’t get me wrong. I recognize that the idea of “marrying oneself” is ripe for parody. (I am an actor, after all.) In fact, my friend Trevis, inspired by the little book I wrote about my own ceremony, has written extensively about grounds for divorcing oneself. “Your honor,” he writes, “I find that I’m spending less and less time with myself, and that I have less in common with myself than before. And, frankly, if I am forced to continue to listen to myself snore, I may just up and leave myself without notice. In fact, I seek an injunction against myself though, legally, I’m not sure what I mean…”

Let the hilarity ensue. I totally get it. But let’s not forget that shoddy self care and damaging relationships are common enough that in addition to our laughter, we might entertain the idea Nadine is on to something here. Because, really, there’s nothing creepy or confused about recognizing the value in making a commitment to love, honor and care for oneself so that one might better love, honor and care for others.

Take that, Anderson.

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Sara Sharpe is the author of A Dress, A Ring, Promises to Self: an unconventional wedding planner for one. www.dressringpromises.com

BOOK LAUNCH!

Sara Sharpe, author of A Dress, A Ring, Promises to Self: an unconventional wedding planner for one

In the summer of 2001, I married my self.

In the beautiful town of Balsam, North Carolina, I bought a long white dress, a huge bundle of flowers, and a ring that I wear to this day. I stayed up all night writing a list of promises to my self, building a temporary altar at which to perform the blessed event, and decorating my cheerful, purple room at the Balsam Mountain Inn. The following night I donned my dress and, with a home-made wreath of flowers in my hair, tearfully made a commitment to honor my self, first and foremost, henceforth…

From the Introduction

Dear friends,

This beloved little book, A Dress, A Ring, Promises to Self: an unconventional wedding planer for one, has officially leaped off of my personal book shelf (where it sat comfortably for nearly a decade) and out into the world. It is with great pleasure that I offer it to you now.

There are, I believe, personal reasons that this little book is suddenly enjoying  life outside my immediate circle of friends. Beyond that, however, it is my belief that this book represents an idea whose time has come. This is not to imply that the idea of making a commitment to love, honor and care for oneself so that one might better love, honor and care for others is a new one; it isn’t. But ritualizing the commitment – setting the intention and concretizing it – is somewhat new to most folks and, I think, valuable.

I offer it to you with a firmly held belief that the world needs you. Not some watered down version of you, but a healthy, whole, fully expressed and passionately alive you. I encourage you, with all the passion I can muster, to celebrate and take seriously this opportunity to heal, to grow, to commit to feeling and being your best not only for yourselves, but for your children and children the world over. We can care for them effectively only when we’ve learned to care for ourselves at least as well.

Wild hope,

Sara

For more information, please see our website: www.dressringpromises.com.

JOIN US on Tuesday night for a BOOK LAUNCH PARTY with Sara and friends.

Center of Symmetry ~ 212 Louise Ave, Nashville, TN 37203. (Louise Ave is just off of West End Ave.)