THE CASE AGAINST INDEPENDENCE
After my divorce of a few years ago I put together a playlist of “Divorce Music” as a sort of psychological exercise in working through the blast of crushing emotions that came with the death of a marriage. The playlist included songs such as:
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 Playlist” masked a bitter turn. I had been cast into the jetsam of a generation of displaced, disoriented, and dispossessed Boomers.
This is the conundrum that is faced by single boomers, and more specifically, CONSERVATIVE single Boomers. We believe in self-sufficiency and independence. It is our nature to gut through adversity, often alone. Rugged individualism is differentiating characteristic that drives us ahead through pain and terrible loss. Conversely, 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. And this pains us greatly. We are get high marks in marriage and family theory, but in practice, we have failed.
Rebuilding after divorce is exceedingly hard, but we adapt 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 pathologically 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 do 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 a both a Conservative activist and part of the Mormon community can 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. The Conservative divorcee is especially prone to these socially awkward situations because we value marriage, stability, and traditional family models.
That being said, those of us that are alone wish not to impose our needs upon others. We strive to be self-reliant. We bear our own burdens and trudge along, batching it, with the best dignity we can muster. But the very concept of “personal independence” is, in some ways, counter-productive to “national independence.” Can we remain an independent PEOPLE if the individual parts of the nation are separate and disaffected-united in ideas but isolated in love?
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. We honor those couples who have weathered the years and countless hardships to stay together for decades. For such singles, the ingredients to lasting, loving, growing marriage seem to be 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 suck it up 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 purpose and ends of creation will have escaped many of God’s children. 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, is absent the tender joys and satisfaction that only romantic love can offer.
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With an apology to Thomas Jefferson, and the other Founders who agonized over the final wording of our glorious Declaration of Independence, I have worded a Declaration of Dependence for and in behalf of a generation of singles who know in their hearts that there is something better than solitude.