There’s a new relationship buzzword making the rounds, and it’s all thanks to Emma Watson. In a new interview, she has now coined a phrase for singledom: self-partnered. The actress - whose 30th birthday is in April - explains: ‘If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety.’ And while she used to believe that being happily single was “totally spiel”, Watson adds, “It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single]. I call it being self-partnered.” The star’s rebranding has been met with the marmite of receptions. Does it signal the end of single shaming or a gimmick? Two BURO. writers battle it out…
“My romantic relationships adhere to a pattern; I’ve only come to realise. Two years in one, two years ‘out’, then back in…you get the picture. Generally, this seemed to suit me just fine. Yes, there were some tears, too much wine and counselling sessions with friends amongst this; but I was sort of happy, well, plodding along. Not worrying too much about The Future. In fact, I quite liked being single. Then - something happened. Recently I broke up with my long-term boyfriend; and the month that followed, well, it seemed like everyone was in a relationship and I was akin to an extra in someone else’s romantic comedy. I’m fully aware at how bitter those words sound on the page but bear with me.
In your late twenties, there is a bubbling pressure to have everything box ticked, especially in the ‘you plus one’ department. And if this life ‘event’ falters, you sort of feel like Philippe Petit in Man on Wire, trying not to fall to pieces. I also think of that exchange in Friends where Rachel, feeling sorry for herself, turns to a sad-looking Ross, “but you’re alone, alone”. Like there’s some hierarchy of aloneness. As time wears on – and you actually stop speaking/seeing your ex (very important) – doing things by yourself and enjoying them, isn’t a eureka moment (or shouldn’t be), it’s life. And while I have a love-hate relationship with the celebrity split lexicon - *Calls best friend in tears at 2am: “I have consciously uncoupled from Freddie,” said no one, ever - I’m fully on-board the self-partnering bandwagon.
At its core, self-partnering is just another adage for self-love. Embedding in us the idea that we can depend on ourselves and self-soothe rather than seek it out from a romantic partnership. Of course, this doesn’t mean live a Castaway-style existence (I’ve realised there’s a slew of TV and film references here. A riding solo bonus? 100 percent remote control access). No. It’s rather about not viewing single life merely as a placeholder until something better comes along, but instead being fully present with Me, Myself and I. In the words of the Queen of Rom-Com Nora Ephron: “The desire to get married is a basic and primal instinct in women. It's followed by another basic and primal instinct: the desire to be single again.” Discuss…”
Emma Firth, BURO. Features Editor
“So, Emma Watson is officially self-partnered. I don’t know her, but I’m happy for her. Like every woman (never mind Ivy League educated multi-millionaire multi-hypenates), she deserves to have finally found complete contentment within herself. None of us will be unaware of the fact that this is a state typically reserved for women in relationships. When you put it like that, self-partnering is - like any jolt to the patriarchy - empowerment distilled. And it is, I just didn't realise ‘single’ required a euphemism.
While anything uttered by a celebrity is often doomed to become a gimmick, Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘conscious uncoupling and co-parenting’ made sense because it reframed the concept of divorce as something that could happen without giving anyone cause to utter the words “but think of the children!” Divorce is - certainly wrongly - a dirty word, but what’s wrong with ‘single’? It just sounds sexier - not to mention less pretentious.
Self-partnering is actually a term used in therapy that helps us understand that we must go within ourselves to self-soothe rather than escape our feelings by seeking pleasure and distraction elsewhere. Who wants their marital status to be associated with trauma? Being single has its moments of despair but it’s not THAT intolerable - if intolerable at all, depending on who you ask.
And the idea of having to partner up with MY self? It’s enough of an imposition that myself lives rent-free in my head, I’m not about to willingly enter into a partnership with her. Self-partnering, for me, feels like squaring off in the playground with the one other person no one wanted to pair up with in mutual resentment - I'd definitely take calling myself 'single' over anything like that.
Heather Gwyther, Contributor
Heart-warming reads - that break the cliché mould
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
All About Love: New Visions – Bell Hooks
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
images I Getty, Shutterstock