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coupling is the insidious convention at the heart of too many pathologies



relationships • 31.05.18

I say I'm a lapsed romantic and that's okay having reached a certain age. But saying I no longer believe in love is a different matter. That’s quite frowned upon verging on sacrilegious when the most hardened of hearts gets all misty-eyed over so called loved ones. Even that silly expression “loved ones” triggers in me a reflexive rolling of the eyes. I’ll try to articulate why; I’ll try to show how, like Laura Kipnis in her famous polemic, I’m “against love”. I’d also like to suggest how it might be a progressive attitude to hold and actually more morally elevated than depraved.

In younger years it was monogamy I was wary of after coming to realise I wasn’t much suited to it. Many aren’t. Kipnis certainly wasn’t and thought it meant being asked to commit to unmet needs as the price of social stability. She thought the problem was when monogamy isn’t a desire but an enforced compliance system with partners as cops and surveillance experts”. It was opinions like that I had to seek out in literature having never met anyone in the flesh who shared compatible values regarding relationships.

Even the use of that word relationship bothered me. What’s really meant by it is partnership. In a certain respect my case here is exemplified in the different senses of these two words. Relationship is the connection and engagement we have to everything. It is potentially open to all possibilities. Partnership is exclusive, a select thing, effectively a closing off. For me the former is of infinitely higher value than the latter. Relationship is where the treasures of existence lie.

That we use these words confusingly in the context of coupling is instructive. It was the coupling thing I never liked. It seemed bizarre being expected to attach oneself to a singular person, supposedly for the duration, thereafter having to do everything in consort, never straying too far, doing little that didn’t include them, requiring approval by them, and on top of that having to commit generally to a set of cultural norms however alien and unsuitable they felt.

Of course I understand that attachments are basic to being human. They are an inheritance from our tribal roots and without them we couldn’t survive. But throughout human history these bonds were always with the wider group. Relatedness was dispersed among the many. Now we cohabit in tiny units, nuclear and exclusive, physically shared with fewer and fewer people, where increasingly connections to the extended flock are transactional, where instrumentality determines our interests, motivations and desires. All of that seems to me a travesty and coupling is the culprit. It is the insidious convention at the heart of too many inherited pathologies. The situation is further compounded by an under-appreciation of just how unnatural such behaviours are, only kept in place through rigorous moral enforcement. That alone might be good reason to question how intrinsic they are. I suspect not very.


this is the first part of an ongoing thought to be continued