When Carrie Bradshaw boldly declared, “I’m getting married—to myself,” in a 2003 episode of Sex and the City, it felt like a rallying cry for single women everywhere who were sick and tired of playing the supporting role in their friends’ marriage-house-and-baby life plans. “If I don’t ever get married or have a baby—what?” she asked Charlotte over frozen yogurt. “Think about it: If you are single, after graduation, there isn’t one occasion where people celebrate you…. I am talking about the single gal. Hallmark doesn’t make a ‘Congratulations you didn’t marry the wrong guy’ card. Where’s the flatware for going on vacation alone?” And since this was the early 2000s, if Carrie Bradshaw did it, there was no shortage of women who tried to emulate it.
This idea of self-marriage has evolved over the past decade, to the point where today there are even elaborate ceremonies to commemorate it. The official name for it is sologamy—a marriage by a person to oneself. It’s not exactly legally binding, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of women (and a handful of men) from tying their own knot.
Sophie Tanner married herself in May 2015 as a “statement” against the stigma of singledom. In a very public (and traditional) ceremony in Brighton, England, her dad gave her away to her herself before she cut the cake and threw the bouquet in the direction of her 10 bridesmaids. Naturally, the Internet went wild, with critics calling her everything from “attention-seeking” to downright “crazy.”
Sologamists are often the subject of ridicule from Internet trolls and judgy monogamists alike: What once was considered brave and rebellious has morphed into something that, to certain traditionalists, seems self-indulgent. And to some extent, I get it. I mean, isn’t marrying yourself just another way to reinforce the antiquated notion that marriage is the ultimate goal? Is it not enough to be happy with who you are, hitched or not, but now you have to publicly marry yourself too?
I reached out to love and relationship coach E.J. Love, 34, who married herself in front of a mirror in Bali earlier this year, because I had questions. Like, how does sologamy really work? Is it possible to cheat on yourself? And why so much emphasis on a “marriage” ceremony? Can’t you just be single and loving it without promising yourself to yourself?
Love, who lives in Australia but travels the globe officiating self-marriage ceremonies, explained that for her, sologamy doesn’t mean she’s hopelessly devoted to her solo status. In fact, it’s just the opposite. After a string of abusive relationships, she decided to prioritize her version of self-care, in which she got to know herself intimately and learned to love and accept the parts of her that had once made her feel ashamed. (Though self-care can often be a catch-all for practices in which only those with privilege can afford, Love’s “self-care” isn’t about sponsored Instagram posts of lattes and spa trips; it’s a commitment to far more accessible daily exercises that boost her well-being, such as mindfulness, meditation, and self-awareness.) A year later she decided to go ahead with the self-marriage ceremony. “I promised to put my needs and my love for myself before anyone else,” she says. “And from that place, I’m able to have healthier relationships with everyone in my life.” Right now she’s dating someone, but they don’t rely on each other to meet their own needs. Instead, fulfillment is something she’s come to seek from within. And she doesn’t let the haters get to her: “If someone judges me, it’s not about me. It’s about them. It’s coming from their own lack of self-love, which only fuels me to share my message more.”
Mickie Monroe, 28, had been with her partner for over two years when she decided to marry herself. (Yes, she and her partner are still together.) After surviving sexual abuse and her parents’ divorce, she struggled with anger, self-rejection, and shame in her twenties. Marrying herself was just one step toward her goal of happiness and acceptance. “I viewed my marriage to myself as the first day of really loving myself—whatever that meant. I vowed to honor myself, to see the magic that lies within me, and to remember that, no matter what anyone else thinks, I completely love and accept myself for who I am,” she says. “Why do we make that promise to someone else but not to ourselves?”
She has a point.
After chatting with Love and Monroe, I saw the value in the concept of sologamy as a whole. Personally, I think weddings (of any kind) all have an element of self-indulgence to begin with, so my lingering skepticism has more to do with the marriage tradition than the idea of self-love. The truth is, most of us harbor shame and insecurity, and those feelings manifest in all kinds of unhealthy ways in our everyday lives. I can’t think of a woman who wouldn’t benefit from a dose of unwavering self-assuredness.
Julie A. Johnson, doctor of clinical psychology and certified sex therapist, agrees. Taking time to focus on your own needs, whatever that may look like for you, is neither frivolous nor indulgent. Instead, it’s necessary to mental well-being. “It’s the buffer against stress,” says Johnson. “Once that buffer is gone, we are vulnerable to all sorts of negative things, like depression and anxiety.”
The takeaway here is that we should all take a page from the sologamy playbook (and we can do it without going full-on nuptials). Self-love is a long process, but compassion and giving yourself a break are the first steps, says Love. Set clear boundaries with what you’re willing to accept from the people in your life, and stick to them. Accept and appreciate yourself, no matter who you are, and put less stock into what other people think of you. “Don’t be afraid to show up in your humanness,” Love says. “Being human is not perfect. It’s messy.”
“All the parts of myself that I’ve judged, I’ve had to learn to love them. I’m constantly reminding myself that I’m human and doing the best I can with the resources I have,” says Love. “We’re all learning. Wherever you’re at is OK.”