The Tyranny of Coupledom

22 Jan

The Conservatives are proposing tax breaks for married couples. Offering a tax break for married couples rates marriage above co-habiting or living on your own. This got me thinking about how we, as a society, rate relationships or their absence.

The question is much bigger than fiscal policy. The proposed tax break points to the deeper tyranny of coupledom, under which we live. Why do we value relationships (and we could argue, marriage in particular) above single life?

I see this a lot with clients: however much success and fulfillment people have in other aspects of their lives, being single can create a sense of lack, failure and oddity. ‘I don’t want people to think I’m weird,’ a client told me recently. Another spoke of feeling that they were disappointing their family by failing to be in a relationship. It’s significant that they were primarily concerned with what others think, rather than thinking about what they want themselves.

But contemporary British life offers a host of possibilities other than a traditional marriage. Cohabitation, Living Apart Together (LAT), people who are single (divorced or never married), second or third marriages, those who are independent but dating. The options go on. There’s never been a better time for us to throw off the tyranny of coupledom. It’s not enough to have a range of options available to us. We need to value all of those options equally.

What if it was just as socially acceptable to be 38 and single, as being 38 and married with kids? This would require a fundamental shift in our thinking. Fundamental shifts in thinking are challenging, but I suspect that such as shift would lead to greater happiness. And maybe less tax discrimination.


2 responses to “The Tyranny of Coupledom

  1. Gill

    22/01/2010 at 3:19 pm

    Hi Vena, I totally agree. I remember when my marriage broke up suddenly feeling like my status had slipped down a level. I ended up being penalised in my car insurance amongst other things.When I queried what being married had to do with the ability to drive they said people in relationships werE more stable. What a lot of hotch potch and discrimination!!

  2. Jo Sumner

    17/02/2010 at 5:10 pm

    To this I would add – we need to spare thought for the tyranny that coupledom holds over people who are in fact married, and possibly with kids. Strangely it can be quite stifling to feel or be told that you have somehow got it ‘sussed’. As someone whose relationship (and yes, marriage) is about to turn 18, I would say that we have had to change the way our relationship works several times. We’re not the same people in our mid 30s as we were at 16. And I feel I would have had a lot more freedom and a lot more support in growing this relationship if there wasn’t a question ‘what are you complaining about?’ if I raised questions about how to be married and fulfilled over time.


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