My failed attempts at online dating drove me to marry myself (and it’s a hot trend among millennials)

I know what you’re thinking: any excuse for a new piece of jewellery. While I’m certainly a fan of splurging on some (ethically sourced) bling every once in a while, the decision to marry myself, engagement ring and all, came from a much deeper place, one that cares more about the immaterial than about how sparkly I look.

Self-commitment ceremonies have been trending off and on for decades, and the term sologamy – marriage by a person to oneself – has recently woven its way into everyday parlance. These days, you can find at-home self-wedding kits with affirmation tips or enrol in spiritual retreats with carefully crafted commitment ceremonies under the supervision of the token guru or shaman. All of this commercialised spirituality is ostensibly part of a growing self-worth movement, considered by many to be a new class of feminist coming-of-age rituals.

Not only is self-marriage happening in the US and Europe, this growing self-empowerment trend is global, taking place in countries like China, where the derogatory term ‘leftover woman’ is used for women over twenty-five who are still single. Some women there are throwing elaborate ceremonies with all the accoutrements – the fancy dress, the lavish venue and yes, the wedding cake – where they openly celebrate their singleness and their lifelong commitment to themselves in front of their nearest and dearest.

Yet I didn’t know any of this when I spontaneously – and quietly – decided to tie the knot (to myself) at the end of a 9-month dating detox that had lead me to a secluded beach on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. It simply seemed like a commemorative way to conclude what turned out to be my spiritual reckoning across four continents – what I’ve been calling a ‘Man Fast’ – or man-free adventures in self-discovery, something I documented in real-time in my new book that just came out in the UK earlier this month, an experiential account of my transformation over this time period.

It all started when my thirst for some serious soul-searching at the end of a succession of failed romances drove me to get off the dating merry go-round in New York, vacate my apartment in Brooklyn, and wander off deep into the wilderness (as one does). I moved to an ashram in Kerala where I meditated and subjected my body to an Ayurvedic cleanse, worked on a vineyard on Sicily’s Mount Etna and went on a solo-safari in the Selous, Africa’s largest game reserve, a place that is remote, raw and teeming with wildlife. Exactly what I needed.

By stepping away from the demands of modern city living and disconnecting from online dating apps (thereby abstaining from the punitive and addictive search for love), I was able to slow down and focus my energy on connecting with something much deeper – that hidden, higher intelligence inside of me, inside of all of us. During this time, I cultivated a profound sense of wholeness in the absence of another, and decided that no matter what the future held, I was – and had to be – enough on my own. I was whole and would never again doubt my own wholeness just because decades of social conditioning (and my loving but marriage-obsessed Indian mum) had made me feel pressured to couple up with some elusive, perfect person.

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That was one of the vows I read silently to myself on the beach the morning of my self-marriage ceremony at sunrise, which was basically a morning meditation with no-one around but a few disinterested cows lumbering their way down a pinkish stretch of sand. I didn’t need anyone there to witness it – the universe was enough. The sun, the ocean, the sky— they were enough. I didn’t need to doll up in a Givenchy dress like Meghan, instead slipping into a colourful kaftan bought from a local vendor for five sterling. It was bold and hopeful, vibrant and unapologetic. It was a reflection of how my womanhood should feel to me.

And yes, I did buy myself a ring – it contained a small piece of tanzanite, a velvety blue rock considered by many to be a highly metaphysical stone, ideal for spiritual exploration. Today I wear it as a reminder of why I went on the whole journey in the first place: to find fulfilment and meaning outside of romantic relationships, and to treasure myself, my family, my friends, my community, my purpose, and my authentic journey over any single relationship, which has no guarantee of lasting.

Whatever one’s reasons for sologamy – whether it be about rejecting patriarchal norms or a radical act of self-love – making a ceremonial commitment to one’s self is a powerful statement, where we consciously recognise that the real marriage is between us and ourselves.

Of course, developing self-love doesn’t happen overnight – it’s daily work, calling on us to give ourselves permission to pursue happiness and meaning in non-traditional ways and – if we feel so inclined – to expand ourselves beyond the social constructs we have grown up with, the very things that are sometimes holding us back from discovering our truest selves.

Man Fast: How One Woman’s Dating Detox Turned into Spiritual Reckoning Across Four Continents by Natasha Scripture is published by the Little, Brown Book Group (£13.99).

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