A counseling session this morning was an hour well spent. He unpacked for me and my girlfriend a concept he calls “The Bullshit of Oneness.” This idea, he said, is so ingrained in our understanding of marriage that it has become marriage itself, thus the reason why it is the number one cause of divorce.
The bullshit of oneness, he explained, is derived (in large part) from our culture’s misappropriation of Genesis 2:24 where man and woman become “one flesh.” What the beginning of Genesis is trying to do here is expound upon our God-given task to “be fruitful and multiply.” Becoming “one flesh” is about procreation. It’s about sex.
But that is not how many, if not most of us have been taught to think about one flesh, or oneness. We have taken this to mean that I am no longer my own, and she is no longer her own, but we are now one. My desires should now be her desires, and her desires should be my desires. My friends should be her friends, and her friends mine, because we are now one person rather than two individuals.
If you don’t believe that the bullshit of oneness is so pervasive in our cultural understanding of marriage, especially in the church, just look at our marriage ceremonies. Look at how the bride and groom each extinguish a candle, which represents their individual selves, only to light a unity candle together. Or how they take individual cups of sand and pour them into one container as the priest points out how impossible it would now be to pluck out each person’s individual grains of sand.
It’s no wonder so many marriages end in divorce when our expectation of marriage is that on our wedding day, our partner is no longer their own but mine, and I am no longer my own but thine. We divest ourselves of ourselves so that we can now become something until this point we had not been: her or him.
When marriage is defined as this bullshit of oneness it is no wonder that marriage is the number one cause of divorce.
This was certainly my experience in my marriage which ended in divorce. I was raised drinking the cultural church Kool-Aid about marriage and thought, at least subconsciously, that I was doing it wrong if I was not losing myself so that I could make my spouse happy or holy. My job as a husband was to meld myself as well as I could to her, and her job as a wife was to bend her will towards mine, so that we were “one flesh,” no longer our own. This only caused disappointment, pain or shame when the other person exhibited their own oneness.
I remember the first time I went hiking after my divorce and realized how much I loved it. How liberating it was to discover that there were parts of me that had lain hidden and barren for years because I was abiding by the bullshit of oneness creed for so long, without really knowing it, and feeling that unless we both enjoyed hiking (or whatever) than I shouldn’t or couldn’t do it.
Today I am grateful that I can be me in my relationships. I’m grateful that through my program of recovery I am learning that I am worthy of love for the person I am, not the person someone wants me to be. I’m grateful that I’m learning that I cannot fix people, places or things and that my relationship with my girlfriend is the healthiest when we are both mindful of this fact and working on ourselves, not the other. We are learning that it’s not necessary to extinguish our individual candles in order to burn as one. I like her light and she likes mine. I think we can create even more light that way. That’s pretty awesome.