'Self-Partnered' Is a Meaningless New Way to Say You're Single

When you’re single, watching all of your friends pair off, get married and start families can leave you feeling a little bit like you’re frozen in time: everybody else’s adult lives are beginning while you’re still swiping through Tinder, trying to get past the starting line. But who said you need to meet somebody in order to be happy?

Actress Emma Watson recently spoke about her own relationship status in an interview with British Vogue, and admitted that it has taken her some time to learn to be happy while single. Citing the pressure that many young women feel to meet certain personal milestones, she revealed that she began to feel anxious as she approached her 30th birthday.

“If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out… There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety,” she said.

All of these preconceived ideas about how she should be living her life led Watson to believe that it was not possible to feel happy and fulfilled while alone. “I never believed the whole ‘I’m happy single’ spiel,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is totally spiel.’ It took me a long time, but I’m very happy (being single). I call it being self-partnered.”

Realizing that you can live a rich and happy life without a romantic partner is a hugely liberating feeling, as it means you can stop comparing yourself and your own wellbeing to that of your friends and peers who are in long-term relationships. And Watson has clearly reached a place where she feels comfortable and secure without a relationship—but is a new term like “self-partnered” necessary?

Maybe it was simply a glib remark made in the context of a much longer interview. But calling your relationship status “self-partnered” still leans on the language of couples to validate being alone, and kind of suggests you might still have a complex about it, or that you’re trying to convince yourself of something.

Of course, the language we use surrounding sex and relationships is evolving: we regularly coin new dating terms and our vocabulary of pronouns and identities is expanding along with our understanding of gender and sexuality. But “single” as a word is entirely neutral: it doesn’t mean that you’re lonely, unfulfilled, or less than. If anything, it’s a word bursting with possibility.

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