I Couldn’t Help But Wonder… are relationships the new religion?

For those who don’t already know, I’m answering Carrie’s questions from every episode of Sex and the City (or at least most of them) to see how things have changed for a single thirty-something writer in New York City, ten years after the show ended. Ta-da!

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Now this is a pesky question.

Firstly, I should probably mention that while I am respectful of everyone’s right to practice the religion of their choosing, the closest I have ever gotten to a religious experience of my own was when I got kicked out of Sunday school for refusing to pretend to be a sheep because it meant crawling around on the floor and I was wearing brand new white Tammy Girl leggings. The only other role available was Jesus and for some reason, I wasn’t allowed to play JC, so I walked. Since then, I’ve more or less followed the beat of my own drum, I don’t follow any particular religion but I am always very open to discussing Scientology* with anyone who will listen. Time will tell whether or not this is wise.

But, back to the question at hand. In the olden days, and I mean proper olden days, not just the time before iPhones and Sky Plus, religion played a much greater role in the average person’s role than it does today in that it was generally the most important thing in their life**. As time moved on and society developed, people went around inventing lots of distractions like television and Angry Birds and moisturiser and while we changed and travelled and discovered, religion became less central to a lot of lives.

I talked to a few friends who are considerably more spiritually engaged than I and asked what their religion brings to their life. On the whole, they all said the same thing, that it gave them a sense of belonging, a general reassurance and that they found comfort in their faith. Research has even shown that people who practice their religion regularly can have lower blood pressure and suffer less from issues like anxiety. Then I asked my friends how they felt about being in a relationship. They said it made them feel more secure, more comfortable and generally, happier. Huh.

Gratuitous R Gos shot
Gratuitous R Gos shot

Now, if I had to pick the one thing that my friends talk about more than any other, it would probably be Ryan Gosling but after that, it would definitely be our relationships. We engage in intense philosophical debate about our relationships, we turn to those older and wiser for advice, reading book after book after book looking for relationship wisdom and we identify with Taylor Swift songs about relationships then congregate to sing them loudly, preferably after imbibing (although we have switched out the wine and wafer for pizza and cocktails). All this movement really needs is a nifty piece of jewellery and its own holiday. On the darker side of things, religion has long been used to scare people and keep them in line and we do that too. I’ve addressed woman on woman hate crime again and again but when a very good friend of mine recently sat in a bar, laughing at tales of relationship woe and said she couldn’t imagine anything more awful than still being single at her age, in front of a group of single women all older than her, I was reminded once more of how bloody horrible we can be. Ladies, if you’ve got a tiptop fella, that’s awesome. We don’t need to use our relationship as a stick to beat our single sisters.

Thinking about it, I’ve got to say, none of this sounds terribly spiritually fulfilling (except the Taylor Swift part). By making your relationship (or your religion for that matter) the soul focus of your life, you run the risk of losing yourself. I’m a girl who loves to be in love and having someone in my life does, on the whole, make me a happier person than when I’m alone. I can admit that and be OK with it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t make it such a priority that I would sacrifice everything else in my life – a relationship fundamentalist does not make for a fun brunch companion.

Eurgh
Eurgh

In general, it seems like a negative statement when someone refers to something that is in fact not a religion as their religion. Who exactly jumps up and down with joy when they meet a man who tells you his favourite football club is his religion? Or his job? Or his Playstation? Not healthy. But we all do it regardless. Perhaps it’s just human nature to find something to obsess over, something to bring us together as a people that we can’t quite understand but can debate until the cows come home, still never getting a straight answer.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe God does exist.

And maybe he is a man after all.

 

* John Travolta and Tom Cruise actually believe in this! They think there is a big awful alien in a volcano and that we have ghosts of aliens in our heads! That shit is insane! I love it.

**I’m aware that I’m making a huge, epic, sweeping generalisation here and in no way attempting to offend people who live by their religion. I am always admiring of anyone who can make a commitment to anything in life other than Dairy Milk and Alan Rickman.http://0

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