Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, and you know what that means. It’s nearly time to celebrate a man who was (romantically, one would presume) beheaded by having dinner with your squeeze, noshing on chocolates, or grabbing flowers on your way home from work. Some think it’s sweet to set aside a day to be extra grateful for that someone who can stand you on the other 364 days a year and some think it stupid to be appreciative on one day when you can just honor the person every day. Some, like me, think you should be nice every day, but that there’s fun in being extra lovey dovey on Valentine’s Day as long as we keep it in perspective. This isn’t a real holiday, it’s just a bit of fun. But what do you do on Valentine’s Day if you’ve gotten yourself hitched to a ghost? There’s really not a card for that, but there is a precedent.
In 2014, a North Irish woman named Amanda felt the ghost of Jack Teague, an 18th-century pirate appear and, as they spent more together, she developed “strong loving feelings.” Before long, they began a romance. I know, what a cliche, right? They dated for several years and then he proposed. “One day he said to me ‘We can actually be together you know’ but I had never heard of an intimate relationship between a spirit and a human before.” Same. She says sex is pretty much the same as it is with a physically present person, too. In fact, that’s why they tied the knot. “I told him I wasn’t really cool with having casual sex with a spirit and I wanted us to make a proper commitment to each other.” So, she sailed into international waters with a registrar, a shaman priest, and a medium so that they could be legally married. Now, the two are co-writing a book about spiritual relationships so that more people can share their bliss. Amanda says “He is my soulmate. I am so happy, it is the perfect kind of relationship for me. There are a lot of people out there who don’t know about spiritual relationships, but it could be right for them - I want to get the message out there.”
We are in a place in history where we are to act as though this is fine, rather than a cry for help and a clear sign that this woman requires some kind of intervention. Whatever a person says makes them happy, right? Mrs. Teague is a divorced mother of five. Have these kids ever seen a healthy relationship modeled by anyone? Like many, maybe they have not. One has to wonder if she was longing for a connection but found that being married to a spirit is far less of a risk that meeting a living, breathing man. The answer to that is “yes,” by the way. Obviously “yes.”
It is a feature of all too many a contemporary heart that, while it longs for a connection, it rejects intimacy. Our world gives us so many instant connections, the downside of which is that nearly all of them are superficial. We are constantly connected to social media, we can hook up with a swipe of Tinder without even bothering to meet the potential partner, we can send someone a consent contract so we don’t have to bring trust into it, and even walking away from depth of a relationship in faith by worshiping literary characters. Society has given us so many ways to mimic intimacy that people are desperate for real connections but terrified to take risks. They do things like marry themselves or the ghost of a pirate that died 300 years ago.
Sex no longer requires either respect or a relationship and people wonder why they’re left feeling empty and used in the morning. Rather than face the clear root cause of this problem, society is happy to let people place blame elsewhere, a problem that has been exacerbated in the age of the #MeToo movement. This lack of responsibility remains present within relationships as people recuse themselves from any decision-making. People “slide” from one stage of a relationship to the next rather than making conscious decisions to move forward, spending time together until they assume they’re in a relationship, moving in together for financial or other practical reasons instead of getting married, getting engaged because they’ve lived together so long, getting married because the engagement is dragging on. They slide, avoiding making a decision that would require a risk, and would require a deeper intimacy, but unwilling to sever a connection.
The disfunction doesn’t end with marriage. It’s not just the pirate wife in question, the entire institution is constantly being taken less seriously. Even the mainstream isn’t as traditional as it once was. From living together and having children before walking down the aisle to dirty wedding photos and the push to normalize open marriages, the old norms have largely gone out the window.
It seems as though, the more connections we have, the less each of them means. Social media followers, people we meet on dating apps, your Uber driver- technology has allowed us to meet so many people, more than we ever imagined. It too easy for the gun-shy to turn away from one person and to another when things get too real. Nothing is sure in this world, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that the things which yield the largest reward require the largest risk. To avoid potentially being hurt, people do things like marry themselves or the ghost of a pirate that died 300 years ago, but we can’t all expect a pirate ghost to sweep us off our feet and make life easy on us. The spirit has so gone out of relationships that people have taken to marrying actual spirits, and St. Valentine didn’t get beheaded for that nonsense.