To Two Binary Stars
You can achieve monogamy and autonomy.
Garrett Kincaid – May 13, 2023
Six weeks ago, I didn’t know whether I’d be moving away from my girlfriend or moving in with her.
We’ve been dating for over four years, and I cherish the relationship we’ve created. I love the way we are together, and I’m in awe of who she is. Taylor sees the grand meaning of life in the smallest moments, in every subtle joy. It’s a superpower. She is ambitious and contentious, which serves her well; she is observant and empathetic, which is how she cares so well for others. I’d happily pay admission to even our most mundane conversations, just so I could witness the myriad facial expressions that accompany her words. I’ve never seen eyes more expressive than hers.
This year, on New Year’s Day, Taylor and I were together in Leawood, KS — my hometown. And to greet 2023, we set off a luminary, making a wish with the universe as our witness. These sky lanterns originated in ancient China and have since been appropriated in the West by the cult following of The Law of Attraction. You’re supposed to write a wish on the lantern before you set it off into the sky. “Ask and you shall receive,” they say. I’m not a believer in The Secret’s secret, but I do believe in the practicality of goal-setting, the motivational power of a good story, and the importance of striving for an ideal.
I suggested what we should write on the luminary. Taylor agreed to it and took the marker from me:
To two binary stars, may you remain in harmonious orbit.
She and I took the lantern outside, lit a little fire beneath the parchment parachute, and let our dream fly.
The greatest strength of our relationship is that we protect each other’s independence. We don’t share a religion, but we share our values. We’re on completely different career paths, but we support each other’s ambitions. One of us prefers the mountains and the other the beach, so for some trips, we go solo. We are committed but not codependent.
Our solar system only has one star, our Sun. But astronomers estimate that at least half of all star systems have more than one star. Many of those are binary star systems — two stars orbiting a central point between them. Even the North Star, Polaris, is a binary system. If you don’t know what I mean, think of the sunsets on Tatooine.
Taylor and I communicate honestly and commit earnestly to create something together — something beyond both of us that we share equally: our relationship. Our goal, our story, our ideal is to have our own lives yet share a center of mass, like two binary stars.
Myths, movies, and mothers talk about finding your other half, your soulmate — someone who completes you. This is where we’ve gone wrong. Our archetypal and cultural ideas of what it means to love are caught up in attachment and unfair expectations. Those models of love lead to codependency. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t know how I could live without him/her,” and I can’t help but find that unhealthy.
Are you not already complete? Are you not whole on your own? And what dire stakes and expectations to impose on your partner — that they must complete you!
It’s a beautiful thing to fall in love, but it’s a devastating failure to fall away from yourself — to sacrifice your individuality. Falling in love is like falling into orbit with another bright star. But healthy loving means remaining in that orbit.
You can achieve monogamy and autonomy. Rather than giving up a part of yourself to be with someone else; rather than melting into one star, a single Sun, remain independent. A relationship can be something that pours out of you instead of something that consumes part of you. Commit to and collaborate with your partner to create something new that’s shared between you. This is my plea, to all the binary stars: remain in harmonious orbit.
Six weeks ago, I didn't know whether I'd be moving away from my girlfriend. Six weeks from now, Taylor and I will be moving in together.
- Binary Stars – Australian Telescope National Facility
- If you’ll indulge me in expanding this metaphor, let’s talk about how binary stars die. If they don’t fall out of orbit with each other and go their own ways (a clean, amicable breakup), binary stars die violent deaths. One way they die is that the more massive star sucks away mass from the other, which is called a vampiric binary star system. (Tell me you haven’t seen vampiric relationships.) The vampire-star eventually becomes so massive that it collapses under its own weight and explodes in a supernova. In another case, the two stars can orbit so closely that they collide, again, causing a supernova. In the latter case, though, the stars become a super-dense, singular object — either a neutron star or a black hole. Ideally, a relationship would not end in a supernova. Ideally, romantic partners would remain in a stable orbit, or drift apart to explore the universe separately.
- I’d like to note that I am 23 years old, unmarried, and I don’t have kids. I expect my perspective on relationships to change. But this model has so far helped direct my behavior and decisions in my relationships, and it’s worked well. That said, stars must die to release the building blocks for new life. So, maybe supernovas aren’t so bad. Maybe that’s what wedding vows will be, or conception, or childbirth. But for now, I hold to the ideal that I don’t have to sacrifice myself to be committed to people, even to my partner or future kids. For now, I don’t see a need to sacrifice my self in a supernova. I hope that I remain independent and connected, autonomous and monogamous.