IS THERE A COLD WAR BETWEEN MARRIEDS AND SINGLES?
Welcome back to Sex and the Psychological City! If you have read the earlier posts, you are familiar with my confession that I was a hipper psychotherapist when my go-to girlfriends -- Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha were on the air, with fresh new material on everything from masturbation to marriage. Granted, their wardrobes and lifestyles were totally unrealistic, but the fashion and fabulousness worked well as a delivery platform for groundbreaking discussions about sex, commitment, friendship and love.
Since I specialize in relationships and intimacy, the show became an ideal co-therapist that I've brought into the therapy session whenever appropriate.
In honor of the show, I am taking a trip down Memory Lane that considers each first season episode, from a psychological perspective. This week ponders episode three titled "The Bay of Married Pigs" in which Carrie wonders "Is There a Cold War Between Marrieds and Singles?"
Carrie visits her married friend, Patience, and her husband, Peter, at their Hamptons getaway. Describing her weekend hosts as "the perfect married couple" who "look like they fell out of a J. Crew catalogue," Carrie gets quite a surprise when Peter greets her in the household hallway, proudly naked from the waist down. Carrie, obviously surprised to be face to face with "full frontal friend," later mentions the reverse mooning incident to Patience and is immediately "shoved on a bus" and sent back to the City, sensing that she will not be receiving another invitation anytime soon.
Back in the City, Carrie and her go-to girlfriends, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha, try to make sense of Carrie's sudden estrangement with her married friend. Over salads, Peter's privates are equated with an unassuming waiter's pepper grinder (he is eventually named "big peppermill dick") and the fabulous four debate and wonder: "is there a cold war between marrieds and singles?"
Samantha believes that all marrieds resent single women for their sexual freedom and view them as a threat to the marriage. Miranda feels that the general sentiment of marrieds toward singles is one of pity; marrieds do not want to be reminded of their desperate, lonely past. Charlotte, on the other hand, views marriage, (in Carrie's words) as an exclusive "sorority she is desperate to pledge."
Eventually, Carrie likens the cold war between marrieds and singles to the tension between the English and the Irish, hypothesizing: "we're all basically the same, but somehow we ended up on different sides." Carrie comes to this conclusion after she meets "that elusive and rare Manhattan man: the marrying kind," tries him on for size, and rejects him. Sean has his own investment firm, owns a classic six on the upper west side, and has even purchased a mobile to hopefully someday hang over his unborn baby's crib! In spite of multiple positive qualities, Carrie equates Sean to a Diane Von Furstenberg dress: "you know it's not your style, but you still want to try it on." When Carrie decides that Sean is not the right fit, he is devastated until she fixes him up with Charlotte. Sean and Charlotte proceed to get along famously until they start shopping for china and discover a somewhat absurd relationship deal breaker: Charlotte likes French Country and Sean is strictly American Classic!
The topic of tension between married and single adults is an interesting one. I have heard many single clients express hurt feelings when a friendship changes after a close friend marries. Not surprisingly, this tension is a two-way street; many times, married clients feel equally rejected by their single friends.
I tend to view the tension between marrieds and singles as much more internal than external. Sure, such tensions can surface in obvious, external ways similar to the drama Carrie experiences with Patience and Peter. More important, however, is your own internal perspective on marriage or singledom. The more genuinely comfortable you are with being single, the less tension you are likely to pick up on from married friends and colleagues. Likewise, the more content the married person, the less likely they are to engage or experience the "cold war" depicted in episode three. In other words, this tension is usually about one's internal insecurities, anxieties and feelings about the path not taken.
Whether you are married or single, work on enjoying your current path.
If you are married and find yourself experiencing tension with single friends, try to improve these friendships, but also be sure to prioritize your marriage and enjoy all that married life has to offer. If there is unresolved tension in your marriage, this will obviously affect you and your partner, and it can also affect your friendships. Also, NEVER, EVER, ask a single friend who has only been on one or two dates with someone if they think he or she is THE ONE!! This is the all-time most annoying question that a married can ask a single. Why? Because it gives the impression that married life is the only way to go, and it communicates the insulting assumption that your friend is not complete until he or she marries.
If you are single and hurt by some of the words or actions of a married friend, consider talking with your friend about how you feel (if you think the friendship is strong enough to tolerate such a discussion.) Also, be sure to focus on and enjoy the many advantages and freedoms of being single. Consider that some of the tension with your married friends may either be a reflection of your friend's marital insecurities, marital conflicts, or even boredom. Remember, the happier you are with your own current path, the less likely you are to look off your path and put yourself down in comparison to another.
Also, keep in mind the "Seans" of your past. Why? Because it is worth reminding yourself that you could be married if you wanted to be; however, the partners you have "tried on" so far have not been the right for you. Until you find your ideal "fit," consider Carrie's final observation of the episode:
"Sure, it would be great to have that special someone to walk home with. But sometimes, there's nothing like meeting your girlfriends at the movies."
Check in soon to consider Carrie's cutting-edge question: "Are Men in their Twenties the New Designer Drug?"
Follow Elisabeth on twitter @elisjoy and check out her book, Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce