Is Monogamy Too Much To Expect?

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Welcome back to Sex and the Psychological City!

If you have read my 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. How To Handle Infidelity

Since I specialize in relationships and intimacy, the show became an ideal co-therapist that I've brought into the therapy session whenever appropriate. A lot has changed since the show first aired in 1998. Try to imagine a dating world void of blackberries, iphones, texting and Facebook! And yet, it is shocking to watch early episdoes and realize that the core issues remain the same. In honor of the show, I am taking a trip down Memory Lane that considers each first season episode, from a psychological perspective. 

Episode seven, The Monogamists, begins with Carrie's embarrassed confession that she has become that stereotypical, romance-obsessed woman who drops all her friends in response to falling head over heels for a guy. With four-hour conversations flying by in what feels like minutes, she admits that New York City may be full of people, but Big has become the only one she notices. When Miranda tracks her down and asks her to join the gang for dinner, Carrie commits the quintessentially annoying faux pas of saying she is free because Big is busy. Miranda is offended yet amused and calls Carrie out on her lame comment. 'Sex And The City' Helps Me Be A Better Therapist

Carrie proceeds to enjoy a chic dinner with her go-to girlfriends, and shares with them just how smitten she is with Big. She then waltzes gleefully through the restaurant only to discover Big at a cozy corner table, on a date with a gorgeous brunette! Reeling and humiliated, Carrie wonders how they could respond to the same series of great dates, intimate talks and steamy sex so differently?

"For me, dating another guy would be like trying to fit another outfit into any already overstuffed suitcase, but Big was happily dating another woman like it was the most natural thing in the world! Is it that men have an innate aversion to monogamy? In a city like New York, with its infinite possibilities, has monogamy become too much to expect?"

How do the go-to girlfriends view monogamy?

Carrie attempts to process her crushed ego by examining how her nearest and dearest navigate the issue of monogamy.

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Samantha does not "believe in monogamy, even when it comes to real estate agents." She spends the episode cheating on her current real estate agent by viewing apartments and hooking up with her agent's competitor. Charlotte, not surprisingly, "embraces fidelity" with the "perfect" guy, only to break up with him due to their differing views about the importance of oral sex. Miranda gets jealous when she sees her ex, Skipper, arm and arm with Allison, a fabulous executive at Vogue. She calls Skipper to eagerly suggest getting together, he dumps Allison on the spot, they hook up and only then does Miranda express her discomfort with monogamy. Devastated and furious, Skipper says he is NOT her "private stud horse" and calls Miranda some harsh expletives. Last but not least, Carrie's go-to gay friend Stanford shares his monogamy philosophy:

"Monogamy is on its way out again. It had a brief comeback in the nineties, but as the millennium approaches, people are leaving their options open ... I can't even commit to a long distance carrier!"

(Given the extent to which phones have evolved since Stanford compared monogamy to phone service, his comment is especially dated, and yet oh so current!)

Stanford then helps distract Carrie by introducing her to Jared, the sexy, racy, best-selling author, recently named one of the 30 coolest new yorkers under 30. Intrigued, Jared invites Carrie to a chic night club party and confesses, "I'm, like, in love with you!" Carrie is furious with herself because she cannot summon any interest in Jared and only has eyes for Big:

"I felt like a fool. I had gone so far out on a limb with my feelings, I hadn't realized I was standing out there alone."

And therein lies the most important aspect of Carrie's struggle with monogamy. She and Big had never discussed whether they were exclusive. Carrie was too busy racing a million miles an hour on her own trajectory with little sense about how Big's perspective would fit in. Can Women Have Sex Like Men?

My advice? A monogamous relationship is the right move for many, but not for everyone. The decision to be exclusive should be made when both partners are ready for it. If you want a monogamous relationship, take things at a reasonable pace! What's the rush? Whatever you do, don't be someone who quickly loses track of your friends the minute you meet someone who excites you romantically. Never, ever make the pathetic and offensive mistake of telling a friend that you are free to make plans with them because your romantic interest happens to be busy. If you make more time for the rest of your life while you take time to really get to know someone, you are less likely to get ahead of yourself and make unrealistic assumptions about the status of your relationship.

Keep in mind that once Carrie is more direct with Big about her feelings and expectations, they gain more clarity about each other and the relationship. Big seems hesitant and uncomfortable with exclusivity, while Carrie admits:

"In a city of infinite possibilities, sometimes there's no better option than knowing you only have one!" 

As the episode ends, we realize that Carrie and Big may have something special, but he is not ready to give her what she needs, and she is not ready to face this reality. 5 Tips for Going from ‘It’s Complicated’ to Monogamy

Sex and the City fun trivia fact: The actor who plays Jared, one of the 30 coolest New Yorkers under 30, is none other than current tabloid fixture Justin Theroux who somewhat recently celebrated his 40th birthday with girlfriend Jennifer Aniston! Seeing Theroux look very much under 30 in the show when stories about his real life 40th recently penetrated the media reminds us how much has changed since the show aired. And yet, the question of monogamy remains as current and complicated as ever.  

Connect with me at and follow @elisjoy

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