As I Rewatched 'Sex And The City', I Couldn’t Help But Wonder — Didn’t Carrie Deserve Better?

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I remember watching the series finale of Sex and the City in 2004 with a group of giddy women in our thirties (most of us married with children). We drank Cosmos and cheered when Carrie ended up with Mr. Big instead of the Russian.

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To many, it was the perfect series finale. After years of struggle and strife as a single woman, Carrie’s wit, passion, and persistence finally paid off. She somehow managed to do the miraculous by convincing the unobtainable, emotionally absent, aloof businessman, Mr. Big, to choose her.

It was the proverbial fairy tale happy ending we all thought single-gal Carrie Bradshaw deserved. But what did she really win?

And how happy could an eternity with a manipulative narcissist actually be?

While binge-watching SATC on HBO Max, one thing has become crystal clear to me — Mr. Big is an asshole.

For years, he manipulates Carrie and often leaves her feeling like complete and utter shit. Whenever Carrie is truly and authentically happy — such as in her relationship with Aidan — Mr. Big reappears to blow up her life, and draw her back into his cocky, condescending orbit. He’s so toxic, that Carrie is only free of her cigarette addiction when Mr. Big isn’t in the picture egging her on to be a ‘bad girl’ and inhale poison into her lungs.

In a show about women’s obsessions with designer shoes and purses, Big often treats beautiful, young girls like they're disposable expensive (and sexy) accessories, mere arm candy, or props. Carrie has a deeper emotional and spiritual relationship with her Manolo Blahniks than Big has with his lovely wife, Natasha, whom he betrays almost immediately because she fills their home with too much beige.

Carrie, on the other hand, is the anti-Natasha. She has frizzy, unmanageable hair, and dresses in the brightest of bright mismatched colors. Carrie might be full of self-doubt and neuroses, but she is never ever plain old boring beige.

Still, most of the time Mr. Big proves he prefers generic, vacuous, beautiful models. Maybe that’s because it’s easier to impress these women (according to the show) with his money. The supermodels are merely attracted to his power and thus ignore his inability to engage in honest, intelligent conversation.

Carrie in all her messy, vibrant, complexity can’t keep Big’s sole interest for long. Nor can Big maintain the illusion for her that he is something other than a shallow, inarticulate, insecure man-child, and aging lothario, who feels outmatched by her emotional intelligence.

In Sex and the City, Carrie is the only woman who isn’t generic and interchangeable in Big’s life. And it’s telling that Mr. Big has zero friends other than Carrie.

For most of the series, Big’s inattentiveness and emotional withholding make Carrie feel insane, unstable, and insecure, yet, she is the one with secure attachments to other people. Carrie possesses healthy, functional, mutually satisfying relationships with best friends Miranda, Samantha, Charlotte, and Stanford.

It’s only Big (the true loner) that strips Carrie away of her positive identity and recasts her as some pathetic woman who needs his dismissive attention to feel both valued and validated.

On top of that, his so-called commitment issues are convenient (and bullsh*t). Carrie is right when she says he just doesn’t want to commit to her. He pushes her away time and time again, and yet, strings her on for years, pretending to be a friend. But real friends don’t sabotage their friend’s love life or undermine their self-esteem.

Mr. Big toys with Carrie because he can, and because he’s a dick. He exploits her weakness for him and ultimately keeps her from finding true happiness with someone who isn’t a dick.

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That’s not to say this story isn’t realistic. It is, however, not romantic. Nor should it be held up as an example of true love.

And it makes you ask yourself: Why do otherwise strong women choose to love assholes?

We all fell for the Carrie/Big relationship because we believe the old maxim: Opposites Attract.

But this isn’t just Beauty and the Beast. Or the Businessman and the Artist.

Big and Carrie were the classic Narcissist/Empath pairing.

The empath seeks to save the narcissist and change him for the better. But the narcissist never changes. In the end, the empath is generally left depleted and empty, wondering what she could have done differently to make the narcissist happy.

The short answer? Nothing.

Narcissists remain the most unaware of all human species, resistant to change or accountability.

Why does the empath stay? Because the empath sees the narcissist’s woundedness and believes she alone can heal him. Plus, giving to him (and taking on his pain), makes her feel loved.

Under the spell of his charisma and charm (and false promises), she falls for the smoke and mirrors. She believes this time will be different, even though she’s the one who has adapted once again to suit him, while he remains steadfast and stubborn — completely unevolved and unchanged.

I spent three decades with my own version of Mr. Big until he discarded me after 25 years of marriage. And I’m only now starting to see how, like Carrie, I chose to see the very best of this man time and time again, despite his inability and unwillingness to grow or mature emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in our marriage.

In the two years since he left, I’ve done plenty of counseling and deep soul searching (and grieving), while he’s mostly dated and sought attention and validation externally. And I’ve come to understand that although we did love each other and were our best selves as co-parents, our primary dynamic and patterns of relating were not that functional, healthy, or compatible.

I was attracted to this man because of childhood trauma that left me with an anxious attachment style (and thus comfortable with a man who was emotionally unavailable).

I stayed because I loved the life and family we built together (and I am very loyal). Plus I glimpsed into his soul and saw his childhood wounds which left him with an avoidant attachment style.

Marriages thrive (so I’m told) on connection, intimacy, honesty, authenticity, integrity, and communication. We never could resolve conflict because he ran from confrontation, and refused to remove the mask he wore.

I was far from perfect with a slew of my own flaws, weaknesses, and bouts of depression. But I faced my demons head-on, determined to heal myself and disrupt the legacy of trauma, rather than pass it onto our children.

Opposites — especially anxious and avoidant partners — do often attract, finding some comfort and familiarity in their discordant and conflicting relational patterns.

However, in time, these opposites also repel — unless both parties are willing to explore their wounds, triggers, and patterns — and attempt to heal them.

In rewatching Sex and the City, I now cringe, rather than fawn, over Carrie’s relationship with Mr. Big.

I cringe at her pathetic chasing of his affections.

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I cringe at the power imbalance within the relationship, as well as the withholding and intermittent reinforcement which keep her feeling unstable and insecure, always seeking his approval.

I cringe when she makes excuses for him to her friends.

I cringe when he remains emotionally unavailable yet keeps her on the hook by stringing her along with shallow promises, cheap flirting, and sexual antics.

I cringe when I see the way she runs from a simple, stable, loving, honest, authentic man like Aidan because she is addicted to the pursuit of a closed-off man who will not only never love her — he will never love himself.

I cringe because I see so much of MYSELF in the messy, complex, empathetic, and emotional writer named Carrie Bradshaw.

I cringe because I can’t believe I too naively mistook trauma attachment for true love.

I cringe because we keep telling the same toxic fairy tales and position them as epic love stories rather than the abysmal tragedies and cautionary tales they truly are.

For the first time in my life, I’m watching Sex and the City as a single woman, and what’s most shocking to me is how this show portrays single women as desperate, lonely, incomplete losers.

For the most part, I am enjoying being single (and not really dating), and I no longer believe the bullsh*t lie that you’re nothing unless you have somebody to share your life with.

I had a partner for over 30 years, but often I felt alone in the hard stuff. And honestly, this is the first time in my life I feel close to being whole and complete and also — happy and fulfilled.

Why? Because I don’t expect someone else to make me happy. Instead, I’m charting my own course, fulfilling my own needs, pursuing my own purpose and passions.

Maybe, being partnered isn’t a guarantee for happiness and success — just as being single doesn’t automatically translate to a life of sadness and failure.

Either way, I hope that in the SATC reboot, middle-aged Carrie Bradshaw, like many of us, finds herself once again single, having been disappointed and broken by life’s unexpected twists and turns.

Only this time, I hope Carrie is no longer waiting on or chasing an unavailable — and unworthy — man.

I hope Carrie looks in the mirror and abso-f*cking-lutely loves what she sees.

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Lizzie Finn is a freelance writer, blogger, screenwriter, and screenwriting instructor. Her work focuses on health, happiness, relationships, TV/film, psychedelics, feminism, motherhood, and neuroscience. Check out her website.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.