Sex & Relationships

Sex, Revisited: Is There A Secret Cold-War Between Marrieds And Singles?

"The unspoken battle between singles and the coupled-up is not about fear of the unknown."

Sex and the City defined a generation of thinking on fashion, sex and dating. With a TV reboot in the works, we’re delving into some of  Carrie Bradshaw’s most seminal questions in a new mini-series: ‘Sex, Revisited’. Four writers will answer the questions through the lens of 2021 because we couldn’t help but wonder…

Is there a secret cold war between marrieds and singles? by Bek Day

It’s been 23 years since Carrie Bradshaw endured a weekend in the Hamptons that ended with her married male friend exposing himself to her in the hallway. It was the catalyst for a cock of her famous curls and the ponderance: Is there a secret cold war between marrieds and singles? And while the intervening decades have ushered in more flexible ideas of coupledom than those posed in Sex and The City, the question still remains: is there an unspoken enmity between the have (partners) and have-nots?

Firstly, it must be said: marriage is meaningless. As someone who has been happily married for 10 years, I believe myself to be in possession of the necessary credentials to make that statement. This is not to say I think relationships are meaningless – far from it. The 15 years I have shared with my partner have been enriching and transformative in equal measure. It’s a relationship I intend to continue, barring the pre-agreed deal-breakers of infidelity, untimely death, or the re-emergence of a thumb-ring he trialed for three fateful weeks in 2007.

But marriage itself? It does nothing to define who we are as a couple or as individuals, and I suspect that any such label – be it ‘married’, ‘de-facto’ or ‘single’ is best left to the confines of Centrelink forms and your Facebook profile from 2010.

23 years ago, Carrie arrived at the conclusion that it isn’t hatred fueling the cold war, but fear of the unknown. It is here (and on oh-so-many other issues) that Ms Bradshaw and I disagree. 

The unspoken battle between singles and the coupled-up is not about fear of the unknown, but fear of the known. It’s the awareness of the sliding-door alternate reality within each of us, and the worry that it might have been better another way. Humans are trapped in a cycle of grass-is-greener self-flagellation that starts in high school and ends never. 

We mistakenly believe the only relief we can get from this fog of insecurity is by defining ourselves in opposition to things. When a single woman scoffs at her married friends for moving to the suburbs, she’s not pointing the missile at them, but at the part of herself that wonders what life would have been like had she made a different decision somewhere along the way. And when a person who is married with kids chuckles ruefully at the ‘selfish’ lifestyle their unattached friend gets to live, there’s no battle plan in action – rather, the reconnaissance is focused on their own insecurities, and unaddressed grief for a life that is no longer within reach. 

The good news is that even in 2021, where politics of division are now simply called ‘politics’, there is still hope for bridging the distance between the two camps. Normalising the platonic relationships in our lives as being just as valid as the romantic ones, for one thing. Addressing the social and financial hardships that come with single life for another. Firstly though, we all need to dismantle the laser targets of insecurity we have constantly aimed at our own decisions. 

The war is over – we just haven’t told our self-doubt.

This story originally appeared in the June issue of marie claire Australia. 

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