‘Knee deep in the passenger seat and you’re eating me out,

Is it casual now?

Two weeks and your mom invites me to her house on Long Beach,

Is it casual now?’

(Chappell Roan, Casual)

For the past two months, my brain has been consumed with thoughts of New York City, writing a column, and a furniture designer slash woodworker named Aidan Shaw; or, more concisely, the iconic HBO series, Sex and the City. This series had always been one which I had heard talked about incessantly, as almost everyone has, and while I had seen the films and some clips of the show, I had never fully sat myself down and started it: Season 1, Episode 1, Sex and the City. I went in with a vague knowledge of who marries who (that is, pre And Just Like That), who ends up where, who acts in what way. I’ve had countless discussions about the show with people who claim to have never watched a single episode. But I was not at all prepared to find myself completely and utterly invested in the lives of four single, 30-ish year old women in New York City, and, more specifically, spending half of my free time mulling over the train wreck/ love story that was Carrie and Big.

The word ‘situationship’ feels horrifically contemporary. It’s a stinging signpost of the modern inability to commit to a relationship, the paradox of choice in the current dating scene, the result of social media and dating apps and casual sex. However, though it was not a common term until the late 2010s, I would argue that the concept of a ‘situationship’ made its appearance in mainstream media much earlier than that, from the moment that Carrie Bradshaw met Mr Big.

For those (blissfully) unaware, a ‘situationship’ is a term for a relationship which is not a relationship, someone you’re dating but not dating, someone with whom you’re more than friends but less than partners. The key definable aspect of a ‘situationship’ is the very lack of definition or commitment, perhaps best expressed in Chappell Roan’s song ‘Casual’, and this familiar word cropped up in my mind repeatedly as I watched the first few seasons of Sex and The City. Carrie thinks that she and Big are going on a date; he brings a friend along with him. Carrie thinks that she and Big are seeing each other; he takes her to a party where she is forced to meet other girls he’s currently also dating. Carrie leaves some beauty products in Big’s apartment since she’s sleeping there so often; he brings them back to hers the next day*.

(It’s hard being casual when my favourite bra lives in your dresser


I tried to be the cool girl who holds her tongue and gives you space

I tried to be the cool girl, but honestly I’m not)

Yet (spoiler warning), somehow, this tumultuous, six-season long ‘situationship’ actually resulted in marriage. As I watched, often wanting to yell at Carrie through the screen for going back to Big, I wondered: why have ‘situationships’ become more common than relationships? Are we all just afraid of commitment? When did love become so incredibly uncool?

The issue with ‘situationships’ (with a few exceptions) is that there will almost always be a somewhat bitter dichotomy between the two involved: the one who doesn’t want anything ‘serious’ (Big), and the one who ‘doesn’t mind’, the one who will take what they can get, even if it means getting hurt in the long run, the one who is quietly open to a relationship (Carrie). There can be something humiliating about dating someone who doesn’t want a relationship for a long period of time; the very sentiment of wanting to stay single is perfectly understandable and okay, but being told that someone doesn’t want a relationship after months of casual dating is a little like a punch in the gut. There’s a part of you that wants to end it, because what’s the point of dating someone if it’s never going anywhere; but it’s addictive, dating someone who withholds almost everything from you, as they dangle the possibility of something more serious and worthwhile by being emotionally intimate, and you almost allow yourself to believe it. But, in a dynamic where someone is using the other as a stop along the way, where someone isn’t willing to admit that the other is the best they can get, there usually aren’t any winners, and it’s fairly difficult to feel good about yourself when being involved with someone who’s emotionally unavailable.

I wondered why Carrie kept going back to Big, and concluded eventually that it wasn’t just some mysterious, inexplicable force or magnetic pull between them, but the result of Big withholding his commitment to Carrie. When someone controls the dynamic of the relationship, it makes it appear as though they are the best you can get, and you worry about not finding someone better than them if you end it. There’s the recurrent feeling that something is better than nothing, but there will always be a small voice that reminds you: if we do everything else, why can’t we do labels?

That being said, I’m sure there is indeed a certain target audience out there for ‘situationships’ – and maybe Carrie’s inability to stay faithful in a healthy relationship means that her and Big were that audience – however, unfortunately, I do not think it is me. I am now free of any ‘situationships’, and I’m definitely not searching for one anytime soon. But I would like to think that maybe we need ‘situationships’ as a means to remind ourselves that commitment is in fact a good thing; since my last relationship ended, I’d dreaded the thought of committing to anyone for fear of a similar breakup (the first lesbian breakup is a horror I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy). But I realised recently that at least after a relationship, the pain of the breakup is often warranted, the bittersweet result of love and good memories and happiness; or, in the words of Tennyson – ‘better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all’. And I think I’d rather risk losing someone than close myself off and allow myself to be stuck in the purgatory that is a ‘situationship’ ever again. And if, like Carrie, I ever end up marrying someone that I was in a toxic ‘situationship’ with for over a decade, I urge anyone reading this to intervene immediately for the sake of my sanity.

*For those who have not and do not plan to watch Sex and the City, here is a link to a concise timeline of Carrie and Big’s messy ‘situationship’ turned relationship: https://www.distractify.com/p/carrie-and-big-relationship-timeline