Sex and the City might not be the ideal place to turn for dating advice, but it’s fair to say the show hides an important lesson about the psychology of singledom.
That’s according to University of Colorado psychologist Professor Peter McGraw, who says the iconic singles on the hit series fit into one of four categories.
From a ‘Just May’ singleton like Carrie to ‘New Way’ explorers such as Samantha, he says we all find ourselves falling into one of these groups.
So, whether you think of yourself as more of a Charlotte or a Miranda, who you most relate to can tell you a lot about how to find fulfilment without finding a partner.
If you’re curious about how science separates these different daters, read on to find out what kind of singleton you might be.
Sex and the City looks at the lives and loves of three independent women in their 30s as they navigate the trials and tribulations of single life
Psychologist and behavioural economist Professor Peter McGraw says there are four types of singles, each of which can find fulfilment without necessarily needing to find a partner
Charlotte York is an archetypal ‘Some Day’, she’s waiting for her perfect partner to come along and won’t waste time on someone who isn’t ‘the one’
Why are we attracted to certain people?
- Scientists have worked on a number of different theories to explain our attractions.
- Studies have found that humans appear to select partners that have similar facial features to themselves.
- Other theories have looked at the importance of having similar interests and beliefs, which appears to make attractiveness more likely.
- Genetic selection has often been cited as a possible explanation, with scientists arguing that certain traits are indicators of valuable genetics.
The ‘Some Day’ is the most common type of single person. They are the type of people who believe: ‘Someday I’ll find my Person’.
Professor McGraw adds that Some Days are often holding out for an ideal traditional relationship modelled on society’s values.
Charlotte York in Sex and the City is an example of a Some Day as she holds out for that perfect person who will make her life complete, not wasting time on people who might not be ‘the one’.
Likewise, Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’ Diary feels like there is something missing in her life without a partner.
‘That person wants to “ride the relationship escalator”,’ says Professor McGraw.
‘You meet, you date, you meet the family, you move in. Maybe you get married, maybe you have kids and then, ideally, the relationship ends with one person dying.’
The relationship a Some Day is long-term and monogamous, as McGraw says: ‘It is closed to sexual and romantic endeavours but does not guarantee sex or romance.’
This kind of relationship is also ‘merged’, the partners live together and share key aspects of their lives like friends and finances and ‘I’ becomes ‘we’.
‘Some Day folks want that kind of relationship,’ says Professor McGraw, ‘and they’re not doing as well as they could be until they get that.’
Bridget Jones, as are many Rom-Com characters, is a ‘Some Day’ waiting to find a partner to fill a part of their life
Carrie and Miranda are ‘Just May’ singletons, they are open to a relationship but they are not letting being single stand in the way of having a meaningful life
The next category of singleton, and the first that Professor McGraw considers to be a solo, is the ‘Just May’.
‘I see Carrie and Miranda from Sex and the City as Just Mays,’ says Professor McGraw, ‘they’re not waiting around for the right person, but they are open to those possibilities and may even really desire it.
‘They may behave in a really similar way to Some Days, it’s just how they feel about it.’
Professor McGraw says the difference between a Some Day and Just May is one of attitude.
‘They might live exactly the same lives and end up as bachelors or spinsters. The Just Mays think “I gave it a shot, it didn’t work out but I love my life”.
‘But for the Some Days, they think “I gave it a shot, it didn’t work out. How awful”.’
Professor McGraw says that while a Just May very well might end up in a committed, monogamous, relationship, they are much less likely to put off life goals for it.
For example, a Just May won’t hold off a trip to Paris because they’re waiting for the right person to go with, or put off a big career move because they might want to settle down.
Some ‘Just Mays’ do end up in long-term relationships like Carrie from Sex in the City but others, like Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek never do
The average age when a UK woman marries has jumped to almost 30 since the 1970s, possibly suggesting more women are living as ‘Just Mays’ than ‘Some Days’
Across the UK, more and more people are choosing to live alone or marry much later in life compared with previous generations.
Between 1860 and 1940, the average age at which Women first married in England and Wales stayed relatively stable at around 23 to 24 years old.
After a dip during the 1960s average marrying ages have now jumped to almost 30 years old on average as more women choose to delay starting a family.
Likewise, the number of men and women in the UK living in single-person households has expanded to almost a third of the population according to the Office for National statistics.
Over 25 per cent of women aged 45-64 lived alone in 2022, a figure which has been steadily increasing over the last few years.
Men are also living alone in much higher proportions, with over 35 per cent of 45-64-year-olds living in single-person households.
The rates at which women in the UK are living alone has increased over the last few years, rates are especially high among 75s as men tend to die earlier than women and leave behind widows
Men are choosing to live in single person households at a far higher rate than in the past, although there were small year-on-year declines between 2021 and 2022
‘This is a huge group of people who are not interested in dating or a relationship at the moment,’ says Professor McGraw, ‘that means they are single now or forever.’
Behavioural scientist Bella de Paulo classes this group of people as ‘single at heart’, meaning that they are happy because they are single not despite being single.
While film and TV are conspicuously short on truly happy singletons, The Dude, Geoff Bridges’ character from The Big Lebowski, may be one of the best-known examples.
Just like The Dude, No Ways are not interested in dating or relationships but have vibrant social lives, deep interests in their hobbies, or are focused on other things.
‘These folks live their best lives while not in a romantic relationship,’ says Professor McGraw.
‘People make assumptions that you are always looking for someone special, but this is an enormous group and many of them are very happy being single.’
The Dude from The Big Lebowski might be cinema’s most famous No Way, a happy bachelor with no intention or desire to be in a relationship
Lucy Meggeson, proud solo and host of the Podcast ‘Spinsterhood Reimagined’, told MailOnline she is a No Way because ‘I’m very, very reluctant to give up my single life.’
She adds: ‘Even if the so-called perfect man came along, I’m still not sure I would pursue anything.
‘I value so much the freedom and autonomy that come with being single; and no matter how free a relationship might allow me to be, it’s just not the same.
‘To me being single feels expansive, and being in a relationship feels the opposite of that.’
However, Professor McGraw also points out that some people may be a No Way for some periods of their lives but not for others.
‘One way to put it is to say that it can be acute or it can be chronic, I joke that I’m a No Way about 20 per cent of the time.
‘It’s just like the faucet,’ he explains, ‘when you’re thirsty you turn on the tap, have a drink, then you turn it off again.
‘One thing I want to do is normalise the fact that, whether it’s for now or forever, not seeking a relationship is not just okay, it’s good.’
Samantha in Sex and the City could be considered a New Way solo, she is willing to break the rules of traditional relationships in order to get the kind of relationship that makes her happy
Finally, we get to the last category of solos: the New Ways.
‘This is the smallest group,’ says Professor McGraw, ‘but they also seem to be the fastest growing.’
“These are folks who would like a relationship, they want sex or romance in their life, but are bending or breaking the rules of the “relationship escalator” to make the kind of relationship their looking for.”
‘I spent my life going out with “Some Day” singles and I could never make them happy.
‘I didn’t want children, I didn’t want to live with a partner, and I didn’t want to drop everything for this new partner so I would disappoint them because I could not give them what they wanted.’
Professor McGraw says this is the category he finds himself in, but only realised this at the age of 30 after ending a long-term relationship.
Samantha calls herself ‘trysexual, meaning that she would be willing to try anything once in order to find what works best for her
McGraw says that New Ways often find their traditional relationships don’t work out and end up feeling that there must be something wrong with them.
‘I realised that it’s not something wrong with me,’ says Professor McGraw, ‘it’s something wrong with this type of relationship.’
New Ways, like Samantha in Sex and the City, are open to unconventional thinking and trying new things in a relationship.
Just in the same way Samantha calls herself ‘trysexual’, meaning she’ll try anything once, New Ways are much more willing to experiment with relationship structures.
McGraw says these types of singles may be more happy in polyamorous or otherwise non-traditional relationship than they would be in a long-term monogamous relationship.
That might mean taking some parts of a traditional relationship but leaving others behind, for example a couple that don’t live together or merge their lives in other ways.
This could also include ethically non-monogamous open relationships, friends with benefits, or relationships between long-term platonic partners.
Which of Sex and the City’s singles do you most relate to? The answer might tell you a lot about how you can be happy in or out of a relationship
Are you Single or Solo?
Another important distinction, Professor McGraw tells MailOnline, is the difference between being single and being ‘solo’.
Whereas being single is often seen as something temporary or as a liminal state people are supposed to move quickly through, Professor McGraw says being solo ‘transcends relationship status’.
‘The world wants to put us in little boxes and wants to move us from one box, not married, into another: married.
‘As a result, people want to know your relationship status because they want to know how to treat you.’
However, Professor McGraw says this old-fashioned attitude towards relationships no longer reflects how the world is.
‘To me, knowing whether someone is single or not tells you almost nothing about how happy they are or how satisfied they are with their life.
‘It’s important that we move past demographics to what we call “psychographics”, peoples’ values, lifestyles, and goals, so you can start thinking about single living in different ways.’
In TV it might sometimes seem that being in a relationship is the be-all-end-all of someone’s happiness, but Professor McGraw says relationship status tells us very little about a person’s happiness
So while being single is just about your relationship status, being solo is about being happy without needing a partner or traditional relationship.
This might mean you are a lifelong bachelor or happily married, its all about your attitude and sense of fulfillment.
Solos, as Professor McGraw calls people people who can be happy in or out of a relationship, have three characteristics in common.
Firstly, they ‘see themselves as a complete person, they’re not waiting for their better half.’
Second, they tend to ’embrace a sense of autonomy of self-sufficiency’.
Finally, solos ‘think unconventionally and question the norms associated with relationships,’ Professor McGraw says.
Professor McGraw explores these ideas further in his upcoming book, Solo: BUILDING A REMARKABLE LIFE OF YOUR OWN.