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Married Carrie: Still Breaking Rules

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Unmarried Carrie was a pro at breaking The Rules while dating -- pushing too hard for commitment, being overly honest and not mysterious, seeing a married man, losing her L&B ("light and breezy") on a regular basis, and overall trying way, way too hard with Big. Given that The Rules for Marriage is, in some ways, the mirror opposite of The Rules for Dating, you might think that Carrie would have an easier time being Rules-y within the new construct of matrimony. And....you would be wrong.

It's one thing to try and suspend disbelief in pretending that it's realistic that an extremely handsome business tycoon would -- after years of foot dragging and even canceling a wedding -- enthusiastically jump into marriage with a quirky-looking, needy, insecure Carrie. Sure.......it's fiction, right? Anything can happen. But to watch Carrie start to take for granted her incredible stroke of fortune....to start nagging Big about his TV-watching-habits, or forcing him to go out when he doesn't want to, is a little too much to bear.

Don't get me wrong -- I wholeheartedly enjoyed SATC 2, as I did SATC 1, watching it with my Rules Girl posse, and devouring every amazing outfit (the sexy dress Miranda wore to the gay wedding was my personal fave), the eighties flashbacks, the incredible Abu Dhabi setting, and above all, the bond of friendship between the main characters. Unlike the overwhelming majority of critics, I thought the movie was well put together and very engaging. But as a Rules coach, watching Carrie's oblivious and seemingly compulsive rule-breaking definitely detracts from the overall experience and credibility of the plot.

Just a couple of examples:

Carrie barely shows any interest in her husband's work, or even acknowledges that he does work -- and it's that work that largely affords them the ultra-rich luxurious lifestyle she enjoys. To refer back to The Rules for Marriage, she flagrantly flouts Rule #8: Be Supportive. Authors Sherrie Schneider & Ellen Fein remind us: "You should treat your husband like a warrior who's going out to battle every day." Instead, for Carrie, it remains all about her.

Carrie forces an exhausted Big to go to a movie opening when all he wants to do is stay home, watch TV and eat takeout. He even encourages her to go by herself, enjoy the event with her pals -- he doesn't want to hold her back -- but she insists. Is it any wonder he ends up flirting with the exquisite Penelope Cruz? Her nagging and whining doesn't end when they come home.

The struggle over going out vs. staying in is a common one in many of the marriages of women I coach. That's why it's so important to recognize whether you can -- or can't -- live with differences in how much you both like to go out, before you get married. If he's homebody and you're a social butterfly - or vice versa -- you'll probably know that long before you walk down the aisle. Once you do tie the knot, you've got to respect your differences and stop trying to change him. It won't work and will only damage your relationship.

In other words, observe Rule #23: Do Things You Don't Want to Do. As Fein & Schneider put it: "You may have to compromise about who you see, where you go and what you do." Carrie wasn't really open to compromise about what she expected to be their shared evening agenda. Big was actually much milder in his resentment and opposition than you'd find in real life. Men really don't appreciate being bullied or manipulated into social activities when they're tired or have had a hard day at work.

I may be going off the Rules reservation here, but I'd stake that the one Rules-y thing Carrie did in SATC 2 was take a couple of days by herself at her old apartment to finish a work assignment. After the two-day hiatus, Carrie was refreshed -- and Big was romantic and excited to see her. Of course, Carrie reverted to non-Rules-y form the moment Big said they should continue the tradition of a couple days apart every week. She disregarded the fact that she'd first proposed this herself -- and that it did have a positive effect on her marriage. Instead, she broke a primal rule, immediately jumping to conclusions, escalating the rhetoric, and questioning whether Big even wanted to remain married to her.

Of course, Carrie's big crisis in the movie was the illicit kiss with ex-boyfriend Aidan, and then the frantic debate about whether she should confess this to her husband. Was it Rules-y for Carrie to have confessed? I'm not so sure. What I am sure of is that the fact that Carrie couldn't even follow Samantha's quite sage advice to "sleep on it" -- typical of the non-Rules-y impulsiveness and inability to delay action for 24 hours. Again, it was all about her -- her need to get something off her chest, her need for redemption, her discomfort -- and not about her husband, and how/when/if he needed to know about her guilty mistake.

That scattered, selfish call to Big was the lowpoint of the film, for me at least. But as I've said, there were plenty of fab moments to make the movie worth seeing. Best of all? Liza Minnelli's over-the-top performance of Beyonce's Single Ladies!