My one complaint about life is that people don’t talk to me with the same eloquence and wit as they do in the movies. Well, as they do in movies such as “Juno,” “Sex and the City” and the movie that I saw this weekend, “The Kids are All Right.” In one scene, I was nearly sobbing as I listened to Julianne Moore’s character Jules apologize to her wife and kids for her infidelity. She poignantly argues that marriage just isn’t easy, at all. After a while, it’s drudgery, it’s a marathon, it’s slogging through life, and along the way, you project a lot of your crap, insecurities and dissatisfactions onto your partner. Her wife is clearly moved by the speech, and it seems to achieve her goal of breaking down the icy wall that has formed around her family members since her not so minor peccadillo was revealed.
As I watched that scene, I kept thinking that I wished that my ex had had screenwriters to pen his dialogue when we went through a similar scenario. I’ve mentioned before that my former hubby betrayed me. He developed an infatuation with our kids’ beloved babysitter, unfortunately not an uncommon scenario. Luckily for us all, she turned him down. However, the pain of the discovery of romantic emails that he sent to her and his subsequent declaration, I didn’t sleep with her but I am in love with her, were certainly a punch in the stomach. The scene in which Annette Bening’s character Nic discovers her wife’s betrayal is brilliantly portrayed and frankly made the memories that I thought that I had put behind me feel extremely fresh. I, with a healthy sense of catharsis, acutely felt her pain.
With the hindsight of three years from my own experience, I also really understood why Jules had her affair. The sexual politics notwithstanding, it is extremely powerful to have someone new find you attractive. It is very seductive to have someone appreciate you, especially when it seems that your spouse resents you, is bored with you, or tolerates you at best. You throw kids into the mix and you begin to feel like co-workers instead of lovers. I always sort of understood why my ex fell for our lovely babysitter, but this movie really drove the point home for me.
I was reminded of what I instinctively knew then, that his infidelity had less to do with me, or the woman he fell for, and more to do with him and his feelings of discontent with his life. I am certainly not condoning infidelity as a justified response to middle age ennui. I am just saying that it is understandable, to me at least. While he could have chosen a better way to express his dissatisfaction, I have always been grateful that he didn’t leave our marriage because of this infatuation. If he had left me for her and established a relationship with her, I think that it would have been easy for me to make myself a victim and make them the scapegoats for the demise of our marriage. Instead I was able to perceive that his crush was more a symptom of a larger problem that eventually became insurmountable for us despite the love that we still felt for one another.
“The Kids are All Right” really moved me because I could relate to what the characters were experiencing, from Nic’s feelings that the sperm donor Paul had taken over her family to Jules’ need to be appreciated and validated. As a good movie will do, it presented familiar situations with enough originality and distance that I was able to gain a more objective perspective on them. Maybe if my ex and I both had such a perspective, we could have made the marriage work, as Jules and Nic seem to be doing. However, it took a physical, domestic and romantic separation from my husband for me to gain the insight that I have now. Plus, life isn’t a movie. We don’t always get a happy ending.
So please go see this movie and weigh in with me. Do you find it as touching as I do?