I was watching An Unmarried Woman last night, an Oscar-nominated movie with the Oscar-nominated Jill Clayburgh in the title role. Clayburgh becomes unmarried after her cheating spouse leaves her. It the age-old plot of so many movies, books and life. A woman suddenly finds herself alone, not sure how to create a new life as a single woman after a long marriage. It is a difficult transition for many involving grief and anger and bewilderment. It is as a death. In the movie, this character has the ultimate advantage of having money though, not always a luxury of many in this position.
In opposition to women who must develop independence without a partner in their lives, there are men who seem never to be able to be alone. They always have a woman in their lives, beginning with mom. A man leaves mom to live with a girlfriend or wife. Say that relationship fails or never really took off, and the man has hunted for a replacement for years. Finally he finds her. She has fallen in love and feels compassion for his unhappy relationship. Is he really in love with the replacement or is there some emotional need for her above love or lust? If the first relationship was so unhappy that he was cheating for years, why did he wait to find a replacement before leaving? Does he need that second woman to leave the first? Does she give him a strength to act? Was there a trigger, some added responsibility that led to this? And so he moves on to a new woman and a new relationship. Eventually he begins to feel dissatisfied again, so he begins the hunt again—maybe months, maybe years. Finally, he finds the replacement for the replacement after searching among various women. Is it love or is it that strength he needs to act again? Is there some trigger, some responsibility again that pushes him? Maybe the first time might have been true love that just happened unexpectedly, but then there is a repeat with so many parallels to the first time. Now it looks like a pattern of behavior from a man who hurts people. This seems to be a man unwilling to share something about himself, a man unwilling to work on a relationship, a man looking for something elusive or some ideal for himself. Who gets hurt by a man who cannot be without a woman and finds a new one before shedding himself of the old one? Who gets hurt by such a man? Maybe no one if there was honesty without cheating and lies, but everyone with dishonesty. And so it goes until exhaustion or self-reflection.
An Unmarried Woman. Directed by Paul Mazursky, Performances by Jill Clayburgh and Alan Bates, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 1978.