Married Life (2008)

Published: Aug 17, 2009 |Updated: Sep 10, 2023


Harry is married to Pat. Pat is fucking John, while Harry is head over heels for Kay. And Harry’s friend Richard is intent on stealing Harry’s new love from him, as he has become smitten with her himself. This is the premise behind Married Life, and it is one which would normally be more appealing to women than men. But when I first got to know Harry on a British Airways plane from New Delhi, I recognized that there was much to learn from him. So let’s dig into the institution of marriage. Let’s learn how not to do it.

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Genre Drama
Production year 2008
Director Ira Sachs
Male actors Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper

Dishonesty, infidelity, and poison for the wife

Longing for freedom in the arms of a woman

Harry meets his buddy Richard in a fancy restaurant, eager to share important news about his life. He is going to leave Patricia. He has found someone else. He wants to “be happy”, he says, and “all Pat wants is sex”. Harry thinks there is more to marriage than sex – he wants affection and cuddling. He wants to give. Pat just wants the sex. Bit of a role reversal for you there. Kay enters in all her glory, and Richard asks himself why on earth a girl like her would fall for a guy like Harry.

We understand that although Richard likes his friend very much, he is well aware that he is a bit of a bore. As things evolve, Richard becomes increasingly obsessed with Kay. He wants her. He thinks about her all the time. Harry does too of course. In fact, he is preparing for his new life with Kay, scheming to find a way to get out with the least amount of noise. Harry sees his wife as a fragile soul who would break down completely were he to leave her.

Harry doesn’t like to see people suffer, he tells Richard, so he hatches the plan to…kill her. This plan is all based on his total ineptitude at understanding who his wife is. He has succumbed to the compromise of marriage, the drudgery of suburbian comforts, and now he feels trapped. He wants out.

Dark secrets behind the pleasant facade

The story Harry tells himself about not wanting people to suffer is basically self-deluded nonsense. It’s his own suffering he is afraid of, and as he is a coward, he cannot own up to it, and instead projects it onto Patricia with the intent of ending “her” misery. He has no clue. This situation is an extreme version of a common masculine pathology: By failing to own up to their own vulnerability, many men play games, live in little fantasy worlds where others are in the wrong, where the others are the fragile or “evil” ones.

The passive aggressive man creates a little cushion for himself, where he can sit comfortably and judge and misinterpret others from within the comforts of his own mind. There is no chance of being brought on trial for it in the “real world”. That is the prerogative of the passive aggressive man. It is why Harry is happy seeing the world from that perspective. It’s why many men are. Unbeknownst to Richard, Harry moves ahead with his plan. And unbeknownst to Harry, Richard is maneuvering to take Kay from him.

He does so on the basis of his life philosophy “You cannot build the unhappiness upon the unhappiness of someone else.” The question Richard eventually asks himself, to his credit, is if his hunt for Kay makes him a hypocrite. Richard is slightly more of a man than Harry, but just barely. He too is a coward, who cannot come clear with his friend about his true intentions and his true feelings about Harry’s betrayal of Pat. This is unfortunate, for the raw and brutal honesty of true male friendship would clear up the act of both of these guys.

Alas, they don’t have true friendship, true brotherhood. What they have is a functional agreement about spending comfortable time together while sharing mildly pleasant conversation. Sound familiar? When Richard discovers that Pat too is unfaithful, with a young and vigorous author named John, he is given the opportunity to come clear with them both, to, as he puts it, “set them free”. A surge of happiness rises in him, but Richard cannot utter the words. He has already started weaving the web of deceit to get Kay and now he has castrated himself with his inability to handle life head on. He falls flat on his face, impotent, afraid of life.

Tear down lies and pretense in your friendships

Because Richard didn’t man up, Harry’s plan progresses. Here is where we see how the inability of a guy to be a true and honest friend to his buddy can cause dramatic results. The mechanics of this particular plot may seem unrealistic and over the top, but not so much. For in truth, every time you give or receive lies with no remorse, you are failing your duty as a true friend and as a man. You are committing treachery against yourself, your buddy, truth, life itself.

Often these opportunities to come totally clear with life arise several times every day. But many have been so numbed by living a life of subtle dishonesty that they think it’s normal. So they will happily see a friend fuck himself up without intervening. Now there’s such a thing as adapting to circumstances, not always having to strip others bare, but the capacity should be developed.

Finding yourself by losing everything

Richard, the dick that he is (pun intended), takes his plan to its fruition and steals Kay. In a sense, there is something right about it, as they are a better match, but it was a covert operation. Harry crumbles when he catches them red handed, and utters with tears in his eyes “I lost everything today.” Serves him right in a way, as we see from the scene previously. There he looks at Kay with puppy eyes and serves her the most agonizing line “Oh, I love you so much Kay. Nothing scares me when I’m with you”.

There is nothing wrong in being a sensitive and romantic soul. Nothing at all. It is a beautiful thing. But expecting your intimate partner to be happy being your mother as opposed to your lover is totally unacceptable. What a treachery of her feminine core! What a treachery of your masculine potential! What a big waste of a man. Anyway, as we were saying, he has lost everything: Kay, his buddy Richard, perhaps also his wife – who is about to drink the poison he so compassionately prepared for her.

All of a sudden, ridding himself of Pat isn’t quite as tempting a prospect for Harry, and fortunately, when he arrives home, she is not dead. The gravity of his almost-murder finally hits him, and he realizes that he’d be lost without Pat. Having found no true freedom in himself, he needs a woman to mother him through the rough waters of life. He almost killed his “mom”.


The movie ends on a bit of a bullshit note – everybody being happy and everything forgotten. This speaks to the release of truth that has happened for these people, especially for Harry, and the increased clarity it has brought them. But the karmic patterns here are not gone, not until all truths have been revealed. Some have been, but not all, and they never will be of course. So happiness will never be truly theirs. How many lies are we willing to accept as foundation stones in our lives? That’s for you to find out.

Powerful ideas from Married Life

  • Never assume you know what your partner is thinking about. Don't do the thinking for them. Ask.
  • Living life truthfully is scary, but it's the only way.
  • In intimate partnership, any lies will fester and become the seed of division and deceit. Speak the truth. In ways that serve.
  • Most people hide dark secrets that reflect their desire for greater truth and love in life. But secrets never fulfilled any person's desire.
  • You can't build your happiness upon the happiness of somebody else.
  • A true buddy speaks his truth. He is not afraid to hurt his friend, because he knows that truth is the ultimate liberator.
  • Find freedom in yourself, lest you look for it outside of yourself, probably in a woman. She doesn't have it.

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