What would you do if your husband was a serial killer?

I watched “A good marriage” this morning, based on a screenplay by Stephen King and it got me thinking.

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I have seen a lot of movies that were trying to show the communication between the husband and wife and what goes on in a marriage, starting with the beautiful “Before Sunrise” with Ethan Hawke and finishing with “Gone Girl” with Ben Affleck. They all dwelve in those sensitive dynamics which make a marriage work – showing that the most important aspect of any marriage is a good level of communication and trust.

Trust is what is currently broken in this Stephen King movie, when the wife finds out by chance that her beloved husband is none other than Beady – a serial killer responsible with the gruesome deaths of a dozen women. He raped and tortured them and then he killed them. He kept their driving licenses as proof of his deeds.
She is wrecked – she can just see the deadlines of the news asking how much the wife knew of his husband’s wrongdoings?
This is where the movie got me thinking. If I had just found out that my life-long partner has spent most of his life torturing and raping women, what would I do? Would I turn him over to the authorities?

The answer came to me as a YES. Powerful. Non-equivocal YES.

What if I had children with this monster?

Will their lives be destroyed by my confession? They could not just sit in his presence and breathe the same air as him, but anything they would do in their lives will be marked by his sins. They would start soon doubting their own genes and start thinking they have the same flawed set of chromosomes that make people kill.

I could divorce him. But then, that would leave him free to kill some more and people would wonder why such a “good” marriage got destroyed by a “whim” of the wife?

I could disappear – and then I would start a life without his presence. No more waking up in the morning next to a monster. But then – what will become of the children?

Maybe HE could disappear. He will be missed, searched for and never found.

All of these thoughts can be found in the movie as the main character goes through the same motions and thoughts. What makes this movie brilliant is the fact that he is tipped by a nuance in her voice and returns home from his business trip to find out that she knew his secret.

He confronts her and tells her that he had been hearing voices ever since his best friend died in his childhood, asking him to kill and rape and maim.He acts on this voice but he promises his wife that he would never kill her.

She sobbs and sleeps and is tormented by nightmares of him killing her. When she finds a knife by the bed-stand, she realizes that maybe her worries were not so far off, that maybe based on her reaction, she might have evaded his murderous intentions.

a-good-marriage1She proposes a deal – he would not kill again and he would get rid of all evidence. And they would not speak of it again.

This approach hit me as being similar to a woman being cheated on who decides to give the husband another chance but never really truly trusts him again afterwards.

Time passes and she keeps a watchful eye on him. Their daughter gets married and there is a touching scene where the dad dances with her daughter and all that her mother can see is the little girl sitting on his toes as they danced ages ago as child and father. He was a good man with a dark secret.

You would believe that she had forgiven and forgotten until one night when returning from a dinner date, she surprises him on the stairs and pushes him over the banister and then proceeds to suffocate him and gets rid of all evidence.

I was like “YEAAAAH!!” 🙂 Show him!

She found the way out I would have thought of eventually – kill him and make it look like an accident. Immediate closure & punishment into one. This is where the movie reminded me a lot of “Rose Madder” – she kills her abusing and thieving husband too and makes it look like he fell down an old well.

I was well happy until an old retired detective came to investigate an old lead – making everything she’d done easily uncovered.

She confesses everything to him and what he said next marked me:

“IT’S NOT FOR ME TO PUNISH YOU.
YOU KNOW YOUR KIDS ARE GONNA TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY MISS DEAR OLD… DAD.
AND TELL THEIR GRANDKIDS ABOUT WHAT A FINE FELLA GRANDPA WAS.
YOU’RE JUST GOING TO SIT THERE AND LISTEN. NOD, SMILE…
ONCE IN A WHILE, EVEN HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THE GOOD OLD DAYS.”
“I CAN LIVE WITH THAT.”

I shuddered thinking how difficult it would be to talk good about a dark man, but the alternative, of having the same men loose and raping women, or rotting in jail while your entire family is branded for being connected to a serial killer – both are considerably worse.

What would YOU do?

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