Dealing with an obsession for someone who is not your significant other

“You know, Miss Libby, that I love you,” Will says to a visiting professor’s wife. She and her husband Roger have taken a sabbatical in the rural hills of Tennessee.

In the film, “A Walk in the Spring Rain” (1970) Libby is a woman of about 50 who is being ignored by her man while he works on a book. Will is a local man married to woman who, he tells Libby, spends her time with God.

“When she isn’t doing that, she’s crying,” he adds.

The middle-aged pair are clearly lonely. Will (Anthony Quinn)  is charming and Libby (Ingrid Bergman) is still beautiful. Even so, Libby protests his statement.

“You mustn’t say that!” she says.”You mustn’t even think that.”

I love Roger and I wouldn’t do anything…”

Will responds by telling Libby that of course she loves Roger, but that he thinks about her in the morning and before bed.

“Oh Will,” Libby replies.’It’s  childish. It’s fantasy. It’s unreal. It’s harmful.”

“Why?” Will asks.”Is it hurting you?”

When Libby says no Will asks her,”What’s the harm?”

“It’s harmful in a psychological way,” she says.”Any deviation from reality can turn to…it’s just plain stupid.”

Will continues to turn on the charm and Libby responds by laying her head on his shoulder.

Unbeknownst to them, Will’s adult son, himself a married philanderer and drunk, spots the scene. This leads to more harm than either could have imagined.

The affair between the two deepens. Then Will accidentally kills the young man when he comes upon his son trying to molest Libby as she is walking on a lonely road.

This is a turning point in the story. The two lovers continue to meet, but their romance has become tragic. In the final scenes of “A Walk in the Spring Rain” Libby regains her equilibrium and once again becomes her practical no-nonsense self. She realizes at this stage that her own attempts to “be somebody” don’t matter. She is a grandmother who has the responsibility of taking care of her daughter’s child so the latter can go to Harvard.

At the end  the film infers that Roger gets an inkling of what is going on between his wife and Will and tells Libby that they are leaving. This news surprises her, but already having begun to come to her senses, Libby says a quick farewell to the shocked Will and drives away.

“A Walk in the Rain” is a classic movie which gives me a firm dose of truth. Will epitomizes the land of imagination and Libby, although tempted to succumb to Will’s vision of life, is a person who models responsibility and common sense.

Sure, she gave in to illicit pleasure for a time. But she didn’t permanently wreck her marriage or her daughter’s future. Libby repented and returned to a less thrilling but more moral life.

The classic movie genre seems to have this type of story down. For example, in “Mildred Pierce” (1945) the title character (Joan Crawford) focuses on her daughters, especially the oldest one Veda the extreme. The girl is selfish and a complete gold digger and narcissist.

Mildred’s obsession with her children drives her husband Bert away. He is no paragon of virtue either, as he is carrying on an affair with a Mrs. Biederhof. This contributes to her in essence kicking Bert out.

Mildred is left destitute, but she has pluck and manages to build a successful restaurant business. She fends off the advances of Bert’s former partner,Wally Fay, and then takes Wally on as a partner, along with playboy Monte Baragon.

To do the latter, she divorces Bert upon the advice of Wally. She then marries Monte.

The focus of ‘Mildred Pierce” is Monte’s murder. Everyone is a suspect, but Veda is finally found to be the killer. Monte has seduced her and when he tells her he won’t marry her the young woman kills him.

In telling this story to the police, Mildred admits she made a mistake leaving Bert. The story ends with their reconciliation.

Then there is “High Society” in which Grace Kelley (in her final movie role) plays a woman named Tracy who is torn between three men: her ex-husband, the man she is about to marry, and a reporter who has shown up to cover the nuptials since she is a socialite.

When she shows signs of falling for the reporter, her fiance gets cold feet and they break up right before the wedding. But  Tracy doesn’t let a good wedding ceremony go to waste. Her ex-husband (Bing Crosby), who still loves her and has been pursuing her up to the wedding, fills in nicely as the groom. The movie ends with them having gone full circle.  The original husband and wife are back together.

As an old boss used to say in his patrician dialect when his employees made a mistake, “what can we learn from this?”

Well, it informs my own view of how to approach a situation in which I become enamored with a woman. The married men I know get crushes on other women, even to the point of obsession. This can create some real cognitive dissonance, even more than that portrayed the old films were made.

I know I can’t avoid temptation. Women are ever-present in the workplace now, which was not the case in the 40s, 50s and even 70s. Even though there is an unwritten rule that you don’t eat where you also get rid of your body waste, the temptation is still there.

I gather from these movies that women must have the same problem. In all three films the ladies were not exactly innocent parties. They responded to the advances of their lovers.

Sure life with the same woman can become mundane, as can our careers, our hometowns and scores of other things. We want our lives to be more than the same old grind.  We want something fresh. But as Will and Libby show, seeking the new can have dire consequences.

My fall back position is always found in the Bible. Interestingly enough, Libby in “A Walk in the Spring Rain” seems to have had the most scriptural viewpoints. She told Will that he shouldn’t even be entertaining the thoughts he had about her.

The apostle Paul backs Libby up. He wrote, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8).”  The contemplation of  adultery doesn’t seem to be one of those things married folks ought to be engaging in.

Even so, Libby was unable to apply her own advice and begun to let the seed of adultery enter her mine as she came under the spell of Will’s relentless advances. We Christians aren’t immune to such a problem. What to do?

Before he discussed the thought life, Paul had written that Christians are people who put no confidence in the “flesh”, which is a Greek term (sarx) denoting our carnal desires.  These  are selfish hankerings which are displeasing to our Lord Jesus. They display a reliance on self.

In the same passage Paul writes of his personal history. He explains that he was a person who should have had a lot of confidence in his “flesh”, his “self”, because of his brilliance and status. Yet he speaks of himself as a man who has determined to count all his accomplishments to be garbage because they redirected his focus off of Christ.

Those of us with addictions to women (or if you are a woman-men) ought to have the same attitude. One of my therapist friends told me that he knows that obsessing over other women is just a substitute for our search for God. I guess we obsess over something else besides God because we deem it more pleasurable.  But even Paul said he hadn’t arrived, and he gave the advice he applied to himself:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you (Philippians 3:12-15).”

Sounds good to me. Press on and grow up. Hopefully, I will rely on the Spirit  of God to do this. There is no reference to Him in “A Walk in the Spring Rain”, but apparently Miss Libby failed and became an adulteress because she tried to rely on her common sense instead of God to help her stave off sin.

I think faith and common sense are both needed if we are going to lead a satisfying life and not seek to turn fantasy into reality.

 

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