Sam: Well, maybe Rich married the wrong person the first time around.
If the above scene doesn’t chill you. Well good for you. The whole show grapples with the meaning of marriage in a way that gets right to the heart of it and the question of what its value and meaning are.
Neither woman is thinking clearly, while Sam says it isn’t black and white, what she really means is she doesn’t want it to be. She’s looking for approval from the wife of the man she is cheating with. Showing she is not okay with her actions. Her desperate need to get approval from Lisa shows that she needs approval to come from outside of herself, because she herself cannot justify what she is doing knowing that it is hurting other people, specifically Lisa.
Sam contradicts herself when she says life is short. It might be short, but not short enough to spend with the wrong person and just get it over with. She blesses Rich for getting to spend the rest of his life, after 40, with a hot girl who excites him instead of his first wife who he no longer feels connected too. It raises the question though of whether or not she ever felt connected to her husband since she has been cheating on him the whole time. Which again circles around the ultimate question of the whole show. What is the meaning of marriage and does it even matter.
The only words of hers that ring true are when she says how maybe Rich married the wrong person the first time around. She needs to believe that she and Ethan married wrong and that this is what makes their affair okay, because their marriages are the real mistake, not the affair. Netflix doesn’t give the full back story, but Ethan and Sam have grown more and more together, not apart over the years, while Sam has grown more and more apart from her Husband and Ethan from Lisa, though Lisa still holds to her ideal. In other words, Sam and Ethan should have married each other as they’ve been having sex together since college before either of them were married.
Sam further shows her need for approval from others when she refuses to be open about the affair. She’s in denial about the state of her marriage and her feelings for Ethan. She can’t acknowledge that it’s wrong, but she can’t hold onto believing it to be right, so she hides it and seeks confirmation from Lisa that everything is okay. Lisa doesn’t give her that satisfaction. She does however “solve” Sam and Ethan’s problem in another way. Lisa has an affair of her own. Because she is also in denial about the state of her marriage and while she knows something is wrong, she refuses to look outside of herself and goes so far as to create a problem to explain why she and Ethan are not connecting.
Lisa is right in her anger as it aligns with her truth that marriage is a sacred thing, an agreement between two people to be monogamous and stay true to each other. She is also right in her feeling of something going on between Sam and Ethan. However, she is clinging so hard to her belief in marriage, and in Ethan’s loyalty, that she blames the feeling of disconnect with Ethan on herself. On her own stressors like her ‘failure’ to conceive a baby and her horrible sexually harassing work environment. She hooks up with Nick as a release, doing exactly what she believes will only hurt other people. She misses the point though that it hurts playboy Nick who earlier claims that the whole point of marriage is to make sleeping with other people more fun. Her target is her husband, and because he’s having an affair he doesn’t even care and is actually relieved that Lisa cheated on him. This only serves to confirm Lisa’s feeling of disconnect from Ethan and the feeling that something is wrong, although she doesn’t know or refuses to know what.