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It seems to me that the main source of estrangement between David and Constance was indeed David's lack of ambition, given his genius and his (languishing without degree?) for 8 years as mathematics student at MIT. Apart from his relationship with Constance (they obviously still love each other), what exactly was he referring to when he said

"I was happy where I was"

(see movie transcript below)? Was there something ELSE included, apart from the marriage, in the "where I was" when Constance left him, such as his job doing troubleshooting at a cable TV company in Manhattan, his social circle, his living environment, his proximity to his dad, his (possibly) environmentalist activity circle, etc. ?

Some clues from the movie:

Around minute 1:33:15 there was this dialog between Constance and David after President Whitmore authorized a nuke strike, which David was very much against (which we knew much earlier). But when Constance defended him by saying "He didn't come to the decision lightly; he didn't have any other choice", it triggered a fresh disagreement and a review on why they were separated, as shown in this dialog:

Constance: You know, it wasn't just my career. It was the biggest opportunity of my life. I wanted my life to make a difference. I wanted my life to mean something.

David: Yeah. And uhm ... uhm... I wasn't ambitious enough for you?

Constance: David, you could have done anything you wanted. Research, development ...

David: Oh, honey, I was happy where I was.

Constance: Haven't you ever wanted to be part of something special?

David slams the bottle of liquor on the counter, paused 3-4 seconds, and said calmly and soberly:

David: I was part of something special.

Constance didn't say anything, looked down while folding her hands, walked slowly passed David and about to walk out of the room when she said:

Constance: Well, if it makes any difference, I never stopped loving you.

David: But that wasn't enough, was it?

Then around minute 1:52:30 when David's idea to infect the mothership with a virus was approved and when Constance realized the extreme danger of the mission and how David was riding along in the alien ship with Captain Hiller:

Constance: Why you? David! I don't ... I don't understand why you can't show someone else how ... how to plant the virus. Someone who is trained ...

David: cutting her off No. No, something goes wrong I may have to think quickly, adjust the signal. Who knows?

David picked up and showed Constance the crushed soda can (which was shot earlier to prove David's theory).

David: Hey. You know how like I'm always trying to save the planet?

Camera showed David throwing the can to a Recycle bin

David: Here's my chance. (Immediately walking away to continue his preparation)

Constance: (sighing and talking to herself) Now he gets ambitious.

2 Answers 2

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It's pretty clear that he was referring to their marriage as the 'special' thing that he was part of.

“But didn’t you ever want to-do something more? Didn’t you ever want to be part of something really meaningful, really special?” Those last few words mixed with the scotch to punch David square in the solar plexus.

He leveled a wounded stare at Connie and told her the plain simple truth. “I felt like I was part of something special.”

She immediately realized that the whole time she’d been taking about their careers, he’d been thinking about their marriage. She could see that she’d hurt him. He came across the room and took back the bottle.

Independence Day - Official Novelisation.

As to the "thing he was doing" that he was happy with, the clear implication is that he means that he was content with the direction of his life (e.g. his job, his house, his marriage, etc) until she ripped his heart out.

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  • So it's safe to infer that David didn't include in "where I was" NONE of the following: his job at the time, or his social circle, or his living environment, or his proximity to his dad, or his (possibly) environmentalist activity circle, etc. ? I have a tendency to be an idealist myself (thus symphatizes with David, although environment is not my main concern), but being now married, I cannot blame Constance either. One angle I really love from this movie is how this alien crisis brings people together from various motivations and drive them to fulfill their potential. Oct 10, 2023 at 18:48
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    @GratefulDisciple - I think "where he was" encompasses all those things. He was happy in his circumstances.
    – Valorum
    Oct 10, 2023 at 18:51
  • I think it would be a different story if David were to be more ambitious with his career WHILE staying in the Manhattan location (where there are LOTS of opportunities for his education), and would then provide enough justification for David to use his preference for location stability against Constance's leaving him "for the other guy" to Washington. Do you agree that the movie / novel sets us up not to allow David to justify himself that way, for liking to live in Manhattan in itself is good IF you use it well to fulfill your potential. Oct 10, 2023 at 18:59
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The movie script I found doesn't match the actual words from the movie, which you're quoting, but I think it still implies both the "where I was" and "something special" lines mean their marriage.

enter image description here

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  • Note it has been heavily reworded, but the main sentiment seems to have been implied to be about their marriage. He had no ambition because he was simply happy being married.
    – Andres F.
    Oct 10, 2023 at 18:24
  • In this statement, he is definitely talking about their marriage. However, the "Oh, honey, I was happy where I was" line, comes immediately after the "you could have done anything you wanted. Research, development ..." line. That points to having no desire to leave his current job. It could be easily be argued that while she was the one that left, he also refused to follow because "I was happy where I was". Oct 11, 2023 at 21:28
  • @MichaelRichardson the line doesn't exist in the script I found. This makes me think the whole idea was always about the marriage. The line "I was happy where I was" reads to me "I was happy where I was (with you)", not about a specific job. The pared down script makes it clear she is talking about ambition while he is talking about marriage.
    – Andres F.
    Oct 12, 2023 at 1:12

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