Inspiration comes from many sources. Sometimes it’s a book or a conversation with a friend. Sometimes it’s a sermon or a talk-show on the radio. Occasionally, it may even come from a blog. For me—this week—it came in the form of a movie.
“Hope Springs” is the story of a couple whose intimacy has slowly died over thirty-one years of marriage, to the point where they are living almost completely separate lives in the same home. Desperately unhappy, Kate (Meryl Streep) seeks help, and she and her reluctant husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), go to a small town in Maine for ‘intensive couple’s counselling’ with Dr. Bernard Feld (Steve Carell).
The film was actually a loud wake-up call for me. Kate and Arnold had been married for 31 years, while Roy and I just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. Somehow I kept thinking: could this be us in ten years’ time?
It’s difficult to imagine really. We enjoy spending time together, talking and laughing. We love going away on holidays with our children. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. We still go on dates. We DO life together. And yet…
We are both busy. There are many days when we don’t eat a meal together because our schedules clash. Often on Saturdays, we both sit behind our computers and work. Sometimes I ‘switch off’ when he is telling me some technical tax problem a client has (who can blame me, really?). There’s a real danger of ‘living past’ each other, and of taking each other for granted. Right now our lives are centred on raising children together, but when the children leave home that will change our relationship dynamics.
What struck me in “Hope Springs” is that marriages deteriorate not just because of infidelity or incompatibility, but also because of neglect. “I didn’t cheat. I didn’t go to hookers. I was good. I did the right things,” Arnold says in one poignant moment.
Yet the results are just as devastating. Meryl Streep does an incredible portrayal of an isolated, lonely wife. At one stage, she tells Dr Feld, “I think I would be less lonely if I was alone.” Never before had I realised just how desolate it must feel to be in an unhappy marriage, and it made me determined to do all I can, to keep the love and intimacy alive in my own relationship.
If you are a married couple—past the ‘first love’ phase of your relationship—then I believe this film is a worthwhile one to watch. The film has a 13 age restriction, but some of the questions Dr. Feld asked even made me blush, so I wouldn’t recommend it for the teens.
Ultimately, the film reminded me of how precious my marriage is, and that I need to constantly protect and nurture it. For those who may already be feeling that loneliness creeping in to their relationships, take heart at Dr. Feld’s words:
“I see couples who think their marriages are over; who feel it’s impossible to regain what they once had. It’s not too late for anyone who truly wants it, and is willing to try.”