By Michele Cauch
Hope Springs, a much anticipated film (anticipated by me any way), is a charming, yet serious movie about how a marital relationship changes over time.
Kay and Arnold (played by Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep respectively) have been married for more than 30 years. As what happens with many couples who have weathered the ups and downs of marriage over decades, Kay feels the spark is gone. She feels lonely and that she’s lost the romance in her marriage.
There’s nothing to look forward to any more. Her awkward attempts to kindle romance and intimacy with her husband are thwarted.
When one partner finds excuses to delay or prevent intimacy, this can leave the other feeling rejected, undesirable and unloved. Yet Kay doesn’t want to accept this and decides to do something about it. What would seem out of character for this middle-aged woman who is humble, quiet and reserved, is quite impressive.
She embarks on a quest to reignite her marriage.
The couples’ therapist, played by funny man Steve Carell, takes on the mission of setting the couple back on the right track. Carrell plays it straight and barely cracks a smile throughout the entire film. As a big fan of Carrell’s comedic prowess, I’m always surprised and delighted to see him do drama.
Aside from the feeling the two leads seem oddly mismatched - one wonders how this pair ever fell in love with each other in the first place - the film takes a realistic look at how marriage evolves and transforms over the years.
The familiar challenge many couples face over time is deciding whether to stay in an unhappy, unfulfilling relationship because they’ve invested huge chunks of time or part ways and separate.
Is time and shared history enough to keep two people together? Kay’s lament is that she feels there’s “nothing left to look forward to any more.” For Arnold, it’s status quo. He’s content to live out the rest of his days in the same routine with no expectations.
They sleep in different bedrooms, have superficial conversations and basically live as roommates. This couple who has spent more than 30 years together have become strangers to each other.
The theme that is central to the film is really the issue of intimacy, not merely sexuality.
Intimacy is defined as closeness, either physical, emotional or spiritual. It is intimacy that binds us to one another in both platonic and romantic relationships. In a romantic partnership, intimacy is result of mutual self-disclosure, commitment and desire.
The physical desire to touch, hold, caress, smell our beloved. The power of touch is something that keeps us connected and feeling alive. It warms our soul.
When intimacy fades, it can result in feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression and resentment.
The secret to happy relationships
The key to a successful, long-term relationship may be as simple as keeping two important points in mind - always communicate with each other and never stop learning about each other.
Even though Arnold and Kay speak to each other every day, they don’t really talk. Communication is tremendously important in any type of relationship. Share your feelings, concerns, fears with each other.
You can then tackle these issues together and resolve them rather than sweeping these under the rug and forgetting about them.
The other key is to always maintain intimacy with each other.
In long-term relationships, we may think that there’s nothing left to discover, nothing new to say to each other. An exasperated Arnold points out, “What is there that I don’t know about you?”
However, although you may feel that you know your partner inside out and know their deepest secrets, they’re still their own person. They will always have private thoughts and fantasies you may never find out. This is the first step for Kay and Arnold - to recognize they have ceased learning about each other and they’ve lost intimacy.
Now, they must work on re-establishing it again.
Hope Springs is not a film masterpiece. Nor will the actors receive Oscars (on second thought, Meryl Streep may win because she just happens to be Meryl Streep). But it’s an inspiring movie that draws attention to the real issues that long-time married couples may face. It could inspire others to seek help and address loss of intimacy and reignite their marriage.
What do you think? What is your piece of advice for keeping a relationship alive?
What advice do you wish you had received when you were younger on how to have a successful relationship?
Michele Cauch is the executive director of SageHealth Network, an agency dedicated to promoting seniors’ sexual health awareness and positive aging. Cauch holds a master’s degree in social work specializing in older adults and end-of-life care. Cauch has been featured on various programs and publications. Visit www.sagehealthnetwork.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 647-831-6630.