Hope Springs is a great jumping off point to discuss relationships. I agree with most everything that has been written about the movie. From my perspective as a Mental Health Counselor, there are a few things that I would like to add which gives more depth and authenticity to couples counseling. I want to point out this is not an evaluation of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones acting abilities. They did a fabulous job conveying the vulnerability and complexity of the relationship between Kay and Arnold. What is an issue is that the character development is constrained due to time limitations for the movie itself. I would like to add to the character development and relate it to realistic expectations for those who choose to engage in couples counseling. 'Hope Springs' Gets Couples Therapy Right
4 ways that real life relational interactions are more complex than the movie relationship has time to develop.
1. Meryl’s character Kay, is somewhat stereotyped as the compliant housewife who refrains from any sort of confrontation. Don’t get me wrong, I loved her enthusiasm in purchasing the $4000 couples intensive with a therapist played by Steve Carell. This was a “new behavior” for her, which involved risking the relationship status quo. She showed courage and hope for improving her marriage. In my experience, many couples are experiencing conflict and are vocal about it. They are stuck, arguing about getting their needs met by the other person. Sex is believed to be the problem for many couples. Alas, there is always a deeper reason why sex is not working. The emotional connection between the partners may not be working. Many times, people do not have words to describe their feelings. As a counselor, my most used handout is a feelings chart. People need to be able to label their own feelings. Once someone understands themselves, then they are able to share that understanding with another person. At the start of the movie, Kay and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) did not have any tools to talk about their relationship. Both were protecting their own and the others shame about the state of their relationship.