This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to catch the newly-released movie Hope Springs, written by Vanessa Taylor, producer and scriptwriter of the television series Game of Thrones. Coming out of the movie, I tried to sort out the many messages and lessons that sprung forth (pun intended). Is Your Partner Passive-Aggressive?
Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are exquisite as Kay and Arnold, a couple in a 31-year old, lifeless marriage. Kay all but forces Arnold into an intensive couples therapy retreat far away from home, in Maine. While Kay was there to rejuvenate their relationship, Arnold was not. He was emotionally stingy in his view that they didn't need help.
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Watching that movie was not my idea of a fun Saturday night. Without a single explosion, alien, or even one tiny special effect, I wasn't sure I'd stay awake. My wife, Dr. Ellyn Bader, however, believed that it would be a great way to spend the evening, given the thousands of hours we've both spent counseling distressed couples at The Couples Institute — and given our own marriage of 28 years.
As we left the theatre, she expressed disbelief that Hollywood made this film. She commented that it was so real— just gut-wrenching authenticity about a disintegrating marriage, and the reality of couples therapy. A less introspective man near her offered, "It will be interesting to see what happens in these people's bedrooms tonight ... "
The movie is indeed realistic in terms of what we've seen in our own intensive couples therapy sessions. Marriage repair at any stage in a marriage takes time, and has ups and downs in the process. Each partner must take risks, and the risks are not always met or supported by the other. Sometimes you're even left thinking that the ending won't be happy.
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So what was the biggest message from the movie? Courage. Having and owning the courage it takes to start a revolution. It wasn't easy for the lower class to rise up and start the French Revolution. MTV took a risk by introducing music videos back in 1981 for a rock 'n roll revolution. But each of those events moved the world forward.
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