Hope has Sprung: Can People Really Change

I finally got around to watching the movie Hope Springs this weekend. Several therapist friends have been on me to see it for awhile. I have to admit most films tend to mutilate the process of therapy on screen.

Leading to clients showing up in my office thinking they are paying a fee to be friends or someone to kiss their boo boos as a therapeutic Mom. Neither of the those realms are my gig.

You can’t really have a bad movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep in it. Alas, this isn’t a movie review. But to give you a bit of a synopsis, the main characters have been married 31 years and they have the same interaction every day which includes very little engagement. Tommy Lee’s character is oblivious to the fact that his wife is about to leave him — after all they don’t even sleep in the same bedroom and haven’t had sex in almost 5 years. Meryl’s character (who plays a bit of a doormat) comes across a therapist who does intensive therapy workshops. She buys the workshop and airfare and tells her husband that’s where they’ll be going the next week. He begrudgingly agrees by barely showing for the flight. Steve Carrell adeptly plays the therapist in the straightest role I have ever seen him in.

The underlying premise, is that after 31 years of marriage what you get is what you get. Basically, stop whining and just count your blessings. But most therapists know that if you follow the narrative of a couple in therapy that things weren’t always the same. Some things get lost along the way. Things like physical affection, sweet talk, chivalry, a sense of playfulness, elements of surprise. They just lose their value over the years to be super seceded by practical things like raising children, running a household and making money.

I’m a therapist and I have seen plenty of couples change (granted a few who haven’t as well but at least they know they tried everything). The vast majority (if they have the desire) can make a small change that can improve and yes even save a marriage. If I didn’t believe in change and see it everyday, I wouldn’t be in business. I have to be an optimist for each couple I work with and carry their torch so I can pass it back to them at the culmination of therapy. Two things therapists know is that there is no magic bullet and that often things will get worse before they get better. Hope Springs shows that if one person in the couple has in issue within the relationship then both people involved do. If there is still a deep seated love then and willingness to take that scary leap and do a few things differently that saving your relationship could be the best gift you ever give one another.

 image is a copyrighted photo of model(s)

 is the resident sexologist at Adam & Eve and also runs a private practice and media consulting business. She has a Doctorate from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her professional affiliations include AASECT, SSSS, and the American Board of Sexologists. She also has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and completed a postgraduate degree in Marriage, Family and Addictions Recovery Therapy.

© Copyright Dr. Kathleen Van Kirk