Hope Springs from a Traditional Marriage?

Who invented the one partner for life rule? And why?

If you’re of the old school, you may well have been happily married for decades… but for Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), things are a bit stale after 31 years together. Kay would like to spice up her marriage and reconnect with her husband, who seems to spend most of his time perfecting his golf swing in front of the television. “It’s like being married to ESPN,” she says. Plus, they sleep in separate rooms – afraid to even touch each other.

Remarkably, Kay manages to persuade Arnold to join her on a course with couples therapist (Steve Carrell) in the small town of Great Hope Springs, where they are given a series of exercises (or did the therapist say sexercises?) to carry out.

The body language is hilarious – the Econolodge ‘no-smoking’ sign plays a prominent role in one of the bedroom scenes. Kay reads ‘Sex Tips for a Straight Woman from a Gay Man,’ while Arnold fantasizes about a threesome with Carol with the corgis from across the street.

Hope Springs – released on 14th September and directed by David Frankel, of The Devil Wears Prada fame – offers a light-hearted, if formulaic, portrayal of how to overcome loneliness in a marriage ( being light-hearted and formulaic are, I suppose, key factors affecting the survival of a long term relationship).

But is it possible to change a marriage? And how?

Fifty Shades of Grey (I’ve almost finished third and last volume… laters baby) presents in some respects the antithesis of an old fashioned union – and has apparently been responsible for spicing up some couples’ sex lives. Yet it also explores the feelings of confusion and isolation that can occur in any relationship.

In our aggressively consumerist society, we tend to question everything, reducing our chance of a satisfying outcome. The idea of one partner for life seems outmoded, perhaps even obsolete, when there is always imagined to be something better around the corner.

But is there?

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, ShopCurious.com. She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including Visuology.com, ShopCuriousMag.com and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

14 thoughts on “Hope Springs from a Traditional Marriage?

  1. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    September 8, 2012 at 10:07

    Having been around the joint since Lloyd George sat on a horse, or at least it seems that long, I have witnessed the full gamut, should never have got together in the first place, No1 spot. Caught out with the secretary / local vicar / pool guy / barmaid, No2 spot. Newly empty nested, never could stand you face, No20 spot.
    At some point in the next decade the media will re-discover the benefits of fidelity and trumpet loudly.

    It’s the catalogue of petty lies and deceit that accompany the above that is so sad, plus the adoration of people who are basically rats, Clinton, Kennedy et al.

    Since you ask, 47 years, the secret? who knows, I just work here.

  2. maureen.nixon@btinternet.com'
    September 8, 2012 at 10:28

    39 years for Brit Senior and me. Malty sums it all up very well – we just work here, too.

  3. finalcurtain@gmail.com'
    September 8, 2012 at 12:15

    43 years at the masthead – and counting.
    I too work here. But I play too.

  4. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    September 8, 2012 at 12:29

    Perhaps the attitude of a lot of “middle-aged” (love that euphemism) couples can be analogized to that of the Nancy Mitford character respecting reading: “I’ve only read one book in my life–White Fang. It was so frightfully good I never wanted to read another.”

    As Mao might have said, let a thousand octogenarians canoodle, but Susan, really. Fifty Shades of Grey, a tale of exploitative BDSM by two twenty-somethings is “responsible for spicing up some couples’ sex lives”? It sounds to me that their sex lives may have benefitted from some spicing down. If it’s the recipe for long-term intimacy you’re after, you may want to hold the spices.

  5. info@shopcurious.com'
    September 8, 2012 at 13:47

    Curious that you all seem to be such serial monogamists… and no one will admit to any dabbling (assuming that you play for the home side, mahlerman?)

    Thanks for the link, Worm – why is sex given such a high billing these days? Hugs and laughter are seriously underrated. Is that what you mean, Peter? Or is ‘holding the spices’ a euphemism for tantric sex?

  6. russellworks@gmail.com'
    ian russell
    September 9, 2012 at 10:16

    God, that film sounds awful. Every stereotype in the book. I take it its a comedy? Streep used to act in some good films.

    Can a marriage change? I thought that was essential. It’s like dancing, everything is in motion and you have to move with the rhythm. Also, with both tantric practice and D/s, one must be prepared to lead and the other must want to follow. Yes, I think dancing is the key. People who aren’t inclined to dance risk failure.

  7. Worm
    September 9, 2012 at 13:31

    also it is important that your table manners and eating noises are compatible, else disaster beckons

    • info@shopcurious.com'
      September 9, 2012 at 21:19

      Yes – and dining together is important too… Though according to Catherine Hakim (author of The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power), “The fact that we eat most meals at home with spouses and partners does not preclude eating out in restaurants to sample different cuisines and ambiences, with friends or colleagues…Anyone rejecting a fresh approach to marriage and adultery, with a new set of rules to go with it, fails to recognize the benefits of a revitalised sex life outside the home.”

  8. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    September 9, 2012 at 15:58

    Hugs and laughter are seriously underrated. Is that what you mean, Peter?

    I suppose there is no actual harm in them in moderation, but they aren’t nearly as important as a mutual dislike of the same people (the more, the better) and a shared love of lengthy conversations about how the world is going to Hell in a handcart and the kids are screwing up the grandkids.

  9. john.hh43@googlemail.com'
    John Halliwell
    September 9, 2012 at 20:04

    June 1967 and by 6pm the just-married 18 year old had turned distinctly pale. Had the Gods whispered to her that she’d dropped a right clanger? Well, no; an abscess had erupted under a tooth. The pain was so bad that by 7pm she was sat in the emergency dentist’s chair having the tooth extracted. Never have the words uttered a few hours later “Not tonight darling, I’ve got a shocking toothache” had greater truth. 45 years later and still together. A few years ago we went our separate ways on a shopping trip to a local town. After a couple of hours we went looking for each other and, on meeting, one of us said to the other “When I turned the corner into George Street and spotted you a fair way off among the shoppers, I swear my heart skipped a beat. The feeling was reciprocated. How could we not survive? Jeez, I’m a right soppy bugger at times…….

  10. info@shopcurious.com'
    September 9, 2012 at 21:52

    Aw, that’s lovely John. With all these heartwarming comments, A Dabbler Guide to the Secrets of a Happy Marriage is surely in the offing. Malty?

    • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
      September 10, 2012 at 17:19

      That would be intriguing Susan, a forward by Frank Key would set the tone. Just done the sums, the combined total, including the three old geezers, Monix and just starting out Worm ….176 years, that’s seriously heavyweight matrimonial stuff, some interesting tales there I should imagine.

  11. alasguinns@me.com'
    Hey Skipper
    September 13, 2012 at 05:44

    Starting on year 21 (24 since I met her).

    My wife is still my best friend.

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