How to Keep Your Relationship Vital for the Long-Term

I recently saw the movie Hope Springs, in which Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones portray an empty-nester couple on the skids.

After 30-something years of marriage, they sleep in separate bedrooms, no longer have sex, and limit their communication to the necessities.

Tommy Lee comes home from work, sits in his recliner after dinner to watch TV, and promptly falls asleep. Meryl washes up after dinner, wakes him to go to bed, and they proceed to their separate bedrooms.

At the beginning of the movie, it’s clear that Meryl’s character has been lonely and dissatisfied with the marriage for quite some time. She signs them up for a week-long intense marriage therapy program, dragging a very reluctant and defensive Tommy Lee along with her.

Both characters have their issues, but Tommy Lee’s character has built layers of walls and resistance over the years. You keep praying he will finally break free and embrace the real love his wife is offering him. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you if you haven’t seen it. Regardless of where you are in your marriage or love relationship, this is a movie worth seeing — with your partner!

The Steady Decline

The characters in this movie didn’t reach the point of marital malaise overnight. It was a slow process of losing connection with each other that led them to become strangers under the same roof. Sadly, I think this is the state (or the future state) of many marriages in the real world.

If a marriage or relationship begins with a foundation of love, chemistry, and friendship, the couple can ride that tidal wave of happiness for several years. But real life has a way of chipping away at that foundation, especially after the initial intense passion begins to wane.

With the pressures of work, raising a family, financial struggles, and unmet needs, many couples begin that slow and steady decline toward living separately while living together under the same roof.

A hundred years ago, marriage was a necessity for survival. Someone had to earn the money (the man) and someone had to raise the children and tend to the home (the woman). By the time the last child was out of the house, death of one or both partners wasn’t too far behind. The life expectancy in 1900 was 47 for men and 49 for women (and much younger for African American men and women). Divorce wasn’t necessary because marriage generally ended the old-fashioned way.

Today the average life expectancy is 78.6 years and higher in many states. That means a couple getting married in their mid-twenties could be together for 50+ years before one of them dies. That’s a long time to sustain a happy, healthy marriage…

Read more: Barrie Davenport, Live Bold and Bloom

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