That lovin' feeling is good for you

The theatre was packed. Lots of gray hair and a few canes. We were queued up to see "Hope Springs," the new movie about two people who have been married for decades and "lost their lovin' feeling," as the song goes.

At least, she can't find hers.

It's definitely not in their bedroom — where she sleeps alone with the door closed. Her husband, who reportedly snores a lot (although we never hear him do so), sleeps across the hall. His bedroom door is closed, too.

In the beginning of the movie, the husband, played by Tommy Lee Jones, doesn't appear to have lost anything. If he gets his fried egg and one strip of bacon in a timely fashion every morning and his recliner is positioned directly in front of the golf channel after dinner every night, he's happy.

Well, not happy, actually. His grumpy-faced, negative nature is pervasive from the first scene. And if that reminds you of anyone you're married to, you should definitely see this movie. If not, I suggest an uplifting Disney flick with your grandchildren.

In the beginning of "Hope Springs," it's clear the wife, played by Meryl Streep, is most definitely not happy. You know that because of those blank stares into space and the occasional sigh. (If you're a long-married woman, that may be familiar to you no matter what kind of husband you have.)

A side comment of sorts about Meryl Streep's performance. I did not see it as extraordinary — especially for a woman who's received 17 Academy Award nominations (although I think I could be riveted by almost anything she did). Remember, Meryl Streep was the actress who did the splits in mid-air while jumping on a double bed when she starred in the musical comedy "Mamma Mia" I couldn't help but think that if she had done that in this movie, the issues involving separate bedrooms would have been immediately resolved.

I laughed heartily two or three times during this movie, which is not a whole lot considering it's a comedy. I got teary at the end, maybe because they started being happy again.

My belief is that movies should make us think, and we should talk about them after we have seen them — and that is exactly what my husband and I did after seeing this one. It was a good conversation, mostly about how easy it becomes, over several decades of marriage, to misplace loving feelings, and that each person in a marriage needs to pay better attention to that possibility — and that little things count.

There are many reasons, including health considerations, to go on a search-and-retrieve mission if you find you have misplaced your loving feelings. A happy marriage affects our health in a very direct, measurable way. Dr. Brian Baker, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto, found blood pressure was directly linked to "marital cohesion," meaning "how much couples do and share together."

There are other possible health issues as well, including gastrointestinal distress, anxiety, depression and compromised immune systems, according to webMD.com.

Before that stuff happens, here's my idea — a little preventive medicine, if you will. Take your marriage to the movies. You don't need to see "Hope Springs," but see something happy that makes you laugh a lot. Talk about it when it's over. Hold hands, perhaps. OK, you only have to hold hands if you really want to. Hopefully you do.

Reach Sharon Johnson at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or 541-776-7371, Ext. 210.


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