What is a Marriage Retreat?

Read the Hope Springs Movie Review to Learn More

Attending your own marriage retreat is a new concept to many people. Many ask "What is a marriage retreat?" Watch the Hope Springs movie and read this review to learn more about how a marriage retreat works.

My wife and I went to see Hope Springs to find out how Hollywood would handle the process of a marriage retreat. Hope Springs is billed as a comedy, but I cried more than laughed. We saw "Couples Retreat" some time ago, but even the worst pain expressed in those couples was still for comedic effect, and meant only to allude to the tragedy of real broken marriages. I consider Hope Springs more of a serious treatment of what a marriage intensive or a marriage retreat is really like.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones starred in the movie.

They acted their parts painfully well. The story line in Hope Springs was slightly slow for my non-therapist wife. In my opinion, however, the pace supported and strengthened the agony and discouraged attitudes of many couples when they first arrive at a marriage retreat. I believe that a faster pace would have taken away from the authenticity of the situation. Healing a broken marriage is not magic and rarely is there a single silver bullet to make the repair. I thought the pace of this movie realistically demonstrated this.

The retreat occurs in fictional Great Hope Springs, ME.

Obviously, the name was selected to hint at the hope of re-creating their marriage. The people in the town, too, have great expectations for the couples who attend the retreats. Hope springs from many quarters in this movie, but, of course, hope is not enough. Marriage repair for the partners in the couple takes a commitment to the other spouse, to the marriage, to creating and accepting improvement, to courageously breaking the old patterns, and more.

How close is the action in Hope Springs to actually working with a couple in marriage therapy?

I was surprised at how well the script and the actors portrayed some of the basic concepts in working with a painfully broken marriage. They accurately showed how usually only one partner wants to repair the damage and the other partner acts without apparent interest. The actors correctly characterized the ups-and-downs that too often result from ambivalence and built-up resentments. It is not unusual to have at least one spouse experience a major struggle to open up about hurt feelings, and, once opened, to have a hard time stopping the flood of bitter resentment that comes out.

One could easily understand from the flow of Hope Springs how marriage therapy progresses in fits and starts, with seemingly major setbacks as part of the process. Sometimes, it may seem to the couple that the treatment is at a standstill when actually the therapist is looking for a therapeutic door to pry open.

The therapist gives hope for their marriage.

I really liked when the therapist, played by Steve Carell, pointed out that some couples were not meant to be together in the first place, but that this couple, in all of their pain and misery, were not one of those marriages. Giving hope when they were feeling only despair.

When the therapist was discharging them, he gave a referral for them to continue treatment. I thought this was a wonderful and realistic addition for a movie to include. A one- or two- or four- or even a seven-day intensive experience is not going to be a complete repair for most couples. Some ongoing work is necessary.

Does "great hope spring" for you in your marriage?

Some of you reading this will see your marriage in the interactions, or lack thereof, between Kay and Arnold, the fictional characters. Some of you might have situations that are worse. Others of you might find humor in their conflicts, reassuring yourself with the idea that at least your marriage isn't that bad. Whatever your situation is, and no matter how hopeless it may seem to you now, you might not be able to even imagine the possibilities that a trained therapist can open for you.

If you are having trouble in your marriage, I urge you to seek professional help. A marriage intensive experience or marriage retreats are pretty much referring to the same experience, and are an excellent way of jump-starting the process to recover the love in your relationship. A major helpful factor is that you set aside time away from your schedule and daily responsibilities to be with each other and think about and work on repairing your marriage.

Here is a YouTube video review by Dr. Gunzburg of Hope Springs- Can This Marriage Be Saved? It lasts about 2 minutes.

I wish you bountiful success in re-creating love in your relationship in a way that is even stronger than when you first met and in developing a wonderful marriage together.