From the opening scene, the stark reality of these two characters who, for 32 years had been living together in what had now become an atrophied relationship, rendered me nauseous. It actually hurt to watch Meryl primping in the bathroom mirror, dressed in a lovely blue negligee in hopes of seducing her husband. When he looked up at her from his nightly reading, puzzled as to why she was actually standing there smiling, I all but left the theatre.
Several scenes later and it was obvious that these were two desperate souls living under the same roof having lost any commonality that might have once been there.
It was curious to me that I couldn't get any of my friends to go with me. Most said they had no interest in watching middle aged sex but I doubted the authenticity of their excuses.
I've come to sense that sex (or the lack thereof) is the best kept secret in most American households. If couples aren't wondering what happened to their desire than they are wondering if it is normal not to have desire. For sure, everyone is wondering who is having sex, who isn't, how often, and what's supposed to be the norm anyway? But no one's talking and what's more, hardly anyone who is telling the truth.
Back to the movie. Meryl Streep was determined to change her circumstances regardless of the outcome. "I'd rather be alone than lonely," she told the therapist she'd found who specialized in reigniting burnt out relationships. But then she goes on to say: "I don't just want to 'do it.' I want to be noticed, to be loved, to feel special."
Amen, I said, practically out loud. This seems to be the cry of so many women. Should sex really be the barometer upon which we measure a healthy marriage?
My mentor and friend Joan Erikson insisted that not only should marriage be a collaboration and team work but that relationship is a verb..."it takes action on the part of each partner to create the energy which subsequently creates the passion."
Indeed, I received an email the other day from a woman who had read my books and thought I would get a lot out of the movie. When I asked her why, she replied:
I wouldn't say I loved the movie but it speaks loudly about the marriages of today. Women are lonely and men just don't get it. A relationship is not about sex or blow jobs that men fancy. It's about listening to each other, really sitting and talking. It's about holding hands, going to bed at the same time or taking a walk together. Men are so wrapped up in their work and then sports that they forget they have a family. I know that my husband made the money and I did everything else and that was the biggest mistake of my life.
Phew! Did she ever speak her truth. It's been said that if sex were taken out of the equation more marriages would succeed rather than fail. I don't mean not having sex-just that it shouldn't be the be all and end all. What I question about the therapist's directives is that they mostly had to do with exercises that might lead them to sexual intimacy not necessarily having to do with improved communication and connection.
Hope for relationships springs from such values as trust, will, purpose, reciprocity and simply the desire to care for one another. It all seems to start with the self...being determined to know and like oneself first. That is what creates the magic for those with whom we come in contact.