Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Talk it through and Hope Springs

Gemma and Mark Utting have rediscovered their love. Photo / Jason Dorday
Gemma and Mark Utting have rediscovered their love. Photo / Jason Dorday

A new film with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones has highlighted a growing trend of "silver wedding" couples turning to counsellors.

Comedy-drama Hope Springs tells of a middle-aged couple taking an intense, week-long counselling session to fix their 30-year-old partnership.

The movie hit home with Mark and Gemma Utting from Beachlands, Auckland.

The couple have two adult kids and celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in November. Their marriage had survived only because they sought counselling during rocky patches, they said.

"We were only married three months when we had our first major fight and I thought even then it was all over," Gemma, 56, explained. "We realised then the importance of asking for help. Attending marriage guidance sessions along the way probably saved us."

Gemma said she took great pride in her marriage. Counselling reignited her love life and inspired her to become a fulltime relationship therapist.

Mark, 60, urged Kiwi men to avoid being like cynical Arnold Soames, played by Lee Jones in Hope Springs.

"Men tend to take on the role of provider and put aside their feelings and needs, and there is a long-term cost for doing that," Mark, a senior hydrogeologist, said. "I'm now more in touch with my feelings and don't take everything so personally."

Auckland-based councillor Chris Caruana said Hope Springs was a big talking point among marriage guidance clients but not every story had a happy ending.

"Often one partner is attending just to keep the other one happy and have no intention of changing their ways.

"They are usually there looking for a way out of the relationship."

- Herald on Sunday

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