We all need love. Age doesn’t lessen that. Yet, sometimes it’s hard to trust love, for complicated reasons, even though you want it. John Madden’s The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel gives us a bird’s eye view into 6 serious obstacles to love. In my experience as a psychologist, the reasons for putting love off are often not conscious. That’s where help comes in handy – especially if you keep coming up against the same problem again and again. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel illustrates some of these emotional roadblocks quite well:

Expecting not to be wanted 

Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) have both been deeply hurt. When it comes to their very obvious mutual feelings – they beat around the bush. What are they scared of? Not being good enough. Not having enough to give. Being rejected if they open up. When the line between what you want and what you fear is too heavily drawn in self-protection, you risk missing opportunities that are right there for the having.

Mistaken priorities

What’s really important? Madge (Celia Imrie) mistakes a lavish, wealthy life (and man) for what she needs. This might provide her material things, but when it comes to love – don’t you want someone emotionally reliable? Whose heart reaches out to touch yours? Madge finally sees love in her quiet, patient, attentive taxi driver, Babul (Rajesh Tailang). Sorting out your emotional priorities is essential to finding a love that works.

Grass might be greener (or wanting it all)  

Norman (Ronald Pickup) finds Carol (Diana Hardcastle) in the first film, but he’s spent years feeling rejected right and left. So, when another woman is openly interested, he’s tempted but doesn’t act. Carol imagines he does and won’t commit, scaring Norman. When they’re finally open with each other, they work things out. Honesty is key to a successful chance at love.

Lies, Pretences, and Resentments

Jean (Penelope Wilton) carries a lot of resentments. Making up stories and her haughty “I’m better than you” behavior is meant to cover-up profound insecurities. And, she criticizes others to try to feel better than she really does. These emotional tactics never work and Jean deprives herself even more. Beneath her negative behaviors is jealousy that comes from believing others have what she does not.


As we see with Jean, jealousy often comes from a sense of inferiority. Sonny’s (Dev Patel) jealousy sends him into some pretty extreme outbursts when Kush (Shazad Latif) teaches his fiancé, Sunaina (Tena Desai) their wedding dance. Jealous misinterpretations can interfere with (even damage) love. Luckily, Sunaina loves him enough to understand and hang in. And, Sonny can apologize – also essential to making love thrive.

Feeling “less than” and undeserving

Many problems in love boil down to old deprivations – feeling unwanted or undeserving. Muriel (Maggie Smith) manages these feelings by being sarcastic, acting like she wants nothing from anyone, feigning disinterest. She’s always served others and had very little for herself. In the end, she slips away to spend the rest of her years doing only what she wants. She’s gained some self-respect.

What it takes …

Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) is the film’s central example of what it takes to find love again. Take the risk. Be persistent about what you want. Don’t let past hurts get in the way. If they do, get help. As Evelyn finally realizes: “In the end, all it takes is to look into someone’s eyes and say yes … and for them to say yes this is what I want too.” That’s true at any age. You just have to get your personal kind of obstacles out of the way first.

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