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Movie Nights Can Save Your Marriage

Recent research suggests that couples watching and discussing movies about relationships reduce the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after three years.
Movie Nights Can Save Your Marriage
Photo : Kevin Harber

University of Rochester’s study is based on 174 couples, who are separated into 3 different groups. "There are really great marriage intervention programs available now but most require trained therapists to administer them. If couples can do this on their own, it makes it so much easier to help them," said Ronald Rogge, associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and leader of the research.  To compare the effect of watching movie with the existing therapies, the couples were randomly assigned to one of three groups: conflict management, compassion and acceptance training, and relationship awareness through film. The results were later compared to a control group, in which couples received no training or instructions but were similar in age, education, ethnicity, relationship satisfaction, and other dimensions.

The Conflict Management group and Compassion and Acceptance Training group are based on main existing ways of early marriage interventions, both required weekly lectures,  practice sessions, and assignments at home over a month. The involvement is 20 hours in total, two of which were with a therapist.

On the contrary, the watching movie group invested only half much time and all of which were spent at home. Starting with a 10-minute lecture stressing the importance of relationship awareness and relating the couple’s behavior in the movie with their own, the couples could just sit back in the couch and watched an entertaining but helpful movie, prescreened by the organisation. When finished, each couple discussed a list of questions about the couple’s interactions on screen. The questions are pointed to frequent problem in relationship, for example one question is " Did this couple strive to understand each other? Did they tend to accept one another, even if they were very different? Or did the couple tend to attack each others’ differences? ". Most of them are followed up by a reminding question "In what way was this relationship similar to or different from your own relationship in this area? " The watching and discussing lasts for one month and here is the result.

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Researchers are surprised all three approaches worked equally well, dropping the divorce-and-separation rate to 11 percent compared to the 24 percent rate in the control group.Watching movies works as effectively as the other therapies, but with less time and less stress. The success of the watching movie method suggests that people already have relationship skills, they just need reminders to put these into practice, the researchers believe.

That also explains another doubt about this watching movie thing -People are always watching movie and they are still divorcing, what’s new about this method?  "I think it’s the couples reinvesting in their relationship and taking a cold hard look at their own behavior that makes the difference," said Rogge. "The sad truth is that when life knocks you down, you come home and the people you are most likely to lash out at in frustration are the ones you love the most. For these couples to stop and look and say, ’You know, I have yelled at you like that before. I have called you names before and that’s not nice. That’s not what I want to do to the person I love the most.’ Just that insight alone, is likely what makes this intervention work."

The movie-and-discussion approach offers an alternative for couples who are uncomfortable with relationship workshops and still willing to improve their relationship in an easy and not scary way.

On the website for Ronald’s couple research, there are 3 options for couples to try something new and helpful in their relationship. At least, you can find the movie list there!

University of Rochester
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Mar 2017

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