Want to shore up your marriage? Then see a relationship movie and talk it over, according to a University of Rochester study that worked with 174 newlywed couples divided into four groups.
Researchers were surprised that couples who watched and discussed five movies about relationships during a month-long period benefited just as much from this laid-back, mostly at-home approach as groups who devoted 20 hours—about twice as much time—to work on conflict-management and compassion-and-acceptance techniques (spending 18 hours with therapists outside the home). Three years later, the divorce rate among these groups was 11 percent, compared with 24 percent for couples who received no therapy of any kind.
The movie-watching couples first viewed a 10-minute lecture about relationship awareness that said observing couples in movies could help each spouse pay attention to his or her constructive and destructive behaviors. Next they watched 1967’s Two for the Road, about 12 years of marital ups and downs. Then each couple met by themselves to discuss 12 questions about the film duo’s interactions. After that, the couples received a list of 47 movies, watched one movie a week for a month, and then participated in the same 45-minute follow-up discussion.
The researchers’ takeaways:
• Many couples have relationship skills but need reminders to use them.
• The approach could work well for long-married couples, too; some of the study’s couples had already been together for seven years before marriage.
• This technique could appeal to people who are uncomfortable with or can’t afford traditional therapy.