Getting Reel About Marriage

Get Reel About MarriageWatch a movie, save a marriage? Maybe.

According to the results of a recent study from the University of Rochester,  watching and discussing movies about relationships with your spouse is as effective in lowering divorce rates as more intensive marriage counseling programs.

While the study was done with couples married 1-3 years – one of the most vulnerable-to-divorce time periods – the study authors surmise it would be just as helpful to couples who have been married longer because some of the study participants had been together for significant lengths of time.

In the study, three forms of conflict management were compared. The first two more traditional models required substantial time investments and therapist participation throughout. The third, “Relationship Awareness Through Film,” included only about 10 minutes of lecture, a movie and discussion, minimal interaction with a therapist, and a homework assignment for spouses to watch a relationship movie once a week for four weeks and to discuss each movie after viewing using a provided discussion guide.

A diverse movie list was provided with 47 options to choose from. Comedies, dramas, classic and contemporary selections – From Funny Girl to Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? – something for everyone! The one thing they all had in common was a focus on relationships.

The couples who chose that more portable self-help conflict management route had the same decline in divorce rates after three years as couples who participated in the two more traditional therapy methods.

Associate professor and lead author of the study, Ronald Rogge,offers this explanation for the phenomena: “The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships. Thus, you might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving.”

When it comes to keeping your marriage on track, you or your spouse may not have the time, inclination or funds for traditional therapy. But who can’t squeeze in a movie and a chat?

NOTE: Dr. Rogge has a website that has interactive tools to try the film-related relationship awareness program with or without participating in the actual study. The site also includes an expanded movie selection list with accompanying discussion questions. Click HERE to check it out.
Shel Harrington

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