Getting Reel About Marriage

Posted by: Shel Harrington 15 October, 2014 13 Comments

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.
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13 Comments

  • Like Jill, I was laughing about Wilson. 🙂

    On Date Day (every Friday) we have a list of 5 favorite things to do, and one is to go to movies.
    Sometimes Jim chooses (dick flicks) and sometimes I choose (chick flicks) and sometimes (but not often) we intentionally choose a movie that doesn’t seem all that great to either of us. Afterwards we go out to lunch or dinner or for a hike, and discuss/argue/create better endings/or serve as critics for the movie we’ve seen. It really is a way to have some interesting discussions.

    • Shel Harrington

      What a fun tradition, Marylin! I bet you do have some interesting discussions!One of my favorite things about going to the movies with my husband is after each “coming attractions” trailer, we look at each other and give a thumbs up, thumbs down, or hand-waggling so-so sign – already planning the next movie (so hard to find one we both give an immediate thumbs up to!) before the movie we’re there for even comes on.

  • Very interesting, Shel. I wonder what it means when a couple has watched Shawshank Redemption and Castaway at least thirty times? 🙂

    • Shel Harrington

      I don’t have the right degree to field that one, Jill! I think Shawshank Redemption has a myriad of relationships to dissect, but I’d be pretty shocked if the castaway and his basketball buddy made the list!

      • Wilson! Ha ha…he was a volleyball. 🙂

        • Shel Harrington

          I meant to look that up after I posted that – I started thinking it might be a soccer ball. I still would have been off! I remembered it being called Wilson and tried to visualize what ball I’d seen that on! Thanks for relieving me of a task on my to-do list action plan.

  • So, couples who watch together stay together…….. I guess it’s all down to that communication thing again. 🙂 Can’t beat it however you get to it! A most interesting and informative piece of information Shel!

    • Shel Harrington

      Thanks, Pauline. I love that the author recognized that people generally already have these skills, it really comes down to using them. Communication + a dose of common sense = less therapy!

  • This is really interesting info, Shel. Proof that you just never know where those little helps may come from along the way. The idea of watching a film and discussing it may be a whole lot less intimidating and less threatening, too.
    Looking at Marisa’s comment made me laugh a bit, too, because we just saw Gone Girl and afterwards spent time discussing that marriage, the other relationships surrounding it, etc. – it was a great discussion.

    • Shel Harrington

      Really?? I just asked told Marissa is she developed a discussion guide for it to share – should have checked with you first, Lisa!

      • Well, it was really just impromptu conversation – can’t say we had any real guidelines. Mostly, we talked about the motivation of the characters – what made each of them behave the way they did and how it affected their relationship with the other characters. We talked about hints and clues and actual events shown in the movie that pointed to what made them the people they were at the time of the story. Neither of us read the book, but I did do some reading about the book afterward – sounds like there are (as always) some key things missing that would fill in some holes differently.

  • That’s really interesting…I suddenly feel justified in having Chris take me to see Gone Girl.

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