ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Watching romantic movies with your spouse could help prevent divorce, according to a new study.
The three-year divorce rate was cut in half when newlywed couples watched five movies in a month about relationships and then discussed them. There were 174 couples involved in the study conducted by the University of Rochester.
"The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships," lead researcher Ronald Rogge said in a statement. "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."
The early years of marriage are a risky time for couples, Rogge said. He said watching movies can be a fun and inexpensive alternative to other types of marriage intervention programs, and through discussing movies the separation or divorce rate for couples was reduced to 11 percent from 24 percent in three years.
Talking about relationships in movies was just as effective at cutting the divorce rate as more intensive methods led by therapists, the study claims.
"The amazing thing is with just watching five movies together and talking for a half-hour or 45 minutes at the end we got benefits over three years. We cut the divorce rate in half," he said.
During the study newlywed couples were randomly assigned to three groups — two groups participated in more traditional therapy classes like conflict management or acceptance training while the third group discussed movies. All groups performed equally well.
Couples in the movie discussion group were given a list of 47 movies that showed long-term relationships and a list of discussion questions. Movies included titles like "Funny Girl," "Steel Magnolias," and "Yours, Mine and Ours." They were told to watch one movie a week for five weeks.
Father of the Bride
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Julie & Julia
Gone with the Wind
The movie list and guided discussion questions can be found online.
Rogge said people watch movies all of the time and still get divorced, but that what strengthened the relationships during the study was taking time to be together and thinking about how they were acting in their current relationships.
The findings of the study are significant because it reveals an enjoyable type of divorce prevention that people can do entirely on their own, he said. He suggested couples set a tradition where they watch five romantic movies every year around their anniversary.
"You might not be able to get your husband into a couples group, especially when you are happy," Rogge said. "But watching a movie together and having a discussion, that's not so scary. It's less pathologizing, less stigmatizing."
The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.