Keeping your marriage healthy by watching movies
One of my greatest frustrations, as a clinical psychologist, is trying to help couples that have waited way too long before seeking help. Joe and Mary come in for assistance, filled with frustration and resentment. They haven’t made love for seven years. They wonder—can marriage counseling help them? Bill and Sarah haven’t said a kind word to each other in years. They argue about everything. When these couples land in my office, I sigh. There has been so much dirty water under their bridge; it seems impossible to repair the damage.
As a man that has been with the same woman for 42 years, I have learned the importance of maintaining a solid relationship. It takes time and effort. The ups and downs of every day life, raising a family, coping with life’s challenges, and just plain old getting along is a rough road. It’s vitally important to face these twists and turns on the path. Don’t put off talking about your relationship—what’s good about it and what you would like to change. Hoping that things will get better on their own, without facing these hurdles squarely, can result in becoming more distant, and ultimately disconnected. Active engagement in your marriage is required.
A University of Rochester study (Rogge et al, Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, December 2013) on marriage counseling recently caught my eye. The researchers found that couples that watched and discussed movies about relationships were less likely to divorce or separate than a control group! In fact, they wanted to compare two different types of marriage counseling techniques and were looking for another option that encouraged couples to interact, but didn’t include counseling. They asked couples to watch five “chick flicks” and have them participate in a discussion afterward. The fourth group, or control group, didn’t receive any intervention. The divorce rate in the movie-watching group was 11% while the control group, that received no intervention, had a divorce rate of 24%.
So why was this so useful? The researchers selected movies that portrayed real situations, which reflected the realities of relationships for ordinary people. They weren’t idealized or simpy story lines. They could relate to the problems they saw couples grapple with in these movies. But because they were movies, it may have enabled them to discuss these issues in a more objective, less defensive way. The researchers also provided the couples with discussion questions, which focused their conversation.
Even couples that have been together for many years may not take the time to sit down and discuss their relationship. They don’t talk about their expectations, their disappointments, and their needs. They only focus on problems that arise. Watching movies together can stimulate conversation and exploration of important issues that are not major problems—yet.
Give it a try! After the next Seahawks game is over, turn on the TV and watch one of the movies listed on the research website—like “Love Story”. Last night, my wife and I decided to watch “Bee Season” with Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche. After the movie we had a spirited discussion about the characters and the story. And it did stimulate talk about our relationship.
For more information on the study and the list of movies, visit www.couples-research.com.