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60-Second Mind

Movie-Watching Together Strengthens Marriages

Psychologists found that encouraging newlywed couples to watch romance flicks, and then discuss them cut the three-year divorce rate in half. Christie Nicholson reports

Keeping a marriage together takes effort. And care. And maybe even watching classic romance movies, like The Way We Were or Husbands and Wives. And this is because of the conversations such movies can start.

That’s the finding from a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. [Ronald D. Rogge et al., Is skills training necessary for the primary prevention of marital distress and dissolution? A 3-year experimental study of three interventions.

Psychologists found that encouraging couples to watch romance flicks and then discuss them cut the divorce rate in half.

The researchers divided 174 newlywed couples into three programs: active listening, where one spouse listens and then paraphrases back what they heard; or compassion training, doing random acts of kindness for your partner; or watching a movie a week for a month.

The movie-viewing couples discussed each film after watching it, guided by questions about the characters. Questions like: “Were they able to open up and tell each other how they really felt, or did they tend to just snap at each other with anger?”

All three programs worked very well, dropping the divorce rate after three years to 11 percent, versus 24 percent for couples who did no therapy. But the movie program is much more accessible and cheaper than counseling.

The researchers note the magic is not really in the movies, but rather the time that couples take to think about behavior. But hey, maybe sitting together in the dark helped too.

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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