Movie-and-Talk: Can This Simple Exercise Help Save a Marriage?

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A new three-year study finds that divorce rates were more than halved by watching movies about relationships and discussing them afterwards.

Researchers compared a ‘movie-and-talk’ condition against groups following other, more intensive forms of couples therapy, and were surprised at the results (Rogge et al., 2013).

The study’s lead author, Ronald Rogge, said:

“We thought the movie treatment would help, but not nearly as much as the other programs in which we were teaching all of these state-of-the-art skills.”

He continued:

“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. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years–that is awesome.”

The benefits of this type of activity are that a marriage counsellor is not required–couples spend most of their time watching movies about relationships and talking about them afterwards.

The study compared three different marriage interventions against a control group:

  1. Conflict management: focuses on teaching couples active listening skills and how to slow down the pace of arguments.
  2. Compassion and acceptance: couples learn to appreciate their relationships more and to use language which communicates acceptance.
  3. Movie-and-talk: couples watched and discussed movies about relationships after receiving a 10-minute lecture on how watching couples in movies could help them pay attention to their own behaviour.

When the groups were compared over three years, all did equally well compared with a control group, in which couples divorced at twice the rate.

This was a surprise for the movie-and-talk group given that it’s not much like ‘going into therapy’.

Rogge continued:

“You might not be able to get your husband into a couples group, especially when you are happy. But watching a movie together and having a discussion, that’s not so scary. It’s less pathologizing, less stigmatizing.”

Here is Ronald Rogge talking more about the study, including clips from some of the films that were used:

Image credit: Sam Javanrouh

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 9 February 2014

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