The claim: Movies can solve your relationship problems, according to a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
The research: Researchers recruited 174 newlywed couples to participate in one of three workshops created to strenghten their communication skills. The first focused on acceptance and compassion; the second focused on active listening; and the third focused on romantic comedies. There was a fourth group of 40 more couples that didn't take any of the workshops.
Romantic comedies? Yep, you read that right. Instead of taking part in weekly sessions with a therapist, learning about healthy relationship skills and then practicing them at home, couples in the rom-com group had good old fashioned movie nights, selecting a few titles to watch during the month-long study, such as Two for the Road, Gone With The Wind, Love Story, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Indecent Proposal, and Yours Mine & Ours.
Researchers then followed the couples for three years after, checking in about every six months.
The results: Twenty-four percent of the couples who didn't take a workshop ended up separated or divorced after three years, compared to just 11 percent of the couples who did — and each workshop (including the movie-watching one) provided equal benefits.
So how can watching movies be as beneficial as therapy? "Watching a movie can help prevent divorce by giving a couple time to focus on their relationship and check in with each other, helping them realize the kind of partner they want to be," says lead study author Ronald Rogge, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Rochester in New York. "They were working the same amount of time as the other couples, only we didn't teach them anything."
Bottom line: It's never a bad idea to spend quality time with your S.O. But some problems are beyond Rhett Butler. "Lots of people who watch movies still get divorced," says Dr. Rogge. "It's using movies to start a new conversation, to help couples reprioritize—that's where the magic lies." (You can learn more about the experiment, plus how to participate in the next one yourself, here.)
And when you do watch a romantic movie, don't just go for ones where the guy gets the girl. The ideal movie features a couple that's been together for a while and struggles with the day-to-day, says Dr. Rogge. When you realize a character behaves in a way you do, it opens a non-threatening floor for dicussion, for you to own up to things you've been doing well — or not so well — as a partner, he says.
Need a little inspiration? We polled the Prevention staff for the titles they keep on hand. Not naming names, but anything with Colin Firth or Hugh Grant is held in high regard:
When Harry Met Sally
Sleepless In Seattle
Bridget Jones' Diary
How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days
Crazy, Stupid Love
Four Weddings and a Funeral
What Happens In Vegas
Harold and Maude
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