Dear Nicholas Sparks: You're off the hook.
While chick flick lovers rejoice with every Nicholas Sparks release, rom-com haters are simultaneously sighing. I’ve heard complaints many times from my girl and guy friends alike. "These movies are so unrealistic; they skew our idea of love".
It is easy to think that romance movies create false expectations in relationships. As much as we may envy or despise the characters and storylines of romance movies, do they really have a negative effect on our relationships?
According to research, the answer is no.
An April 2013 study conducted by the University of Illinois found that romantic comedies are not to blame for causing unrealistic expectations on love and relationships as a whole. This study, which examined the perspective of over 300 undergraduate students in the Midwest, found no correlation between watching romantic comedies and believing in soulmates, falling in love at first sight or finding the one.
In our society, it is a common conception that the romance genre majorly influences certain beliefs and expectations about love among women; conversely, this study proves that to be false. No differences in answers were actually observed between men and women.
Another popular assumption regarding romance in the media is that it perpetuates false themes and circumstances. Research discredits this stereotypical conviction we so often give to our favorite rom-coms. In an additional study within the same article, the researchers evaluated the 52 most popular romantic comedy movies from 1998 to 2008. They examined the amount of romantic idealism in each movie and found that the most common theme in the movies was that relationships require hard work. Indeed, they do.
Ironically enough, a recent study that was released in early 2014 by the University of Rochester suggests that watching a rom-com may be just what you need to improve your troubled marriage. Researchers claim that discussing five movies over a month could greatly reduce the projected divorce rate for newlyweds (three years) by as much as half.
The movie and discussion therapy was just one of the methods that researchers used when comparing different types of marriage counseling. This inexpensive and self-help method wasn’t one that the researchers expected to have such effective results. To their surprise, after examining the method among 174 couples, they found that the method "[reduced] the divorce and separation rate from 24 to 11 percent" over the course of three years.
One of the lead authors of the study, Ronald Rogge, who is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said that "The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they are doing right and wrong in their relationships. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving."
This just proves that romance movies are an effective relationship tool. They stir up emotions and allow you to introspect on how you and your partner treat one another. Romance movies make you laugh, cry and are now considered a source of relationship therapy.
If that isn’t a good enough excuse to watch them, I don’t know what is.