Doing This After Watching TV Slashes Your Risk of Divorce, Research Says

One of the primary problems that destroy romantic relationships is poor communication—specifically on the subject of the relationship itself. When you and your partner avoid sharing your feelings and concerns about your relationship, it’s nearly impossible to find solutions that will bring you closer together and form a stronger connection where both parties’ needs are being met. And while this type of open, often vulnerable, communication can be difficult, there are ways to make it less intimidating. In fact, there’s one very easy way to lower your risk of divorce, according to an Oct. 2020 meta-analysis published in Journal of Contextual Behavioral Sciencewatch TV shows and movies featuring couples and talk about them.

For a 2013 study, psychologists looked at 174 couples to see how effective certain activities were at improving their relationships. The researchers divided the couples into four groups, assigning each group to either complete the highly regarded premarital relationship enhancement program (PREP); attend workshops offered by CARE, a program designed to build empathy and compassion; watch movies and discuss the onscreen relationships depicted, or do none of the above. Read on to see how the couples in each group responded.

1. Watching and discussing movies that feature a romantic relationship lowered divorce rates.
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According to the study’s findings, the couples who weren’t assigned to the workshops or movie-discussion exercise had a divorce or separation rate of 24 percent in the first three years of marriage. For those in the CARE, PREP, and movie-watching groups, the divorce rate was around 12 percent, a 50 percent decrease from the group that did nothing to improve their bond. That means that watching a few movies with your partner and then talking about them is just as effective at lowering your risk of divorce as attending time-consuming relationship workshops.

“Instead of doing these 14-hour workshops where they have to come to campus, [couples can improve their relationship by] just watching three movies at home and having discussions about their relationship that they ease into by talking about the relationship on-screen first,” study co-author Ron Rogge, Ph.D., an assistant professor of clinical psychology at University of Rochester, said in a statement. And know what might be destroying your relationship, check out This One Thing You’re Doing Is Killing Your Relationship, Expert Says

2. Dramas are the most effective genre.
Couple sitting on couch watching movie
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The only necessary criteria for the films you choose for the exercise is that they prominently feature a romantic, ideally long-term, relationship, Rogge told People. However, Rogge says that dramas seem to be more effective than romantic comedies because in the latter, the characters typically don’t become a couple until the end. Some films used in the original 2013 study included True Lies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and American Beauty.

3. And TV shows can serve as a similar form of couples therapy.
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While the initial research focused solely on movies, Rogge says television shows are a perfectly acceptable alternative for busy couples with little free time to invest in a full-length feature. The important thing is the discussion that is sparked by whatever it is you and your partner choose to watch. Don’t forget to read on how to make your relationship last

4. The exercise also improved the relationships of unmarried couples.
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Follow up research conducted in 2016 found that the positive impact of these discussions surrounding onscreen romantic relationships wasn’t limited to married couples, either. The exercise had a similar effect on unmarried couples at various relationship stages, the research analysis said.

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