By Gabriel Tebow, Sex & Relationships Columnist
According to Ronald Rogge, associate professor of psychology and the lead author of a study conducted at the University of Rochester, in Rochester, New York, romantic comedies can cut the divorce rate in half when paired with a guided discussion. The study researched 174 engaged or newly wed couples. Couples were then separated into three groups. Two groups focused on traditional marriage counseling: conflict management training and compassion and acceptance training. The last group took part in relationship awareness through film or RomCom Therapy. The couples that were randomly picked to participate in the RomCom Therapy attended a 10-minute lecture on how to be aware of their partners needs and their own behavior within the relationship. The RomCom couples then watched five movies with a guided discussion afterwards. The people in this group were also given a list of movies and told to watch one movie a week and have a discussion about each movie. Rogge states in an interview with University of Rochester that, “With just watching five movies together and talking for a half hour… at the end we got benefits over three years.” Each therapy session decreased the divorce rate in half from 23 percent to 11 percent over a period of three years. RomCom therapy is cheaper, easier and more accessible to couples than traditional marriage counseling. Rogge states that therapy through movies eliminates the need to have, “thousands of therapists trained to work with each of the couples.”
What does this mean for college students in long term relationships? That it is possible for a romantic couple to strengthen their relationship, affordably, by watching romantic comedies together. However, not just any RomCom will do. In fact, specific types of movies have been shown to help a couple the best. Romantic comedies that show couples who are already in a romantic relationship seem to work for this therapy style. Movies like Steel Magnolia or Marley and Me, which show existing relationships, give couples a model of a relationship to compare to their own. The researchers provided a list of 100+ movies that the couples could watch.
What makes RomCom Therapy work? The key is the guided discussions after the movies. According to Rogge, the discussions make the couples think, “How am I acting towards my partner… and is that really how I want to be acting?” The research team has created and released the guided discussion questions so that any couple can work on their relationship with the RomCom therapy. The list asks open-ended questions such as, “What main problem(s) did this couple face? In what way was this relationship similar to or different from your own relationship in this area?” This creates an opportunity to have a discussion about the movie and the couple’s own relationship.
Why does it work? Rogge says, “We actually don’t think it’s the movie that’s the magic here… but to strengthen your relationship, we actually think that it’s the time that the couples took to spend together and focus on their relationship that mattered.” Creating conversations can help couples identify and resolve problems in their relationships.
The study can be found online at http://www. courses.rochester.edu/surveys/funk/Rogge2014. pdf. The list of movies and discussion questions can be found at http://edu.surveygizmo.com/ s3/1508519/movie.
Rogge, Ronald D., et al. “Is skills training necessary for the primary prevention of marital distress and dissolution? A 3-year experimental study of three interventions.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 81.6 (2013): 949. University of Rochester. “How Movies Can Make a Marriage Better.” YouTube. YouTube, 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Jan. 2015..
If you have questions that you want answered in the next issue, email S.R. Tutor at UHHSRTutor@ gmail.com.