Could “Chick Flicks” replace couples counseling?

The results of a new study were published in December in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. The researchers, lead author Ronald Rogge (of The University of Rochester), Thomas Bradbury (the Relationship Institute at UCLA), and others found that discussing five (relationship) movies a month could cut the three-year  divorce rate in half. The long-term study included 174 newlywed couples who participated throughout  their first three years of marriage. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups- conflict management, compassion and acceptance training, and relationship awareness through film- and the movie-and talk approach was just as effective as the more intensive therapist-led methods. The results suggest that couples know what they do that is right or wrong- however, they don’t think about their behavior as it is occurring, and this leads to conflict and divorce.

The researchers were excited when they thought about how this model could be adapted to help couples in general- and it is something they could do on their own. In this study, participants were given 47 movies to take home and were asked to watch one a week for the next month, followed by a 45 minute discussion. The results were the same as the more intensive and professionally led groups the other couples were assigned to.

So what is different between this approach and couples watching movies together as a general course in their lives? One is that all the movies have an intimate relationship as central to the plot- chic flicks. The other is that they then discuss the characters and this helps develop insights into their behavior and how it impacts their partner.

My only concern with how this would translate into a regular marital intervention is that guys have to be dragged to chic flicks. Maybe this is why the result doesn’t happen more often outside of the study- guys don’t go to them, end of story. I also wondered if the guys who would be willing to go at all or more often are more “in touch with their feminine sides.” No, this is not a negative- it’s just that some guys are more open to this and to experiencing something that is outside the typical “guy” experience. If a guy is naturally more this way- wouldn’t he naturally be more tuned into his partner and her feelings/needs?

However, these couples were randomly assigned to this group and given this as homework- and it was effective. So, if we can somehow get out men to go to these more often and discuss their thoughts about them afterwards, we could all be more happily married. ? Definitely something to think about if you have hit a rough spot with your mate.


Author: Toni Coleman

Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC is an internationally recognized dating and relationship expert and founder of Her expertise is sought frequently by local and national publications and top ranked dating and relationship websites and she has been a guest on a number of radio and TV programs. She is the featured relationship coach in “The Business and Practice of Coaching,” (Norton, September 2005); the author of the forward for, “Winning Points with the Woman in Your Life, One Touchdown at a Time;” (Simon and Schuster, November 2005) - and her popular relationship articles can be found in several magazines and a number of self- help, personal growth and dating/relationship websites. Toni holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work, is a licensed psychotherapist in the state of Virginia, and earned a certification in life coaching.

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