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Could a Chick-Flick Save Your Marriage?

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We’ve all dreamt of a cinematic “You had me at ”˜hello’” moment kindling our own love stories, but it turns out those silver-screen storylines could spark something far more enduring than a ride off into the sunset.

According to researchers at the University of Rochester, couples who regularly watch and discuss relationship-themed movies are only half as likely to end up divorced. That’s a fairly obvious conclusion given open dialogue and joint activities are integral to healthy marriages, but the main point of the study is that the “inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple” act of watching a movie is just as effective as more intensive, therapist-led marriage counseling.

Ronald D. Rogge, who heads the project, said it works because “husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships. Thus, you might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving.” He hopes to target couples in those vulnerable early years of marriage with this technique, which reinforces the approach of Family and Marriage Therapist Dawn Rike, who recently told us the first seven years are the most crucial in cultivating a lasting marriage.

It’s not quite as straightforward as popping in The Godfather (1972) and worshipping Marlon Brando for a few hours though. Participants in the Rochester study are asked to watch five movies per month from a pre-selected list that includes everything from Funny Girl (1968) to True Lies (1994) to Why Did I Get Married (2007), all of which are accompanied by guided discussion questions. Although the featured movies appear to be sappy romances upon first glance, each was chosen because it explores a deeper relationship issue, such as mixed-race marriages or impending parenthood, instead of merely glorifying an idyllic fairytale ending.

“A movie is a nonthreatening way to get the conversation started,” Rogge told The New York Times. “It’s really exciting because it makes it so much easier to reach out to couples and help them strengthen their relationships on a wide scale.”

In the end then, ”˜happily ever after’ might actually begin with being just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to watch a movie.

Enrollment in this study is still open; if you would like to participate, application instructions may be found here.