There are countless ideas for creative dates on the internet. However, a good ol’ fashioned movie night may be one of the easiest and most effective date night activities for improving relationships.
A few years ago, researchers at the University of Rochester wondered whether the cinematic pastime had positive effects on marriages. So, they assigned couples to three different study groups. The first group attended conflict and communication classes. The second group watched and discussed relationship-centered movies. The third group received no intervention.
The results? Three years after the study, couples in the movie group fared just as well as couples that received marital training. Incidentally, the couples that received no treatment were twice as likely to divorce.
But before you mark “movie night” on your shared calendar, it’s important to remember two key stipulations of this study.
Reel Relationships: Not All Movies Qualify
First, the storyline of the movie should portray both the ups and downs of a committed relationship. While many chick-flicks show the journey to love, they don’t always depict the journey of love in a long-term relationship. Therefore, the film you and your partner select should reflect the real, sometimes raw, challenges that couples face.
The University of Rochester has provided a generous list of movies that meet this guideline. Note: To be taken to the movie list, scroll to the bottom of the screen and press “Next.”
We’ve also included a list of qualifying movies below. They are currently streaming for free with a Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime subscription.
Silver Linings Playbook – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Her – Blue Valentine – The Notebook
As Good as it Gets – Lars and the Real Girl – What They Had – Cold War – Regarding Henry
What Lies Beneath – You, Me and Dupree – The Break-Up (with Hulu Live subscription)
Dialogue is Key on Movie Night
Secondly, a collaborative conversation after the film is essential for movie night to benefit your relationship. That means couples should spend 30-45 minutes reflecting on their own relationship dynamics as well as how they relate to the relationship portrayed in the film.
- What challenges did the screen-couple face? Are those challenges similar to or different than the challenges you face in your partnership?
- In what ways did the screen-couple support each other? How does their style of support compare to the ways you and your partner support each other?
- How did the screen-couple handle conflict? Is their conflict management similar to or different than yours as a couple?
For additional discussion questions, please click here. Note: To be taken to the discussion portion of the study, advance through the first and second page by clicking “Next” at the bottom of the screen.
To sum it up, the lead researcher of this study, Ronald Roggee, said:
“We don’t think it’s the movie that’s the magic here…It’s the time that couples took to spend together and focus on their relationship that mattered.”
Scene on Screen: Why Movie Night is Potentially Powerful
Movies may serve as a relationship mirror. In other words, watching certain relationship issues played out on screen can highlight the strengths and weaknesses in your own relationship dynamic. You may see some of yourself or your partner in the characters, and gain a new perspective on your interactions. As you both watch and share your experiences, you can learn about each other’s view of the world and share poignant moments.
In short, the next time you schedule “dinner and a movie,” consider a “view and review” instead. You might try for an earlier show to leave time for discussion over dinner afterwards.
Couples View and Review Series
Would you be interested in a View and Review couples at-home workshop series, hosted by couples therapist Susan Orenstein?
Here’s what would be included in the monthly or bi-monthly email:
- Movie of the month
- Guided discussion questions for review
- Dr. Orenstein’s analysis and tips for couples
Interested? Fill out the fields below and press send. We’ll be in touch.