TIME relationships

Forget Couples Therapy, Just Watch a Romance Movie

Popcorn with No Salt or Butter

Cuddling optional, popcorn mandatory

Couples therapy is notoriously painful — and expensive. Sure, it can be cathartic and having professional intervention helps a lot of people stay together, but therapy is sort of like the root canal of relationships. Just ask those miserable couples on VH1’s Couples Therapy reality show.

Now, however, there might be an alternative — or at least a first course of treatment before you make that dreaded first appointment. According to a new study out of the University of Rochester, couples who watch lovey-dovey movies together and then talked about them had lower divorce and separation rates than those who didn’t. And, better yet, the researchers found that the movie method was at least as effective as two therapist-led approaches that focus on acceptance and communication.

That’s right, rather than paying through the nose to sit in front of a therapist for an hour, couples can work through their issues by watching movies that deal with relationships and then discussing them afterwards. Of the 174 couples studied, 24% of those who didn’t have any intervention eventually separated, compared to only 11% of those who got therapy or watched the movies together, according to the New York Times.

But don’t try watching The Notebook. The researchers found that the most effective movies weren’t falling-in-love movies, since that gave couples unrealistic expectations about love. Instead, they suggested couples watch in-the-trenches movies like “Couples Retreat” that show couples working through their issues together.

That’s assuming you can even agree on what movie to watch.


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