TL;DR: Dr. Ron Rogge, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester, dedicates his life to studying romantic relationships, but he’s taking his research to the next level with a unique therapy tool — movies.
We’ve all seen a romantic movie at least once in our lives, whether it’s “Casablanca,” “Titanic,” “The Notebook” or any Meg Ryan movie.
But did you ever think watching a romantic movie with your partner could help to improve your marriage?
That’s exactly what Dr. Ron Rogge strives to accomplish with his groundbreaking work.
Following almost 200 couples for three years, Rogge found he is able to cut a couple’s chances of divorce in half just by having them watch romantic movies and talk about the onscreen relationships.
I spoke with Rogge to learn about the details of the study, his motivation behind the work, what this means for couples and what he’s going to do next. (Hint: It’s not Disneyland.)
The work at hand
In a study titled “Is Skills Training Necessary for the Primary Prevention of Marital Distress and Dissolution? A Three-Year Experimental Study of Three Interventions,” 174 engaged or newlywed couples were split into groups, with each group given a different relationship-building task or no task at all.
For example, while one group learned skills that would help the couples navigate the first few years of marriage (like how to manage conflict), another group did not receive any couples treatment.
Those in the movie group watched five films, such as “Love Story,” and engaged in 30-minute conversations with their partner afterward, discussing how the onscreen couple handles relationship issues, as well as how the couple themselves handle relationship issues.
According to Rogge, the first three years of marriage are often the most difficult, so he wanted to see which strategy proves most effective in preventing divorce.
Turns out it’s watching movies!
While 24 percent of participants in the no-treatment group divorced, only 12 percent in the movie-watching group divorced.
“It actually turned out that we could cut divorce in half just by having couples use movies to ease into discussions about their own relationships,” he said. “That’s a process couples can do all on their own.”
His personal motivation behind the research
Rogge knows firsthand just how hard it can be to find the right person for you, let alone make the relationship last once you do find that special someone.
While he’s been with his partner for seven years now, Rogge said it took him almost 20 years to find him.
“Being in a great relationship is such a wonderful, rewarding experience, but the process of finding your way to that and keeping the relationship strong can be really challenging,” he said.
It only made sense that Rogge would use his research to help others find happiness in their own love lives. By looking at sex, humor, friendship, support and other processes, Rogge is able to better understand how couples interact and how relationships change over time.
“Everybody would like to be in a healthy, happy relationship, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen for a lot of people and a lot of relationships fall apart,” he said. “We’re really trying to understand relationships and figure out what are effective ways we can help people have fulfilling relationships.”
Taking it a step further
Not only is Rogge’s movie therapy available to couples through his site Couples-Research.com, but he’s already had 40,000 pairs participate within the last year.
“If I get 40 or 50 or 100,000 couples visiting my website and giving that a try, then I think I’m helping to strengthen their relationships,” he said.
Rogge also has several follow-up studies in the works, which will consist of a broader range of participants and will even include a portion for couples with children to help them become better co-parents.
“It’s not fun going home and having a serious discussion with your romantic partner, nor is it fun going home and having a discussion about how you are or aren’t supporting each other as co-parents, so I think this movie intervention is a really clever way to use popular media to make those discussions less scary to have,” he said.
To learn more about Dr. Ron Rogge, visit Couples-Research.com. Your marriage just may thank you!