A few Sundays ago, my partner and I binge watched a television show. When we’ve done that in the past, we’ve often ended up feeling emotionally exhausted, physically drained, and like we wasted hours and hours of our lives. But this time, we ended it feeling really good because each episode was a catalyst for us to work on our marriage!
Research shows that couples may improve their relationships by talking about movies they watch together as much as by engaging in couples therapy or learning conflict management techniques. The Promoting Awareness & Improving Relationships Study invites couples to watch movies in which significant characters are in a committed relationship. The research participant couples are instructed to discuss the movies using 12 questions as prompts. The study’s principal investigator suggests that giving couples a framework within which they can focus on their relationship in a low-pressure way allows them to use skills they already have. Seeing characters engage allows couples to reflect on their own behaviors to reinforce the positive and possibly change less healthy ways of interacting.
The characters of the 2021 Netflix show we watched, Anxious People [Folk med ångest in Swedish], include two married couples. In an early episode, one of the characters experiences an emotional crisis and pushes his wife to meet his needs rather than doing his own inner work. The end of that episode was a good opportunity for us to talk about times Mark or I may have done that with one another and what we might do if we ever notice it happening between us again. Subsequent episodes allowed us to further explore “growing ourselves up” as we watched the character do so.
When we first learned about the study, Mark and I used the 12 questions but found the structure unnecessary. Now we just discuss the characters we relate to and talk about what we admire about their behavior or things we would hope to do differently if ever faced with a similar situation. (I will say, though, that we really hope never to accidentally hit a guy on a bike who then gets murdered by someone who frames us for it as in the plot in the very funny Netflix film Lovebirds.)
If you are interested, here is information about the research.
Here is a link to the screening to join the study.
I tend to not like Hollywood movies very much, preferring Foreign or Arthouse films. Here is my own list of films that I’ve watched over the past few years that would make for good couple discussion. Feel free to add suggestions if you watch anything good!