男女關係中一道涇渭分明的界限是所謂「女性電影」——比方說《母女 情深》(Terms of Endearment)和《戀戀筆記本》(The Notebook)這樣的電影往往會讓女人熱淚盈眶，讓男人百無聊賴。不過現在，一個極為有趣的新研究表明，好萊塢製作的多愁善感的情感片，事實上真的可 以在現實生活中幫助增進戀人間的關係。
羅切斯特大學(University of Rochester)的一項研究發現，伴侶們觀看像《鋼木蘭花》(Steel Magnolias)或《愛情故事》(Love Story)這類電影，並討論電影中提出的種種話題，相比對照組的伴侶，較少出現離婚或分居。尤其讓人驚訝的是，看《愛情故事》對情感進行干預，與兩次由 治療師主導的強化婚姻輔導同樣有效。
「看電影可以在不那麼駭人的情況下，讓大家展開對話，」羅切斯特大學心理學副教授、本研究的第一作者羅納德·羅格(Ronald D. Rogge)說，「在電影的幫助下，夫妻雙方可以十分輕鬆地敞開心扉，鞏固關係，這個發現真是讓人十分振奮。」
這篇研究發現在去年12月的《諮詢與臨床心理學學刊》(The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psycology)上，作者是羅格和加州大學洛杉磯分校的伴侶關係研究所主任托馬斯·布拉德布里(Thomas N. Bradbury)。
在確定有可能對夫妻有益的情感片目錄時，研究人員排除了一些流行的 浪漫喜劇片或「初墜愛河」電影，比如《西雅圖不眠夜》(Sleepless in Seattle)或《當哈利遇到莎莉》(When Harry Met Sally)。他們選擇的是一些反映情侶關係出現各種高峰和低谷的電影。羅格介紹說：「好萊塢會對戀情設下十分不切實際的預期，那種你肯定能一見鍾情、從 此愛得不能自拔的想法，完全不合乎事實，也不適用於那些步入感情生活已有兩三年或四年的大部分情侶。」
在完成了初期研究後，羅格博士和他的同事們從美國各地徵集伴侶，當 中包括了結婚多年的夫妻和同性伴侶，想要研究電影干預法對不同的感情關係的作用。其中一個被訪對象是家住田納西州諾克斯維爾市的梅根·克里夫頓 (Megan Clifton)，這位27歲的學生跟男友已經同居了將近兩年。儘管她說兩人間「溝通十分暢通」，但她仍然選擇嘗試電影干預法。
情侶倆一起看由蒂娜·菲(Tina Fey)和史蒂夫·卡瑞爾(Steve Carell)主演的《約會之夜》(Date Night)，看到有一幕，丈夫總是記不得合上抽屜和衣櫃門時，倆人大笑起來。「他老是把衣櫃門敞着，我成了嘮叨的女朋友，他這才稍稍改進了些，」克里夫 頓說，「我們一起看電影時，我說，『這不就是你嘛！』，這一幕真是很搞笑。我們為此笑了好久，它幫助我們以一種幽默的方式來看待彼此間的關係和問題。」
馬特·巴特勒(Matt Butler)和妻子凱莉(Kellie)住在俄亥俄州阿什塔比拉市，兩人已經結婚16年，他們同樣覺得電影干預法對感情有幫助。倆人一起觀看了《愛情與 靈藥》(Love and Other Drugs)和《天下父母心》(She』s Having a Baby)。
Movie Date Night Can Double as Therapy
February 14, 2014
One of the great divides in male-female relationships is the “chick flick” — movies like “Terms of Endearment” and “The Notebook” that often leave women in tears and men bored. But now, a fascinating new study shows that sappy relationship movies made in Hollywood can actually help strengthen relationships in the real world.
A University of Rochester study found that couples who watched and talked about issues raised in movies like “Steel Magnolias” and “Love Story” were less likely to divorce or separate than couples in a control group. Surprisingly, the “Love Story” intervention was as effective at keeping couples together as two intensive therapist-led methods.
The findings, while preliminary, have important implications for marriage counseling efforts. The movie intervention could become a self-help option for couples who are reluctant to join formal therapy sessions or could be used by couples who live in areas with less access to therapists.
“A movie is a nonthreatening way to get the conversation started,” said Ronald D. Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and the lead author of the study. “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.”
The initial goal of the study was to evaluate two types of therapist-led interventions called CARE and PREP. The CARE method focuses on acceptance and empathy in couples counseling, while PREP is centered on a specific communication style that couples use to resolve issues. The researchers wanted a third option that allowed couples to interact but did not involve intensive counseling.
They came up with the movie intervention, assigning couples to watch five movies and to take part in guided discussions afterward. A fourth group of couples received no counseling or self-help assignments and served as a control group.
Going into the study, the researchers expected that the CARE and PREP methods would have a pronounced effect on relationships and that the movie intervention might result in some mild improvements to relationship quality. To their surprise, the movie intervention worked just as well as both of the established therapy methods in reducing divorce and separation.
Among 174 couples studied, those who received marriage counseling or took part in the movie intervention were half as likely to divorce or separate after three years compared with couples in the control group who received no intervention. The divorce or separation rate was 11 percent in the intervention groups, compared with 24 percent in the control group.
Dr. Rogge and senior author Thomas N. Bradbury, a director of the Relationship Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, published the findings in the December issue of The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
In determining the list of relationship movies that might be useful to couples, the researchers eliminated popular romantic comedies or “falling in love” movies like “Sleepless in Seattle” or “When Harry Met Sally.” Instead, they put together a list of movies that show couples at various highs and lows in their relationships. “Hollywood can place very unrealistic expectations on romantic relationships,” Dr. Rogge said. “The idea that you are supposed to fall in love instantly and effortlessly is not reality and not relevant to most couples who are two, three or four years into a relationship.”
Some of the movies on the list, like “Couples Retreat,” are funny and not necessarily realistic. “But they are enough to get a dialogue going,” Dr. Rogge said.
Since completing the initial study, Dr. Rogge and his colleagues have been recruiting couples from around the country to study the effect of the movie intervention on different relationships, including long-married and same-sex couples. Megan Clifton, a 27-year-old student in Knoxville, Tenn., has lived with her boyfriend for nearly two years. Although she says the two have “great communication,” she opted to try the movie intervention.
While watching the movie “Date Night” with Tina Fey and Steve Carell, the couple laughed at a scene in which the husband fails to close drawers and cabinet doors. “He leaves cabinet doors open all the time, and I become the nagging girlfriend and he shuts down a little,” Ms. Clifton said. “When we were watching the movie, I said ‘That’s you!,’ and it was humorous. We ended up laughing about it, and it has helped us look at our relationship and our problems in a humorous way.”
Matt and Kellie Butler of Ashtabula, Ohio, have been married for 16 years and also feel the movie intervention has helped their relationship. So far they have watched “Love and Other Drugs” and “She’s Having a Baby.”
“It’s kind of powerful,” Mr. Butler said. “It’s like watching a role play in a group-therapy session, but it’s a movie so it’s less threatening and more entertaining.”
Mr. Butler said that even though he and his wife have a strong bond, long-married couples sometimes forget to talk about their relationship. “We’ve been married 16 years, but it’s not something you sit down and have a conversation about,” he said. “When you watch the movie, it focuses your conversation on your relationship.”
Couples interested in the method can find more information at www.couples-research.com.
Dr. Rogge noted that more research is needed to determine the effect on a variety of couples. One flaw of the study is that the control group was not truly randomized. While the couples in the control group seemed similar to other couples in the study in terms of demographics and relationship quality, further research is needed to validate the movie method.
“I believe it’s the depth of the discussions that follow each movie and how much effort and time and introspection couples put into those discussions that will predict how well they do going forward,” said Dr. Rogge.