Thursday, March 6, 2014

Romance, Movies and Healing Relationships by Milou Koenings

The End.

We close the book, or swipe off our e-reader app, with a sigh, satisfied that true love has once more prevailed and our hero and heroine will live happily ever after.

But isn’t that just the beginning?

Because, face it, whatever trials, tribulations and challenges our hero and heroine have had to face to get together, they’re all probably going to pale in comparison to those they’ll have to overcome if they’re going to stay together for the long haul.

Getting a relationship started isn’t all that hard. It’s new, fun, exciting and the mere fact that there is still so much to discover about each other holds such hopeful promise.

Sticking it out over decades, through thick and thin, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health … well, that’s not always so easy. Our hero and heroine usually need a little help.

There’s no end to the number of books on improving relationships. When that’s not enough, it’s time for therapy. But seriously? Couples’ counselling is no fun. I mean, how romantic is it to sit there picking apart your failings and worst qualities in front of two other people, one your partner and the other a complete stranger? Or even worse, pick away at your partner’s failings? (Well, decide for yourself which you think is worst!)

How lovey-dovey are you likely to feel when you leave that session?

I’m not saying it doesn’t work, just ... wouldn’t it be nice if there were a more pleasant way?

According to researchers at the University of Rochester, there is and this one doesn’t involve dissecting your points of contention and working out the negatives. Nope. It calls for popcorn and a blanket.

Their study compared different kinds of early marriage intervention programs. They compared the effectiveness of three different therapies. The first two groups were led by therapists, who teach couples either how to navigate the difficulties in their relationship, or relationship skills that focus on positive acceptance. Over three years, the couples in these groups doubled their chances of sticking together.

What surprised everyone was that the third group did just as well. What did they have to do? Watch romantic movies! Now isn’t that way more fun and … well … romantic? It isn’t that strange of an idea either - award-wining romance novelist Christine Bush, who is also a Family and Marriage Therapist, recently wrote on this blog that she sometimes recommends reading a romance novel as therapy for her clients. (And to prove Christine right, just watch The Jane Austen Book Club!)

The couples in the University of Rochester study were sent home with a long list of romantic comedies. They had to watch one a week together, and then spend thirty to forty-five minutes discussing twelve questions about the movie.

Imagine our hero and heroine having a date night once a week, snuggled under a blanket, hot chocolate and popcorn at hand, watching a romantic movie. Doesn’t just the idea of it make you feel all warm and cuddly? And then imagine them spending time talking together - no cable news, no reality TV, no phones … really talking, in the privacy of their own home, no strangers around.

Golly - no wonder those relationships flourished!

Here are the list of movies and the twelve discussion questions used in the University of Rochester study. Now go get that popcorn ready.

Here’s to happy ever after beginnings!

Milou Koenings writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.
Her new release, Reclaiming Home, A Green Pines Romance, is available at Amazon and Kobo. You can find her on her website,, on Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.


  1. Milou--what a great blog. Love it. Romantic movie therapy for couples. But I couldn't click your link to the list of movies--and I want to check them out from netflix.

  2. Hi Lyn - I'm sorry, it looks like the link got dropped somehow. Here it is. (Since I can't post html in the comments, copy the link and paste it in your browser.)

    The page gives instructions on how to use the questionnaire and you have to scroll down to the bottom and click "next" in order to access the list, and then the questions. I've already found the list of questions really helpful to think about when I'm watching a movie!

  3. Romantic movies sounds like a good option to me!

    We took pre-marriage counseling and they tried to teach us to pull out these listening/talking mats whenever we fought. Right, they ended up under a bed for 10 years until I got rid of them...

  4. A romantic movie date night sounds like a wonderful thing for all couples. I'm not surprised it works to help couples who have problems. It always amazes me when people knock romance, when surely everyone wants a happy relationship. Love this therapy! Great post.

  5. The healing power of romantic film. Of course! That's why I've been married 30 years. It's not because the priest who married us required pre-marital counseling sessions (although maybe that's because we didn't have Shaleen's mats). LOL! But seriously, in a marriage, every bit of advice and insight helps.

  6. I used to give talks in local high schools about my career as a romance writer. More than once I had young men ask, "What's in it for me?" I was quick to let them know that romance novels offered a wealth of information for them: what's important in a loving relationship, how to make a woman feel secure, how to express emotion, etc. I feel the same way about romantic movies. It never hurts to be reminded to treat your significant other as ultra special.

  7. The link is there, Milou. Just click on the words "long list" and it takes you there. Interesting idea!

  8. Great post, Milou. I love watching romantic movies with my husband. No popcorn or chocolate needed. We have our own favorites that we don't mind seeing on and on over the years. BTW when my daughter got married I gave the Ten Commandments for a Happy Marriage based on my own experience. So many friends asked me for a copy. LOL

  9. Lovely post, Milou!

    I love romantic movies!

  10. I really appreciated with it, I will bookmark this site. Thanks for sharing.