Nearly half of couples divorce in the first four or five years.
That's a startling statistic, and one that therapists, ministers and psychologists have been trying to improve.
Could the answer be as easy as popping some popcorn and watching movies?
Ronald Rogge, associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Rochester, has been testing that theory, asking couples to watch five movies that explore relationships in one month's time and then discuss them.
"The hope is to improve the odds against divorce," Rogge says. "We're looking for the best way to strengthen marriages while they are still happy. Most people enjoy watching movies, and this is a model where, we, as therapists and researchers, don't need to formally instruct participants. They can do it on their own."
The latest study grew out of one Rogge did with Tom Bradbury, professor of psychology and co-director of the Relationship Institute at University of California — Los Angeles. The two gathered data from 1998 to 2004, the results of which were published in December.
The study found that couples who'd watched movies together, and talked about what they saw, were 50 percent less likely to divorce.
Now, Rogge is widening the field. Couples are being asked to pick from a list of about 50 pre-selected films or choose their own, then have a discussion, guided by questions provided to them. Those questions, for example, discuss conflict resolution and methods of providing support to their partner during stressful times.
A week after the study was announced online, hundreds of couples had signed up. According to Rogge, enrollment will remain open for the next six months, and participants come from all over the United States and Canada.