Date Movies – Observing Relationship Behaviors – On and Off the Big Screen

So, you’ve found a new potential partner. You’re observing each other and comparing items from your lists of requirements, needs and wants. You ask lots of questions – he/she asks lots of questions. You talk and talk about your experiences, viewpoints and notions. However some people can really “talk the talk” – but walk a completely different walk. What someone says about his/her values and beliefs may not be as accurate as how he or she reacts or responds to experiences in real life. So, how can you arrange an experience so that you can observe the reactions?

The movie industry has provided thousands of opportunities to peer into the dynamics of people’s lives and relationships from a slight distance. And they’ve gotten really good at presenting stories that evoke our emotional involvement – making movies a multi-dimensional experience. Watching a movie together and observing our reactions and thoughts to the story-lines, events and characters provide lots of information about each other in just about two hours. And, there’s a wealth of information to be gleaned beyond just the plot or the content of the films.

Movies can spotlight many life-circumstance issues that are important to us but often coast just-under-the-radar early in the development of a new relationship. You can select movie content likely to query issues that are important to you (i.e., fidelity, children, careers, alternative relationship structures, etc.). You can choose movie genres that demonstrate levels of risk-taking, humor-styles or intellectual effort. You can choose movies that reflect values that are important to you, allowing you to observe your potential partner’s response to those values. At the very least, you can enjoy a non-committal evening with a movie that you know you’ll enjoy.

The next time you watch a movie together, you might consider making it more than just fun – See if the following hints/questions about choices and movie behavior can add a third dimension to your movie experience.

Decision/Action style – When you plan a movie date, who picks which movie to see? When you don’t agree on just one movie title, who makes the final decision? How do you negotiate or compromise? And what happens if one person caves to appease the other? This “conflict” can provide an opportunity to observe a preview about how you and your partner might potentially resolve conflict in the future.

Personality/Values – In deciding what to see, you’ll each have an opportunity to examine the types of movies the other person enjoys. For example, some people are only interested in romantic comedies, others only in shoot-’em-up action films. As you and your partner identify which movies you are considering, you can also be noting what your film choice might be saying about each of you. Do you prefer intellectual films, slapstick, mysteries, documentaries, art-films, etc.? What is it about the type of movie you like that provides evidence of personality-style or values?

Personal Growth – Can you or your date get value/enjoyment out of a film even if it isn’t your favorite genre? Can you imagine that the character’s experience or challenges can be useful in your own life? The ability to appreciate a story, conflict or circumstance that is seemingly unrelated to one’s experience or understanding could demonstrate a commitment to a broader vision, more expansive thinking and willingness to seize an opportunity for a new experience.

Behavioral clues – Is your partner able to concentrate on the movie? Does he/she make frequent attention-grabbing interruptions. Although you may not be able to define the specific behavior, you might find yourself annoyed during in this little two-hour experience. Are you ready for a life-time of it?

Obviously, choosing and watching a movie together should not be the only “screening” or “testing” technique you use to determine value of your relationship or the worthiness of continuing to explore its potential. But if you use movies intentionally as an experiment (by consciously observing and discussing your reactions, interactions and behaviors), this micro-event can become a useful potential predictor of future relationship alignment.