Q&A with a Barred Therapist on How to Pick The Right Movie with Your Partner During Quarantine

Hi everyone!

Since we’ve all been hunkering down for a couple months now, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from former patients about how to maintain a sense of stability at home with their significant other. Today, I wanted to address one of the most popular questions I’m getting: How do we pick the right movie? Hopefully, these tips will put you and your partner on the right path to perfecting the in-home movie-going experience.

  1. Should we pick a movie ahead of time? 

I always advise against this for my patients. The choice should feel earned! While planning ahead might save you time, money, and effort, it takes away from a lot of the hard work you could do together. Remember: relationships take work. I find that, after spending a few good hours looking for the right movie, a lot of couples are actually way less concerned with the quality of the film, since they’re just too busy appreciating the experience they’re sharing. 

  1. Should we look at every single genre?

Definitely. And subgenres too. Remember: you always want to be opening your partner up to new experiences and perspectives, rather setting boundaries and restrictions. If you’re feeling ambitious, check out some of the lesser-known streaming platforms, like Hoopla, Crackle, and Tubi TV. 

  1. If we’re more than halfway into a movie, but I’m not loving it, should I suggest something else? 

Of course! It’s all about communication. Your partner will appreciate your honesty here, and will probably meet your concerns with patience and understanding. If your partner brings up the sunk cost, consider that they might be prioritizing their desires over yours. We’re all human, after all, and with some convincing, your partner should be more than happy to find a film that satisfies the both of you equally.

  1. What if my partner gets tired of looking for the right movie?

First, take a step back and try to see things from your partner’s perspective. They’re tired. They’re bitter. They’re vulnerable, and they need motivation. But you can’t quit now after all this progress! So try bringing up the sunk cost of all your efforts.

  1. Should we look at reviews? 

Absolutely. They’ll help keep you and your partner grounded. Let’s say there’s one movie that’s been on your partner’s watch list for years and they’re really pushing to watch it with you. In fact, they’re bubbling with that kind of infectious excitement you remember from the early days! While your gut instinct might tell you to just watch it with them, you’ll actually find that it’s far more prudent to spend a couple hours looking at reviews. That way, your final choice won’t be swayed by your partner’s personal attachment to a particular film, and you’ll choose something that really suits the both of you. 

  1. Should I make snacks for my partner and I beforehand? 

Why not? There’s nothing better than a big bowl of popcorn for you and your partner to munch on during the film. I usually advise my patients to start making snacks about four or five minutes into the film to add a layer of cinematic suspense for their partner. It’s acts of service like these that really keep things new and exciting. Frequent bathroom breaks throughout the film will also be appreciated, since they’ll serve as brief intermissions, giving your partner a breather to consider questions of the film’s form and technique. They usually work best in the middle of key scenes, so it might be a good idea to read a synopsis and time them accordingly.

  1. How do I know if my partner is liking the film?

Don’t hesitate to ask your partner after every scene or so. A lot can change in a movie, so it’s best to routinely check in and see how they’re doing. 

  1. I missed something that happened in the movie while I was on my phone. What now?

Again, the magic two words: just ask! Every time a question about the characters or plot pops into your head, ask your partner. After all, the question probably won’t be answered later on in the film, so it’s best to nip it in the bud fast. Your partner will appreciate you asking, since it demonstrates a level of trust in their knowledge and judgement. 

  1. While watching, should I wistfully mention other films of the same director that I liked more?

Sure! Or any films at all for that matter. Shows or books, even. Your partner should always be in the know about your tastes and preferences. It’s only fair to them, after all.  

  1. If I didn’t like the movie how do I tell my partner? 

This one’s tricky, especially if your partner feels the opposite way. You want to be honest with them, but you also don’t want to discourage them either. A good way to approach this is by spacing the discussion out over the span of several weeks or months, and expressing your feelings via text or email bit by bit (so that your partner isn’t overwhelmed all at once). Hearing how you feel might hurt your partner at first, but keep in mind that it’ll only get easier for them the more they hear. 

As always, take this advice with a grain of salt. Every relationship is different, and there are no one-size-fits all solutions. I hope you found these insights helpful in this time of great uncertainty! 

Best wishes,

Former M.D. Jonathan S. Skolnik